We’re going straight to the top, fellow Waitsmas celebrants! Or, at least, y’all are—Max is deathly ill and coughing all over this track. But we aren’t going to let a little thing like death get in the way of talking about one of the weirdest and most wonderful live films we’ve seen: Tom Waits’ Big Time. As the ersatz “t’s a Wonderful Life of the season, Big Time is an odd one, since its nearly impossible to find rather than everywhere always, but Waitsmas is all about making life a lot harder than it needs to be, right?
Filmed hot off the heels of his Franks Wild Years tour, dubbed by many to be his greatest ever, Big Time bucks the cinéma vérité style of films like Stop Making Sense for a more surreal, imagistic pastiche, blending live footage with odd, go-nowhere vignettes and singular fever dreams. It’s more “visual companion” than “concert film”, while still delivering some truly bone shakin’ performances from a band packed with all-time greats like Marc Ribot and Ralph Carney that tear through the material—all plucked from his post-Swordfishtrombones output—like a pack of drunken robot dogs. You heard me. Drunken robot dogs. Oh lord, I think the Mucinex is kicking in~~~~. Also: the heartbreak of modern dating apps, an extensive interlude on World of Tomorrow 2, and perhaps the only time anyone has ever compared Tom Waits to Madonna.
Music (All from the film):
Telephone Call From Istanbul
16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six
Big Black Mariah
Links (for clips):
“Telephone Call From Istanbul”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL-tmGkXvj8
“Shore Leave”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs0fQjeOorE
“Cold Cold Ground”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ow45kTJqhg
“Rain Dogs”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVaEPx_VyXs
“16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1wkc35TzIc
“Gun Street Girl”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWFwexoCJwk