Big Time
Director: James Jarmusch

Director: Jesse Dylan

Director: Chris Blum

Director: Lucas Kulterer

Director: Harry Chaskin

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Jockey Full of Burbon Jockey Full of Bourbon (1986) promotes the soundtrack album for the movie Down by Law (1986). plus it is an "all audiences" rated trailer for the R-rated film itself. The video simultaneously promoted Tom Wait's own album for which "Jockey Full of Bourbon" was the title cut.

It's made up of bits & fragments from James Jarmusch's great film with Tom Wait's great performance as acting star.

For both music & lyrics this is one of Tom's most wonderful pieces, beginning: "Edna Million in a drop dead suit/ Dutch Pink on a downtown train/ Two-dollar pistol but the gun won't shoot/ I'm on the corner in the pouring rain..."

Because the footage seems a bit randomly chosen from the Jarmusch film, it's one of the least interesting of Waits videos, more like a movie trailer that had its sound replaced with Wait's tune. Which is not to say the visuals aren't good -- mainly rushing scenes of New Orleans architecture -- but you gotta see the whole film, not a string of excerpted moments.

There are some odd images spliced in not from the film, apparently computer-generated or computer-altered lovers, in the same black & white as Jarmusch's film, showing lovers under a tree, on a hilltop, etc., & in the end crumbling or melting away. This relates to neither the film nor the song's lyrics so not as much an asset as it might've been, although the buggy eyed girl of the couple is at least a little creepy, & that's a good thing.

God's Away on Business Perhaps Wait's most surreal video is God's Away on Business (2002), in which he creeps through dark film noir hallways (of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles) like a broken marionette searching for its strings, in company of strutting, standing, staring emus.

He's making his rough voice rougher by half, & vastly more conspiratorial, mumbly enough to sound like he's singing "Cock's away."

It approaches a horror film, with lyrics to match: "I'd sell your heart to the junkman baby/ For a buck. For a buck/ If you're looking for someone to pull you out of that ditch, you're out of luck. You're out of luck/ God's away. God's away. God's away on business. Business/ God's away. God's away. God's away on business..."

Or: "Digging up the dead with a shovel & a pick/ It's a job. it's a job/ Blood moon rising a plague & a flood/ Join the mob. Join the mob." Tom's strange body postures exceed in artfulness the best jazz dance I've ever seen.

Cold Cold Ground Cold Cold Ground (1988) video is about all the bad days in the world. Tom used to have some little bad days. But he kept them in a little box. And one day he threw them out into the yard.

He raps his way through the story thus: "Oh, it's just a couple little innocent bad days. Well, we had a big rain. I don't know what it was growing in but I think we used to put egg shells out there & coffee grounds too.

"Don't plant your bad days, they grow into weeks, the weeks grow into months, & before you know it you got yourself a bad year. Take it from me. Choke those little bad days. Choke 'em down to nothin'. They're your days, choke 'em."

After his wonderfully whimsical bit of storytelling & advice, he begins to sing the music video's title song from the 1988 album "Cold Cold Ground." It's a piece just about as bluesy as anything of Delta Blues, from that rasping voice that might as well be issuing from the face of some eighty year old blues singer recently retired from grave digging.

He's singing: "...slept with a dream before he had to go away/ There's a bell in the tower, Uncle Ray bought a round/ Don't worry 'bout the army in the cold cold ground/ In the cold cold ground/ In the cold cold ground/ In the cold cold ground..."

This is straightforward live footage from his Big Time concert video also from 1988, separately given as a promotional for the album.

Poor Edwdard Encountered on YouTube, an unofficial music video for Tom Waits Poor Edward (2007) is so delightful it easily compares to the best of Tom's professional videos, delivering three & three-quarters minutes of pure merit.

In between text cards for most (not quite all) the lyrics such as "Did you hear the news about Edward?" are claymation stop-animation animation of a lonely sad-eyed figure in a white room, with a bed, a table with fateful chair & a block of cheese on the table, a lone pathetic potted plant which will also have its moment of dismal glory in this beautifully hought-out piece.

Stylistically it is simple, artful, and reminiscent of the animation of Jan Svankmajer, so perhaps slightly more than coincidence that the song "Poor Edward" is on the album Alice the same title as one of Svankmajer's great films.

"On the back of his his head -- he had another face" two text cards inform us. The clay Edward turns his head round for us to see the second face manifest before our eyes. "They said to remove it would kill him so Edward was DOOMED!"

This could've been a laugh riot of horror. Not only is Waits' song absurdist & comical, though sung with all the tragedy of his most serious work, but poor Clay Edward is responding with all extreme misery to a life defined by Tom's song. Our urge to laugh out loud is trampled by pity for such a suffering being.

"The face could laugh and cry/ It was his devil twin/ At night she spoke to him/ Things heard only in Hell." And on the song goes with laughable horror to a bitter, bitter end for poor Edward, his flower, & the cheese. Beautifully done.

Lullaby I wouldn't think it possible to find two fine examples of claymation on youtube in honor of Tom Waits, but Tom is inevitably an inspriation to more animators than those dumbasses who put on "slide shows" to Tom's songs & call that animation.

A short-short claymation stop-motion piece is Lullay (2007). It "stars" an old man, or at least an old man's head, stuck on a pole sticking out of a can, moving about a tiny room on a wheeled device. It is rather reminiscent of the brothers Quay early shorts, doomful, shadowy, yet strangely elegant.

In a corner of the room is a teddy bear. Lying on the bed with startled expression is who must be be the robot-can old man's grandson. We then see the hideous but movingly sad face singing with very well matched lipsynch to Tom's voice:

"Sun is red, moon is cracked/ Daddy's never coming back/ Nothings ever yours to keep/ Close your eyes, go to sleep/ If I die before I wake/ Don't you cry, don't you weep/ Nothing's ever as it seems/ Climb the ladder to your dreams."

In keeping with traditional lullabies it's a wonder any kid gets to sleep without nightmares of babies fallilng from treetops & pretty little ponies & lambies blinded by butterflies & bees. Tom is no more macabre than tradition, & his wee lullaby is manifested perfectly in the equally wee film it inspired.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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