Tom Waits, Playing the Down-and-Out Barfly, Appears in Classic 1978 TV Performance

Musi­cal­ly, Tom Waits has come a long way since the 1970s. Absorb­ing a range of influ­ences, Waits has rein­vent­ed him­self sev­er­al times over to become one of the most influ­en­tial writ­ers and per­form­ers of our time.

Along the way he has also made his mark as a char­ac­ter actor. But “par­al­lel career” would be the wrong phrase to describe Wait­s’s film and tele­vi­sion work, for his music and act­ing have always inter­sect­ed. Nev­er was this more appar­ent than in the 1970s, when Waits cul­ti­vat­ed the per­sona of a down-and-out barfly with the soul of a Beat poet.

That ear­ly phase of Wait­s’s career is pre­served in this high­ly the­atri­cal 54-minute tele­vi­sion per­for­mance. It was record­ed on Decem­ber 5, 1978 at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas for a March 24, 1979 broad­cast of Austin City Lim­its. The pro­gram was lat­er released on DVD as Bur­ma Shave. Waits is joined by Her­bert Hard­esty on trum­pet and tenor sax­o­phone, Arthur Richards on gui­tar, Greg Cohen on bass, and Big John Thomassie on drums. Here’s the set list:

  1. Sum­mer­time Blues
  2. Bur­ma Shave
  3. Annie’s Back in Town
  4. I Wish I Was in New Orleans
  5. Ain’t Gonna Rain
  6. Bul­lets
  7. On the Nick­el
  8. Romeo is Bleed­ing
  9. Silent Night
  10. Christ­mas Card from a Hook­er in Min­neapo­lis
  11. Small Change
  12. Hey Big Spender
  13. Small Change

Relat­ed con­tent:

Tom Waits Makes Com­ic Appear­ance on Fer­n­wood Tonight (1977)

Tom Wait­s’s Clas­sic Appear­ance on Aus­tralian TV, 1979

Tom Waits and Kei­th Richard Sing Sea Song ‘Shenan­doah’ for New Pirate-Themed CD

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