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I'm so glad that you wrote about this album, Stu. It is one of my favourites. It was the first Tom Waits record I heard, and I still remember how startled I was when I heard the way he barked out the first lines of the first song:

We sail tonight for Singapore!
We're all as mad as hatters here.
I've fallen for a tawny Moor.
Took off to the land of Nod.
Drank with all the Chinamen,
Walked the sewers (shores?) of Paris.
I danced along a coloured wind,
Dangled from a rope of sand.
You must say goodbye to me.

There are so many wonderful songs, and wonderful turns of phrase. You've mentioned a few, but I'll chime in with praise for "Tango Till They're Sore", "Shore Leave", and "Rain Dogs".

The last time I listened to this album, which was about a year ago, I thought that the differences between it and Waits' previous records were not so radical as I had previously thought. Yes, the instrumentation is bizarre, and the voice is unusual, but quite a few of the songs, suitably arranged, would not have been entirely out of place on a record like "Small Change".

I remember the startling effect of "Singapore," too. I haven't heard this album for a while, and naturally this makes me want to. As I recall it wasn't my favorite of the several somewhat similar albums he made in the '80s, but it's still great.

I figured the "John, John" refrain came from some folk song. It sounds a bit like various "long gone" refrains. But I don't know.

Oh, and I was at the Mobile show that Stu missed. It was great. I talked about it here at the time, I'm sure.

I've also seen Waits live, once. It was on the Mule Variations tour, so late 1990s, I think. It was a terrific night. I realized, what is not always clear from his records, that he is quite a funny man. It was one of the best concerts I've been to.

Oh man, you guys are so lucky (Craig and Mac)! I would trade one of my 15 or so Bob Dylan shows to see TW, okay I'd trade 2-3 if I get to pick which ones. ;-)

Those are all great songs, Craig! I'm not sure there is one on the album that I don't like, just some strike me more than others. "Singapore" is indeed a very strong opening statement and made a very big impression when I first put that cassette tape in my stereo back in 1985.

Marc Ribot is so great.

Finally took time to listen to this for the first time in at least 5 or 6 years, probably more. It is truly great.

Some interesting information about the title and cover:


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