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Raindogs, Frank's Wild Years and Swordfishtrombones - A Little of The Genius Of Tom Waits

If You Haven't Heard Of Tom Waits You Need To Get Him Into Your Musical Life

By Mike Singleton - MikeydredPublished about a year ago 3 min read


I have a lot of CDs close to my desk when I work (my collection might be as high as five thousand) and some days I just pull one out without looking at what it is. Today I pulled out "Raindogs" by Tom Waits which was released in 1985 and was part of an Island Records trilogy that started with "Swordfishtrombones" (1983), continued with "Raindogs" and was completed with "Frank's Wild Years" in 1987.

His website is here and you can find more info on Wikipedia here.

These are two videos on Amazon that you may also find interesting about this great artist.

I will choose a few songs from each album for you to listen to. The range of emotion in his music is incredible. I suppose he vaguely reminds me of my introduction to Bob Dylan whose voice really caused me a problem when I first heard him (as a pre-teenager) but I grew to appreciate both of them.

So here is a playlist from these three brilliant albums (well they are in my opinion).

Swordfishtrombones - 1983

In The Neighbourhood

This was my introduction to Tom Waits, unfortunately, I cannot find a good version of the video. It has been covered by Peter Gabriel (see here) and I attempted a version of it on my Youtube channel here.

16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six

I love the percussive sound of this and the line

"Made Me A Ladder From A Pawnshop Marimba"

Has stuck with me since I first heard it. When I got this album I listened to all of it and never skipped a song. I was hooked on Tom Waits.


This is the opening song from the album but has added orchestration but so is longer than the album opener, but this is worth including for the video, but you can listen to the two-minute original here.

Raindogs - 1985


This is the percussive intro to "Raindogs" while the rhythm is tight as anything the music seems to wander all over the place while still sounding perfect with lots of surreal mad lyrics.

Downtown Train

This is an absolutely beautiful song, which you may have heard covered by Rod Stewart, but Tom's version is, in my opinion perfect. Rod of course does an excellent cover and you can listen to that here.


The title track from the album and extremely Brechtian in its presentation. The styles that Tom applies to his music are very varied and always both surprising and interesting.

Frank's Wild Years - 1987

Way Down In The Hole

A brilliant song that was used as the theme for the TV series "The Wire". Every series had a different artist performing the song.

From Wikipedia:

The song was used as the theme for HBO's The Wire. A different recording was used each season. Versions, in series order, were recorded by The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tom Waits, The Neville Brothers, DoMaJe, and Steve Earle. Season four's version, performed by the Baltimore teenagers Ivan Ashford, Markel Steele, Cameron Brown, Tariq Al-Sabir and Avery Bargasse, was arranged and recorded specifically for the show. An extended version of the Blind Boys of Alabama recording was played over a montage in the series finale.

In 2004 a music historian, Kim Beissel, said that the 1994 song "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was loosely based on this song by Waits.

Telephone Call From Istanbul

This is a great lively song described as “a song that you dance to when you have a rock in your shoe.” take a listen and see what I mean.


This is a tiny dip into the incredible music of Tom Waits but below is another piece I wrote about this great man.

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Mike Singleton - Mikeydred

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Comments (6)

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  • Naomi Gold11 months ago

    Great commentary on this trilogy, and I liked your cover of “In the Neighborhood.” 🩷

  • Brenton Fabout a year ago

    Now you got me digging about for my TW records. Another brilliant article!

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    Good review.

  • Heather Hublerabout a year ago

    Ahh, that was a great quote to end with!! I enjoyed listening to all of these amazing songs. Tom had such a fantastic voice. Well written article :)

  • C. H. Richardabout a year ago

    Enjoyed this piece! Your Beat pieces are like reading something out of the Rolling Stone magazine! Awesome. Learned a bit and will come back to listen to some of his older songs 🎵

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