Season's end for Blue Valentine

For those who prefer to binge-listen to their content, a final summing-up of our latest season of Song by Song on Tom Waits. With Caspar Salmon, Elizabeth Sankey, Jen Adamthwaite, Dave Pickering and Kit Lovelace in tow, Sam and Martin have ploughed their way through not just the 10 tracks from Blue Valentine, but also two contemporaneous(ish) Waits songs: Annie's Back In Town & Rainbow Sleeves.

We're at a turning point, arguably the first or second of Waits's career, but over the last couple of albums we've seen the writing on the wall. Waits is beginning to experiment more boldly with style, arrangement and theme, as well as in his own vocal performance. Many fans will anticipate the beginning of the 80s with Heartattack and Vine as being a major shift in his style and outlook, and we're looking forward to considering this in the coming episodes.

So, for those who want to prepare fully, find below a full playlist of all of our season six episodes, as well as Spotify and YouTube links to all the songs we're discussing. And, if you've missed out on any episodes or tracks from previous series, everything is ready and waiting to play at the bottom of the Closing Time, The Heart of Saturday Night, Nighthawks at the Diner, Small Change and Foreign Affairs pages at

Thanks for listening, we'll see you very soon for season seven.

St. James Hospital, Traditional, Benjamin Luxon (via YouTube)

Annie’s Back In Town, Paradise Alley OST, Tom Waits (1978)

(Meet Me In) Paradise Alley, Paradise Alley OST, Tom Waits (1978)

Paradise Alley, dir. Sylvester Stallone (1978)

Foreign Affairs - a wrap-up

 No episode this week, while we get our romance warmed up for Blue Valentine... or cooled down... whichever floats your boat. But in the meantime we thought it was worth having a look back at season five. 

Having gone into the album with mixed feelings and various ideas about its inspiration, I think it's fair to say that we emerged with some attitudes changed. While neither of us became the greatest fans of Foreign Affairs, it's clear that Waits has begun experimenting with form and style earlier than we initially thought. Tracks like Muriel and I Never Talk To Strangers are strong examples of his style thus far, but Potter's Field and Burma-Shave (and even Cinny's Waltz to a degree) show the beginnings of a development which, as fans of his 80s work know, will bear very interesting fruit in the coming albums.

Our attempts to follow through on Bones Howe's assertion that Foreign Affairs was a film noir tribute album were... perhaps less than successful. While we enjoyed the diversion from the standard interval tracks into the work of Nicholas Ray and Sam Fuller, our pitch that a broad ideology spans all nine tracks didn't quite come together. The film parallels do stand up for certain tracks, and his interest in film both as an inspiration as well as a performance medium will continue through his career. But the grand narrative for this album... not so much.

One thing that we did enjoy this season was expanding our scope to include more than one guest at a time - Simon Renshaw and Sam Clements contributed immeasurably, and going into Blue Valentine we plan to have more duos as guests (y'gettit? Couples are like Valentines?)

But more than anything, I think we're starting to get to some of the reasons we wanted to do this podcast in general. Great as the 70s albums are, showing an artist emerging almost fully-formed, confident and capable, they can't illustrate the breadth and scope of his abilities as an artist. Only now, as we move towards his first creative shift, are we starting to see the beginnings of Waits's true genius, his talent for reinvention and reinterpretation, and the synthesis of his various interests.

So thanks to you all for jumping on the podcast with us, and for staying with it this far. We're both fully committed to seeing the project through, and we hope you'll stick with us. As always, any thoughts on upcoming tracks, let us know at all the usual places. 

Sam & Martin