The Record Collection

Tom Waits: Swordfishtrombones

Island 422-842 469.2

Track list:

01 – Underground
02 – Shore Leave
03 – Dave The Butcher
04 – Johnsburg, Illinois
05 – 16 Shells From a Thirty-ought-six
06 – Town With No Cheer
07 – In The Neighborhood
08 – Just Another Sucker On The Vine
09 – Frank’s Wild Years
10 – Swordfishtrombone
11 – Down, Down, Down
12 – Soldier’s Things
13 – Gin Soaked Boy
14 – Touble’s Braids
15 – Rainbirds


Tom Waits – Vocal, Chair, Hammond B-3 Organ, Piano, Harmonium, Synthesizer, Freedom Bell
Victor Feldman – Bass Marimba, Marimba, Shaker, Bass Drum with Rice, Bass Boo Bams, Brake Drum, Bell Plate, Snare, Hammond B-3 Organ, Snare Drum, Bells, Conga, Bass Drum, Dabuki Drum, Tambourine, African Talking Drum
Larry Taylor – Acoustic Bass, Electric Bass
Randy Aldcroft – Baritone Horn, Trombone
Stephen Taylor Arvizu Hodges – Drums, Parade Drum, Cymbals, Parade Bass Drum, Glass Harmonica
Fred Tackett – Electric Guitar, Banjo Guitar
Francis Thumm – Metal Aunglongs, Glass Harmonica
Greg Cohen – Bass, Acoustic Bass
Joe Romano – Trombone, Trumpet
Anthony Clark Stewart – Bagpipes
Clark Spangler – Synthesizer Program
Bill Reichenbach – Trombone
Dick (Slyde) Hyde – Trombone
Ronnie Barron – Hammond Organ
Eric Bikales – Organ
Carlos Guitarlos – Electric Guitar
Richard Gibbs – Glass Harmonica

Released: September 1983
Recorded: August 1982 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, California

Between the release of Heartattack and Vine in 1980 and Swordfishtrombones in 1983, Tom Waits changed labels, and transformed himself from a jazz-inflected poet/crooner into something altogether new.

Swordfishtrombones marks the beginning of an obvious trilogy that saw the emergence of Waits as a designer of soundscapes (this was the first of his albums Waits produced himself), with an overall tone that blends equal parts German cabaret, the patina of old 78s, and the sentimental power of a John McCormack ballad.

Waits began using his voice in extraordinary ways here, from the sideshow bark of “Underground” to the cough-syrup strain of “Swordfishtrombone,” and the instrumentation changed with him, with a new clang of Harry Partch-inspired percussion and Salvation Army brass arrangements.

In hindsight, there were hints of this sound on Heartattack and Vine, but nothing prepared fans for this full-blown masterpiece.