Tom Waits – Closing Time & The Heart of Saturday Night

10 albums that shaped my musical tastes and styles

If I were asked what one album most influenced my musical tastes, as well as the style of my own music, I would have to pick…these two, and call it a tie. I simply can’t separate the two.

I first heard Tom Waits on the radio in the summer of 1975, probably on WBBM-FM in Chicago, when I heard “San Diego Serenade” and immediately fell in love with his music. The next day, I hurried to a record store, and began leafing through one of those big yellow catalogues, trying to find out more about this “Tom Lakes.”

Despite having misheard his name, I managed to find his first two albums, Closing Time and The Heart of Saturday Night, which instantly became — and still remain — two of my very favorite albums.

I love the shadowy, melancholy atmosphere of his songs, the gorgeous melodies, the insight and pathos of his lyrics, and the jazzy, trumpet-infused arrangements that were unlike anything else I was hearing at the time.

As a pianist and aspiring songwriter myself, I’ve been inspired by his mastery of the instrument and his use of chord progressions I had never imagined. And I’ve followed his evolution as a songwriter and performer who has maintained and occasionally surpassed that level of excellence over a span of almost five decades.

I’ve borrowed a lot from him in my songwriting, sometimes without intending to. When my son, who makes his living as a musician and songwriter, heard me play some of my recent compositions on the piano, he said they reminded him of Tom Waits. I took this as a great compliment. I’m not anywhere close to playing in that league, of course, but “when you are dreaming, you see for miles and miles…”*

*Tom Waits, “Midnight Lullaby”

Favorite tracks:

Closing Time – Midnight Lullaby, Martha, Rosie, Grapefruit Moon, I Hope that I Don’t Fall in Love with You, Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards), Little Trip to Heaven (on the Wings of Your Love)

The Heart of Saturday Night – Please Call Me Baby, San Diego Serenade, Shiver Me Timbers, Fumblin’ with the Blues, New Coat of Paint

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