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Tom Waits: Swordfishtrombones (33 1/3 Series)by David Smay
Synopses & Reviews
33 1/3 is a series of short books about a wide variety of albums, by artists ranging from James Brown to the Beastie Boys. Launched in September 2003, the series now contains over 50 titles and is acclaimed and loved by fans, musicians and scholars alike.
"It was only a matter of time before a clever publisher realized that there is an audience for whom Exile on Main Street or Electric Ladyland are as significant and worthy of study as The Catcher in the Rye or Middlemarch. The series... is freewheeling and eclectic, ranging from minute rock-geek analysis to idiosyncratic personal celebration." The New York Times Book Review
"Ideal for the rock geek who thinks liner notes just aren't enough." Rolling Stone
"One of the coolest publishing imprints on the planet." Bookslut
"These are for the insane collectors out there who appreciate fantastic design, well-executed thinking, and things that make your house look cool. Each volume in this series takes a seminal album and breaks it down in startling minutiae. We love these. We are huge nerds." Vice
"A brilliant series... each one a word of real love." NME
"Religious tracts for the rock 'n' roll faithful." Uncut
"We... aren't naive enough to think that we're your only source for reading about music (but if we had our way... watch out). For those of you who really like to know everything there is to know about an album, you'd do well to check out Continuum's 33 1/3 series of books." Pitchfork
The opening salvo in Tom Waits' Frank Trilogy, Swordfishtrombones marked a radical shift in the career of one of America's most original singer-songwriters. Here, David Smay investigates and celebrates the album in equal measure.
Two entwined narratives run through the creation of Swordfishtrombones and form the backbone of this book. As the 1970s ended, Waits felt increasingly constrained and trapped by his persona and career. Bitter and desperately unhappy, he moved to New York in 1979 to change his life. It wasn't working. But at his low point, he got the phone call that changed everything: Francis Ford Coppola tapped Tom to write the score for One From the Heart. Waits moved back to Los Angeles to work at Zoetrope's Hollywood studio for the next 18 months. He cleaned up, disciplined himself as a songwriter and musician, collaborated closely with Coppola, and met a script analyst named Kathleen Brennan - his "only true love".
They married within 2 months at the Always and Forever Yours Wedding Chapel at 2am. Swordfishtrombones was the first thing Waits recorded after his marriage, and it was at Kathleen's urging that he made a record that conceded exactly nothing to his record label, or the critics, or his fans. There aren't many love stories where the happy ending sounds like a paint can tumbling in an empty cement mixer.
Kathleen Brennan was sorely disappointed by Tom's record collection. She forced him out of his comfortable jazzbo pocket to take in foreign film scores, German theatre, and Asian percussion. These two stories of a man creating that elusive American second act, and also finding the perfect collaborator in his wife give this book a natural forward drive.
About the Author
David Smay has co-edited two books on music with Kim Cooper: Lost In the Grooves: Scram's Capricious Guide To The Music You Missed, and Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth. He's a regular contributor to Scram, has an upcoming piece in Oxford American and has occasionally dithered about pop music on NPR, French Television and documentaries only shown at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children, Emmett and Matilda.
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