Watch Tom Waits’ Classic Appearance on Australian TV, 1979

Here’s a rare gem from the video vault: Tom Waits on the Aus­tralian TV pro­gram, The Don Lane Show, in 1979.

Don Lane was an Amer­i­can night­club per­former who some­how man­aged to become the John­ny Car­son of Aus­tralia. The Don Lane Show ran from 1975 to 1983, and fea­tured com­e­dy, inter­views and musi­cal per­for­mances by a vari­ety of inter­na­tion­al stars who were tour­ing Aus­tralia, includ­ing Elton John, Ste­vie Won­der, Jer­ry Lee Lewis and, on more than one occa­sion, Tom Waits.

On his first appear­ance in 1979, the 29-year-old Waits gave a dis­joint­ed, com­ic inter­view (above), before going to the piano (below) to per­form “On the Nick­el,” which he wrote for the sound­track of the 1980 film of the same name. “The Nick­el” refers to the skid row area of Los Ange­les, along 5th Street. The song was includ­ed on Wait­s’s 1980 album, Heartat­tack and VineAus­tralian TV view­ers appar­ent­ly did­n’t know what to think about the mum­bling, chain-smok­ing singer. When Waits returned in 1981 (you can watch that show in two parts, here and here.) Lane said, “The last time Tom Waits appeared with us, his unusu­al style and sense of humor lit up our switch­board for about an hour after the show. And not all with com­pli­ments, either.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Brief His­to­ry of John Baldessari, Nar­rat­ed by Tom Waits

Tom Waits Reads Charles Bukows­ki

Tom Waits and David Let­ter­man: An Amer­i­can Tele­vi­sion Tra­di­tion

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