Sinister, mad and disturbing old Tom. By the mid 80s he was ploughing a furrow that nobody could follow, not because they didn’t want to, but because they weren’t sure how stable the earth was that Tom was ploughing. But on he ploughed, churning out sea shantys, burnt out blues and insane polkas.
He just kept throwing out this music and it landed in strange piles that were never less than interesting. Every now and again he’d stop and put one of these piles in a bag and present it to his record company who would just nod dumbfounded and release it just because they liked mad old Tom.
Eventually the odd collection of songs known as Rain Dogs got quite a following from those that recognised a hugely enjoyable album when they heard one. Bizarrely one of these folks was Rod Stewart, who covered “Downtown Train” and the name Tom Waits was discovered by a whole new audience. Not all of them stayed with him of course and some were just scared away by his mad barking, but it did bring him to the attention of many that had never heard of him before.
One of the reasons that this album was as successful as it was (and indeed remains successful to this day) is the consistency of the songs as Tom was ploughing a particularly fertile patch at the time. It also has the advantage that because it’s so stark raving bonkers, that it hasn’t aged particularly badly as there is nothing else to compare it with.
Mad as a sack of badgers.