Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)

One day last week, my clock radio went off at 8:30 AM, just as it does everyday, and I stayed in bed trying to catch more rest while letting the music slowly stir me into the land of the semi-conscious (just as I do everyday). Except on this day, when I was instantly shocked back to life by a song I hadn't heard in eleven years.

Even though I only heard it once, all those years ago, the song stuck in my head because it was probably the first time that I really got Tom Waits, got past the gravelly voice and "weird" melodies and instrumentations, and appreciated him at his surly, beer-soaked best. Waits took an unforgettable refrain and his familiar warped lyrical wit, and made crying into your beer actually seem like a attractively bittersweet thing to do. I'm always amazed at how powerfully music can be intertwined with memories, which is but one reason why you can remain a fan of a song (or artist) even though you might not hear it for months or years. And then, upon finally hearing the song again, you can find yourself singing along effortlessly, with the memories flooding back as if the music itself had been forever preserved in a photo album.

Then I found this TV performance that made me view the song in a very different way -- more goofy and farcical, with Waits as the smiling court jester. Watching him smoke, drink, and spin witticisms in the post-performance interview is also a must-see treat.

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