Tom Traubert’s Blues – Tom Waits

“Wasted and wounded, ’tain’t what the moon did, I got what I paid for now, see you tomorrow, hey Frank can I borrow a couple of bucks from you?”

I once got into a heated argument on the side of an Italian mountain with my Wife’s sister because she refused to accept that a sad song could be someone’s favourite song.

The conversation started easy going enough. We were drinking wine on a terrace surrounded by incense burners and good food as the sun was going down over the mountains. The lights in the pool below us were illuminating the white wash walls with that ripple pattern that just screams ‘We’re on holiday!’ and the cards had been dealt time and again by the time Vampire Weekend rolled around for their nightly airing on her bluetooth speakers.

‘Can we change the music?’ inquired Matthew.

“What do you want on?” asked Rachel answering a question with a question.

‘Anything other than this album again. It’s like the 10th time we’ve heard it in the last 3 days’ shot back Matthew with a pointed passive retort brothers and sisters alone can wield without causing real offence.

“I like Vampire Weekend” replied Rachel as if settling the inquiry.

‘We all like Vampire Weekend…’ replied Matthew before Mrs ForTheDeaf threw her hat into the ring.

“I don’t” she floated out there. “I mean I don’t hate them but this and the Mumford album are all you listen to. I wouldn’t mind hearing something else.”

There was an awkward silence between Brother, Sister, My Wife and those who had yet to voice an opinion.

My Sister In Law Kate drew me into the arena ‘Steve, you like music. Do you like Vampire Weekend?’

(I had to choose my words very carefully here)

“They’re alright. They’re a bit too spotless for me. And I could happily go the rest of this week without hearing this album again. If that’s what you’re asking?”

Mrs ForTheDeaf could smell blood in the water. ‘You’re a music snob, don’t you choose or we’ll all be listening to some Crust Punk B-Sides’

“I’m not a snob”

‘You like a lot of shit’

“That’s fair”

Kate is interested now. ‘If you like it why would you think it’s shit?’

“I’m aware some of my taste isn’t for everyone.”

‘But if you like it, don’t you want other people to listen to it?’

Mrs ForTheDeaf can now smell the Crust Punk getting closer and she’s not sure if it’s me or Kate who will put it on. She addresses her sister directly, “You like some terrible music as well”

‘Like what?’

Between Matthew, his Sister Rachel and Mrs ForTheDeaf and her Sister Kate it occurs to me I’m the diplomatic axis here. I can’t do the thing and yet I’m the music obsessive.

“Like Chumba Wumba and Sea Shanties.”

The room laughs.

‘I do like Chumba Wumba, Lots of people like Chumba Wumba’

There is a Dragon’s Den style round of disassociation from everyone but Kate. Everything from ‘Absolute horseshit’ to ‘Best left in the 90’s’ and a titter of unification against a common enemy (not Kate, Chumba Wumba)

“Well what do you like that other people don’t Steve?”

‘Lot’s of stuff. I Like a lot of punk and metal and indie that you’d all think unlistenable but I enjoy it enormously’

“OK what do you like that you think we’ll all love?”

‘Maybe something more acoustic? Ray Lamontange perhaps’

Mrs ForTheDeaf pips in. “He’s my favourite”

‘I know that Baby’

“Too depressing” replies Rachel like a bullet. This ain’t her first rodeo.

Mrs ForTheDeaf continues

‘I like his voice. He sings like it means something. Like he’s been there.’

Kate is perplexed ‘He can’t be your favourite. He’s always sad!’

‘That’s what I love about him’ says Mrs ForTheDeaf.

I chime in “I love lots of sad music. The Smiths, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan. They’re favourites of mine.”

‘No! Not Tom Waits!’ – Mrs ForTheDeaf has turned her back on me.

“I have more Tom Waits records than I think I have records by anyone else. If we’re working on aggregate he’s my favourite artist”

Kate is not having any of this. ‘No way. You’re not depressed. Only someone in the depths of misery could love Tom Waits more than The Beatles, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, Abba’

The table erupts at once into a gaggle of ‘What?’ and “Absurd” and ‘Nonsense’. Kate’s feeling cornered and the vino is kicking in.

‘Right, what’s your favourite Tom Waits song? Let’s listen to it.’

“My favourite song? According to my iTunes it’s Tom Traubert’s Blues”

‘Never heard of it’

“Course you have” comes Matthew back into the fray. “Waltzing Matilda!”

‘Play it’

We play it. Within 3 minutes the card game is over and people are heading off into their rooms or for a late swim in the pool…

I like to party… Everybody does.





25 thoughts on “Tom Traubert’s Blues – Tom Waits

  1. ❤ the song. Your story is excellent quality as well. Not sure if it's true or not but I think the difference between liking and loving music is when you like it you believe that only "up" songs are worthy of praise or you assign some other excluding attribute to music to make it worthy/unworthy; and when you love it whatever it makes you feel brings joy, whether it's good, bad, and/or ugly.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh well, fair call and do enjoy disappearing behind that curtain! What kind-of curtain is it? Have you picked it out yet? Or do need to buy one in the next eight days? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s more a Venetian blind to be honest. With one of those little sticks you have to twiddle to Na it open and close. It’s not as elegant as a curtain standing their rolling a stick as it closes saying “I’m fading awaaaaay”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha, superb post!

    While I understand the concept that music can be sad, it’d be ridiculous to say it can’t be, I’ve always disliked the throwaway comments from anyone who says ‘oh, Radiohead are just depressing’ because it proves in the same moment that they’ve probably only ever heard Creep.

    My good lady now finds the likes of Jack Johnson depressing, if we hear him on the radio – even though he’s supposed to be a leisurely stroll down a random Hawaiian beach – because it played on repeat for a year when she worked at a Cafe.

    I love this thread, and I oddly know the song due to a Rod Stewart cover my Mum used to play (!) – it’s all killer.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Interestingly, after seeing Carey Mulligan sing New York New York in ‘Shame’, I now find it desperately sad. I’d never ‘really’ listened to the lyrics, because of its huge associations, and it’s a really melancholic story. I apply the same lyrical logic to 9 to 5, a story of a worker never really getting anywhere nor getting any recognition.

        Yeah, I probably have a strange mind, but I can’t shake my thought on these two, just as an example!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha! I know this kind of evening all too well. In fact, I’ve been known to get involved in chat like that during the day. In work.

    Anyhoo, how can anyone who listens to Vampire Weekend and Mumford & Sons ask “like what?” when someone suggests that they like some terrible music.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s