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Tom Waits

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Tom Waits
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Signed to Asylum a year before its merger with Elektra, Tom Waits was certainly cut from a very different cloth than his other SoCal singer/songwriter labelmates - with musical stories that were much more about the low life of Skid Row than the high life of Hotel California. Steeped in jazz, folk, and blues, he introduced his trademark gravelly voice on his 1973 debut album, Closing Time, followed by The Heart of Saturday Night (1974), and Nighthawks at the Diner (1975). Having won critical acclaim and built a modest but rabid following, Waits broke into the lower reaches of the top 100 on the Billboard album chart with the 1976 release of Small Change, which lurches through a whiskey haze and survives to tell the tale in jazz poetry. The cover - shot by the late Joel Brodsky (whose iconic images were used on nine Doors album covers for Elektra) - captures the album's essence in a photograph of Waits hanging out in a strip club dressing room with a barely covered dancer. Full of eccentric characters and vivid portrayals of late-night bars and down-and-out patrons of the "arts," the album's novelistic approach stands out in songs like "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)," "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart," "Pasties and a G-String," and "The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)." Small Change proved that despite the massive commercial success of acts like The Eagles - who covered Waits's "Ol' 55" for On The Border - Elektra/Asylum still offered a home for quirky, one-of-a-kind, offbeat geniuses. Waits recorded three more albums for the label - Foreign Affairs (1977), Blue Valentine (1978), and Heart Attack and Vine (1980), while also beginning an accomplished parallel career as a film actor.
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