The Boyfriend of the Week

March 21, 1999

Welcome Mademoiselle readers!

This week's Boyfriend is very very special. He's not at all what you'd expect from me, though -- he's ugly, he smokes too much, he's moody, AND he can be a real jerk sometimes! But his music is second only to The Pixies to me, and that's saying an awful lot, if ya know what I mean. Tom Waits has written some of the smartest, weirdest, most beautiful music in the world, and the man can act ta boot! How often do you come across someone like that?

One of the first Tom Waits albums I ever bought was "Closing Time" -- one of Tom's earliest. It's slow and it's sad and most of the songs are about love and loss. It was probably the most beautiful thing I'd heard at the time, and one song in particular really affected me. Rather than ramble on and on about it, I'll just post the lyrics for you and you can read them and see if you see what I see (and if you don't, you haven't lived long enough):

Martha

Operator, number, please: it's been so many years
Will she remember my old voice while I fight the tears?
Hello, hello there, is this Martha? this is old Tom Frost,
I am calling long distance, don't worry 'bout the cost.
'Cause it's been forty years or more, now Martha please recall,
Meet me out for coffee, where we'll talk about it all.

And those were the days of roses, poetry and prose
And Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows
And we saved them for a rainy day.

And I feel so much older now, and you're much older too,
How's your husband? and how's the kids? you know that I got married too?
Luck that you found someone to make you feel secure,
'Cause we were all so young and foolish, now we are mature.

And those were the days of roses, poetry and prose
And Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows
And we saved them for a rainy day.

And I was always so impulsive, I guess that I still am,
And all that really mattered then was that I was a man.
I guess that our being together was never meant to be.
And Martha, Martha, I love you can't you see?

And those were the days of roses, poetry and prose
And Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows
And we saved them for a rainy day.

I remember quiet evenings trembling close to you...

It loses something without the music, of course, and it loses even more without the gravel in Tom's voice. But it's one of the most painful songs I've ever heard -- the first time I listened to the words behind the sounds, they made me cry. So go buy the album, already -- it'll change the way you look at your world, and that's no small thing. And while you're at it, pick up "Frank's Wild Years" to balance out the seriousness. This is one of the most cacophonically amazing albums you'll ever hear. The songs clank and they rattle and they make you laugh and they make fun of Sinatra and every now and then, they make you a little misty. You can also listen to the difference in Tom's voice between the two albums and take home with you a powerful lesson in what smoking can do to your vocal cords! (Although, at the same time, having a voice like that might be a motivation for taking up the habit, in which case you should instead seek out Jack Klugman these days to see what your voice sounds like after throat surgery).

Tom Waits is a musical genius. And he's also proven himself to be quite an actor too. He's been in about twenty movies, most notably "Short Cuts" and "The Fisher King," and he's been goofy and great in all of them (at least, all the ones I've seen). Unfortunately, he's also married, which puts a serious damper on OUR relationship at times, but I'm sure we can still be friends. Right, Tommy?

Listen, watch, learn. You will not be sorry!

MacGyver Factor Score: 96.7%. The usual points off for a deadly habit. But a few points back on because even *I* have to admit that Tom Waits would be naked without a cigarette. It's so much a part of everything that he is, voice and presence, that I'd never dare threaten him into giving it up. Though I probably wouldn't risk loving him too hard either. Loss is never easy, and that's a lesson Tom himself has taught me in his music. I try not to take risks with my heart. Also, Tom's a little out of my league when it comes to coolness. I aspire, but I have not achieved.

An excellent source for info and lyrics.


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