While live music remains off the menu for some considerable amount in time due to the current health crisis, the period of flux has allowed us to delve deep into the archives of music history for a momentary period of nostalgic relief. Here, we revisit the moment Tom Waits celebrated the birthday of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards by penning him a new original poem.
Richards, a founding member and principal songwriter of the Stones, celebrated his 76th birthday late last year which was met with numerous different tributes to his musical and artistic legacy.
Having become close friends with Waits over the years, Richards has collaborated on numerous different albums from Waits’ 1985’s record Rain Dogs right up until his recent 2011 effort Bad as Me. “He’s a one-off lovely guy and one of the most original writers,” Richards once said of his colleague.
“I said, ‘What about Keith Richards?’ I was just joking, but somebody went ahead and called him. And then he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Now we’re really in trouble,'” Waits told Pitchfork about the why he created the poem, a flippant response to a request by a record label to enlist special guests for a recording. “I was really nervous. He came with about 600 guitars in a semi-truck. And a butler. We were in these huge studios in New York, like The Poseidon Adventure. Huge, high ceilings in these rooms like football fields. They’d fill these things up with orchestras and we were in there with five guys. It felt a little weird. He killed me. I was really knocked out that he played on all those things.”
“We wrote songs together for a while and that was fun [but] he doesn’t really remember anything or write anything down,” he added. “So you play for an hour and he would yell across the room, ‘Scribe!’ And I looked around. ‘Scribe? Who’s the scribe?’ And he’d say it again, now pointing at me. I was supposed to have written down everything we said and dreamt of and played, and I realized we needed an adult in the room. I’ve never been the one that one would consider the adult. It was an interesting dynamic.”
Now, as part of a feature for Rolling Stone, Waits has submitted the poem in celebration of his friend. In the poem, Waits pays homage to Richards’ talents, writing: “He wrote his share of the songs from Sticky Fingers/ In a henhouse in Malta/ He once won the Hope Diamond in a poker game/ And in the same night lost it in a game of craps/ He owns a lug wrench and a tire jack made of solid gold.”
See the full poem, below.