The Wait(s) is Over for Tom’s Pictures
My family’s taste in music has always been slightly “off”, and that’s not a bad thing. I think the best music is not out there with Kasey Kassem ( R.I.P) and his American Top Forty. My brother and sister played Tom Waits and I learned to love it as it crept through the walls and attacked me in my sleep ( made for some awkward sex dreams — everyone sounded like Louis Armstrong with a sore throat).
My sister was the first true fan, although a friend of my brother was a D.J. at their college and that’s how we ended up with ‘ Closing Time’ with PROPERTY OF TRENTON STATE stamped across the label. I was with my brother and his D.J. friend once down the Jersey shore when they spotted a skinny little white guy, and a big black guy standing ankle deep in the water. This was in the early seventies, when my brother’s friend starting singing, “Ros-a-lita, jump a little higher…” I had no idea why, or who those guys in the water were. Goes without saying now, of course, it was the guy who would ruin ‘ Jersey Girl’ one day by tagging on that last verse ‘take that little brat of yours and drop her off at your mom’s’ ( just my opinion).
A few weeks ago, my sister, Diane, was going through some old black-and-white photos, she was quite the photographer back-in-the-day ( yes, I am old enough to say back-in-the-day). Mixed among her past a familiar face peered from the pile. It was a series of photos of Tom Waits she took during a concert at Glassboro State College ( now Rowan University) in Glassboro, New Jersey.
Very stark photos, against a black background and black suit, Waits’ hands and head seem to float in the ether. Diane forwarded them to me, and I told her I would post them to a Tom Waits’ Fan Page on FACEBOOK.
When posted, I mentioned that these pictures where taken in Glassboro, New Jersey sometime in nineteen-seventy-six or seven.
Within minutes, among the ‘ Cool pictures!’ and ‘Thanks for sharing’ comments came allegations that Tom didn’t have any concerts in Glassboro in nineteen-seventy-six. I called my sister, she told me, written on the back of the photos was ‘glassboro, n.j, oct ‘77’ in artsy lower-case letters.
The folks on the Tom Waits page, a resilient bunch, within a few minutes posted the set list from the show. The allegations of no concert turned to a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to my sister for finding an undocumented concert that would be added to the Tom Waits Library!
A week or so later, my sister cleaned out a dresser for one of her son’s move to North Carolina when she happened across more photos. This time, a collection of Beatles publicity shots from the movie ‘ Help’. Not originals, but nice prints my father, who worked in the movie industry, gave to my sister. Diane was a big Beatles’ fan when she was younger.
I was about to find out just how big a fan she was.
The last photo in the pile showed the fab four on the beach, but there was a noticeable exception to this picture. A round cut out appeared where Paul’s face should have been. When I pointed this out to my sister, some long dormant memory woke, and her checks flushed red.
Apparently, in her youthful infatuation of Paul McCartney, she cut out his face and placed it in a locket that she wore around her neck. She then told her friends that Paul, her boyfriend, would be coming over the house for a visit.
Somewhere in this world McCartney’s decapitated head is encased in a cheap, silver locket, never to see the light of day.
Maybe Paul really is dead.
Along with the Beatles, my sister found five more Waits photographs from that same concert. Although odd that these original photographs kept appearing, I had no doubt of their authenticity. However, if somehow, she finds a freshly type copy of Howard Hughes’ Autobiography, or Amelia Earhart’s Bahama vacation photographs, circa. 1962, in her basement, I might start to grow suspect.
My sister did know Tom Waits in the late seventies. She met him first in California, then when he played some concerts in New York. They would get together occasionally, and for a time we thought the song ‘Jersey Girl’ was about her. Of course, it’s not. Then she thought maybe ‘Downtown Train’, because, after all, she was one of those Brooklyn girls. Which is fine, we can live with that.
However, if she ever starts to think that ‘A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’ is about her, we’re having a family intervention.
Originally published at https://www.conflictandscotch.com on May 13, 2019.