Tom Waits Sings and Tells Stories in Tom Waits: A Day in Vienna, a 1979 Austrian Film

The film begins at a derelict gas sta­tion. A paper sign, peel­ing from the wall, warns in Ger­man that open flames and smok­ing are dan­ger­ous and strict­ly for­bid­den. In walks Tom Waits, smok­ing a cig­a­rette.

“This reminds me of a place I used to work in Nation­al City, Cal­i­for­nia, called Spot­co Self Ser­vice,” Waits says as he leans against a pump. “I worked for a gen­tle­man named Charles Spot­co. I was always late for work. I used to stay out at night. I’d come drag­ging to work, used to get there about ten-thir­ty in the morn­ing. He’d chew me out and scream at me for being late. He always said I’d nev­er amount to noth­ing. I nev­er thought I’d be stand­ing in a gas sta­tion in Vien­na Aus­tria. If I’d of told him that one day, Spot­co, I’ll be lean­ing on a gas pump at a gas sta­tion in Vien­na Aus­tria, he would have said you got­ta be out of your mind.”

The scene is from Tom Waits: A Day in Vien­na, a half-hour Aus­tri­an TV film shot on April 19, 1979, and shown above in its entire­ty. Film­mak­ers Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossach­er approached Waits when he arrived in Vien­na on a short Euro­pean tour, accord­ing to Bar­ney Hoskyns in Low­side of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits. “He came in from Ams­ter­dam say­ing he had­n’t slept all night, but he agreed on the spot to let us film him,” Rossach­er told Hoskyns. “He did­n’t want to do a prop­er inter­view but instead he want­ed to tell sto­ries.”

Dolezal and Rossach­er drove Waits to the old gas sta­tion and lat­er to a Greek cafe, where he told a com­ic sto­ry about a sax­o­phone play­er. At the Konz­erthaus that night they filmed Waits and his band per­form­ing “Sweet Lit­tle Bul­let From a Pret­ty Blue Gun,” “Shake, Rat­tle and Roll” and “Christ­mas Card from a Hook­er in Min­neapo­lis.” Back­stage before the encore, Waits is shown pac­ing back and forth, singing “When the Saints Go March­ing In.” After­ward, in a lounge, he sits down at a piano and plays a few bars of “I Can’t Wait to Get Off Work” before danc­ing with a bar girl and retir­ing for the night.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Tom Waits Reads Charles Bukows­ki

Tom Waits and Kei­th Richards Sing Sea Song “Shenan­doah” for New Pirate-Themed CD: Lis­ten Online

Tom Waits Shows Us How Not to Get a Date on Valentine’s Day

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