Tom Waits once said: “My reality needs imagination like a bulb needs a socket. My imagination needs reality like a blind man needs a cane,” so it will come as little surprise that deep, gravelly voice of Mr Waits has been discussing some artists that have inspired him through the years.
A few years back Waits compiled a list which comprises of his 20 most cherished albums of all time, a collection of records that he has carried around with him since his early days as a musician.
Starting life primarily as a jazz musician in the 1970s, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Waits has decided to include the Thelonious Monk as part of his most favoured albums. “Monk said ‘There is no wrong note, it has to do with how you resolve it’,” Waits told The Guardian. “He almost sounded like a kid taking piano lessons. I could relate to that when I first started playing the piano, because he was decomposing the music while he was playing it.”
He added: “Solo Monk lets you not only see these melodies without clothes, but without skin. This is astronaut music from Bedlam.”
Being inspired by Bob Dylan and The Beat Generation, Waits would later move to Los Angeles where he signed his first recording contract with Asylum Records. The development of Waits’ sound would gradually move closer to rock, blues and experimental genres so it only seems obvious that he would cite Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart as an influential album on his life. “The roughest diamond in the mine, his musical inventions are made of bone and mud,” Waits said of Beefheart’s album. “Enter the strange matrix of his mind and lose yours. This is indispensable for the serious listener.
“An expedition into the centre of the earth, this is the high jump record that’ll never be beat, it’s a merlot reduction sauce. He takes da bait. Dante doing the buck and wing at a Skip James suku jump. Drink once and thirst no more.”
Tom Waits’ top 20 favourite albums of all time:
1 – In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra
2 – Solo Monk by Thelonious Monk
3 – Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart
4 – Exile On Main Street by the Rolling Stones
5 – The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryers
6 – The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan
7 – Lounge Lizards by Lounge Lizards
8 – Rum Sodomy and the Lash by the Pogues
9 – I’m Your Man by Leonard Cohen
10 – The Specialty Sessions by Little Richard
11 – Startime by James Brown
12 – Bohemian-Moravian Bands by Texas-Czech
13 – The Yellow Shark by Frank Zappa
14 – Passion for Opera Aria
15 – Rant in E Minor by Bill Hicks
16 – Prison Songs: Murderous Home Alan Lomax Collection
17 – Cubanos Postizos by Marc Ribot
18 – Houndog by Houndog
19 – Purple Onion by Les Claypool
20 – The Delivery Man by Elvis Costello
Speaking about Dylan, Waits added: “For a songwriter, Dylan is as essential as a hammer and nails and a saw are to a carpenter. I like my music with the rinds and the seeds and pulp left in – so the bootlegs I obtained in the Sixties and Seventies, where the noise and grit of the tapes became inseparable from the music, are essential to me.”
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Below, enjoy a full playlist of the albums select by Mr Waits.