A Tale of Two Toms

Unrepentant Trotblog Dave’s Part hosted a rather good videoclip of 1970’s lefty favourite Tom Robinson Band performing ‘Don’t take No for an Answer’ recently.

It’s worth a look if only to remind yourself what the angry young man of 1978 was listening to. And wearing too – check out the beards and parkas.

By coincidence today’s Comment is Free features the thoughts of Chairman Robinson on another singer who got started in the decade that petered out ignobly in the Winter of Discontent: Tom Waits has just released a new three CD set.

It’s actually like serving your dinner guests a 54-course meal using every last ingredient in the kitchen, from yesterday’s lettuce to that can of artichoke hearts at the back of your cupboard. Certainly, it’s an achievement few could match. But most cooks are aware that if you chuck too much on the plate and pile dish after dish on the table, the result is oppressive instead of pleasurable. There are only so many ways you can cook a cabbage, and only so much one diner can digest at a single sitting.

I agree. There’s only so much Waits one can take nowadays.

It’s a shame the creeping cacophony of his 1983 album Swordfishtrombones wasn’t just a mad interlude before Waits returned to the melancholic lyricism of ‘Heartattack and Vine’ or ‘Closing Time’ instead of a template for much of what he’s been foisting on us since then.