Recent Dorkiness

Countdown to Halloween: The Haunting Melodies of Mr. Tom Waits

Have you ever heard a song that you immediately loved? Not just something with a catchy tune, but a song that you connected with on some deep level you’d have trouble explaining? A song that sounded like it could have come out of your own head, if you only had the talent to draw it forth? Have you been that lucky? If so, then you know how I felt the first time I heard this:

That, as I’m sure you’ve already surmised, is “Earth Died Screaming,” by one of the Dork Forty’s poet laureates, Mister Tom Waits. It’s from his 1992 album Bone Machine, and it was first Waits song I ever heard. One listen to that tin-pan-industrial craziness on a friend’s headphones, and I was off, skipping class and heading to the record store to buy myself a copy.

Which probably makes me sound like a very strange man, but ah well…

Waits calls Bone Machine his “Halloween album,” and it’s jam-packed with creepy tunes. Song titles include “Dirt in the Ground,” “Murder in the Red Barn,” and our next track, the more ear-friendly “Black Wings.”

Always liked that one as a mood piece. Of course, swinging back around in the direction of the atonal, we get “Oily Night,” a tune that I always thought would make nice accompaniment for a serial killing:

And as long as we’re off the insane end of the Waits Halloweenie catalog, we might as well touch base with his classic of suburban paranoia, “What’s He Building?”

Waits isn’t all about the dread, of course. He’s actually a pretty funny dude, albeit in the blackest of ways. Take the bouncy “Cemetary Polka,” for instance:

Sounds like the soundtrack for an Edward Gorey book, doesn’t it? And then there’s the cheerfully demonic, Brecht-obsessed carnival ride that is “The Black Rider.”

Moving on to something quieter, we come to “Poor Edward,” a song about a man and the devil twin that ruined his life…

But I hate to end things on such a downer, so let’s go out on a high note with “Little Drop of Poison.”

…If you can call a song that asks the question, “Did the devil make the world while god was sleeping?” …going out on a high note.

But, hey! They used this tune in a Shrek movie! It must be uplifting or something… right?

About Mark Brett (518 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at

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