Of all the artists to re-occur on SteveForTheDeaf it might surprise you to learn the one I own the most records by is Sir Tom Of The Gargled Gravel Waits. I have at least one copy of every album he’s done. And Boy has he done a lot.
Hang on St. Christopher is a classy bit of early mid period Waitsery weirdigan wolf howling mit clanging unt Jazz inflected theater. It’s rock music as much as it’s blues as much as it’s art as much as it’s graffiti as much as it’s territory marked with a circle of piss.
On the album Franks Wild Years, it plays out like a ‘down the wire’ coded message coming in from purgatory while you wait in a smoky art deco bus depot for your ride to whisk you away on a caper of dubious intention.
“Hang on St. Christopher through the smoke and the oil, buckle down the rumble seat and let the radiator boil, got an overhead downshift and a two-dollar grill, got an eighty-five cabin on an eighty-five hill, Hang on St. Christopher on the passenger side, open it up just so the devil can ride”
It’s not so much a verse chorus verse as much as it is a mood painting of words and noises.
“Hang on St. Christopher with a barrel house dog, kick me up Mount Baldy, throw me out in the fog, tear a hole in the jackpot, drive a stake through his heart, do a hundred on the grapevine, do a jump on the start, Hang on St. Christopher now don’t let me go, get me to Reno and bring it in low”
This beat poetry is hissed over urgent multi instrumental big band brooding. It’s a formula which clearly left its mark on ner do wells the world over as diverse as Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Ron Pearlman and The Urban Voodoo Machine.
Tom’s influences of Americana, pulp detective novels, Chicago gangster chic and Lou Reed with brass swirl together in a tiny two and three-quarter minute black and white movie which is as thrilling as it is disorienting.
Right below the album version I’m posting the live cut from the Big Time concert movie. As bold a piece of 80’s music on film as Talking Heads’ by way of Johnathan Demme Concert/Movie hybrid Stop Making Sense. This ‘made for the cameras’ concert from 1988 is a challenging set of growled and rearranged songs from throughout Tom’s career.
The songs are mostly rendered unrecognizable by his bizarre choices in delivery and performance. It’s more fascinating than entertaining but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I find the Big Time DVD a lot of fun.
“Hang on St. Christopher now don’t let me go, get me to Reno got to bring it in low, put my baby on the flat car, got to burn down the caboose, get ’em all jacked up on whiskey, then we’ll turn the mad dog loose”