Tom Waits
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. 1983
Director: Haskell Wexler

TEMPTATION. 1987
Director: Betzy Bromberg

JOE'S FLYIN A-GARLIC. 2004
Director: Katrina Whalen

LIE TO ME. 2006
Director: Danny Clinch

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



In the NeighborhoodSepia tinted music video In the Neighborhood (1983) promoted the album Swordfish Trumbones.

It opens with Tom Waits funeral-marching down a country road, dressed as a rumpled bandleader in epaulets & top hat.

His little parade is intercut with images of the common people of the neighborhood, which is a rustic place rather than a city as I always imagined it. And he's singing the splendid, splendid lyrics:

"Well Friday's a funeral & Saturday's a bride/ Seth's got a pistol on the register's side/ And the goddamn delivery trucks they make too much noise/ And we don't get our butter delivered no more/ In the neighborhood, in the neighborhood, in the neighborhood..."

It's like he's leading the devil's own parade, his ragtag band behind him, mostly musicians, but possibly a couple actual local hobos. One of his guys is riding on a chair mounted atop of donkey. Spectacular imagery!


TemptationTom Waits is shown with accordian & fireworks in the Temptation (1987) music video promoting the album of the same name.

This is one of his great songs so it doesn't require anything fancy to be a captivating video; the music is everything here, with interpretive directorial authorship all but absent.

It comes off a little like an amateur job of filming but the impression is deceptive & really it has an artful grottiness to match Tom's voice. And he's being especially gravelly-squeely, apt to be offputting to whoever is not already in love with the man.

We get gloomy lighting, close-ups of instruments, & Tom like a ghostly figure in the night sky, while we hear him crying out:

"Rusted brandy in a diamond glass/ Everything is made from dreams/ Time is made from honey, slow & sweet/ Only the fools know what it means/ Temptation. Temptation. Temptation. I can't resist..." Can't complain!


Joe's Flyin a-Garlic "Tabletop Joe" by Tom Waits gets the animation treatment in Katrina Whalen's six-minute stpp-motion puppetry film Joe's Flyin a-Garlic (2004). We then see wooden puppet hands on the keys of a very scruffed-up piano as Tom begins singing.

Tom's "head" is made from a sheetmusic-clip, & pair of clip-on spectacles. The arms & head that are Tom possesses no body, so his articulated hands also serve as feet when he decides to climb onto the piano top. The bodiless nature of this puppet plays right into the song's lyrics.

His band consists of one cymbal-whacking wind-up monkey with a wild little percussion device attached to his head. We're listening to such lyrics as:

"My momma didn't want me on the day I was born/ I was born without a body, I got nothin' but scorn/ But I always loved music, all I had was my hands/ I dreamed I'd be famous, & I'd work at The Sands..."

The crazed animation takes its cues from the lyrics & does a mighty fine job of bringing it to life in full surreality. The set for this amazing bit of puppetry is neatly decorated with vintage bottles, antique typewriter, toys, scrolls, playing cards, a cupie doll, beer cans. & miscellaneous junk with which puppet-Tom interacts, even to the point of drawing a flipbook for a bit of animation within the animation.

He dances rather menacingly with the cupie doll, looks at his pocket watch, & returns to the piano keyes that have been playing themselves. In its decadent bizarreness, this is all very colorful, & Joe's Flyin a-Garlic has enough genius about it to do real honor to Tom Waits music.


Lie To MeTo support his three-disc dvd release Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, & Bastards, Tom Waits released the music video Lie To Me (2006).

This number comes off as a spoof of '50s rock, with Tom mumbling whimsically, "You got to lie to me baby/ You got to lie to me baby/ Hoo ho, you got to lie to me baby, move on/ I know you got another jockey at home/ Let me be your rider till your real man comes/ Whip me baby, lie like a dog/ I really don't care if you do/ Never stop telling me lies."

It's all done to a fairly standard retro rock beat, with Tom even coming close to a Chuck Berry duck-walk amidst his other antics

Frankly, if I thought this number represented the three-dvd set fairly, I'd be put off getting it. In fact only the first of the three discs plays off rock & roll beats. The second disc consists of the type of painful ballads at which Tom most great excells, & the third is miscellaneous uncategorizable stuff including spoken word poetry pieces.

Had he made a video of one of the best pieces, it would've been from the second of the three discs. But Tom had been feeling like this growly ballad stuff was getting too easy & repetitious & he really wanted to rock it up to the best of his ability, & so promoted foremost the first of the three discs.

Perhaps it's only a matter of my taste, from being madly in love with Tom as a blusy raggedy balladeer, but I think it was the wrong decision to focus on the rock.

The Lie to Me video as a stand-alone film isn't all that great musically, & isn't much for filmmaking, though keeping it black & white helps.

It was really an unplanned video in that Danny Clinch was in the midst of a still-photo shoot for Tom. They'd together dashed together a grubby setting in the back courtyard of the Little Amsterdam restaurant in Petaluma, California, decorated with some of Tom's own wacked sound equipment.

As he began hopping about with his guitar for still photos snapped one after another, Tom remarked, "It's too bad we don't have a video camera. This would make a great video."

Danny made two quick phone calls, one to the Epitaph office to see if they could spend a little extra money to get a video out of the shoot, & one to his wife to rush over with a video camera. The resultant music video has some of the still photography edited into it, giving a herky-jerky look to the performance.

So, not much planning went into film it, not much to edit afterward, & not much brilliance in between, though Danny was pleased with the outcome of something done wholly "in the moment."

Continue to fourth clutch of
Tom Waits Videos

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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