Jon calls this “One of Tom Waits’ great parlour ballads. His wife is American Irish and they do spend time in Ireland with her extended family so the influence of Irish parlour balladry is probably quite direct. John and I do this one a lot.”
If I’ve got this right then Wait’s wife, Kathleen Brennan, was very involved here as this is the record of the musical stage play Franks Wild Years that sort of span out of the comic monologue of the same title on Swordfishtrombones. It was a moderately successful Off Broadway production and a proper collaboration between Tom and Kathleen. For me it’s probably the drop off point from an artist I became wildly obsessed with during a whiskey sodden night at the start of the 80s. I was fortunate enough to see him on The Heart Attack & Vine tour and then a couple of years later on the Raindogs tour. Both were exceptional shows, quite different – the first quite intimate, the second lurching and wonky – but each crowned by magnetic performances from Tom. After that, I suppose the acting took off and the paradox for me was that somehow the real drama of his nourish vignettes seemed to fade. Hey-ho. Still this is one of Tom’s songs that really does lend itself to interpretation and has an almost folk-naiveté about its meadows, dew, hills fields, etc, even if the implication is we are not when we are not.