OK, I haven't actually met Tom Waits but I'm hoping the title grabs your attention so you read the rest of this.
I was first introduced to Tom Waits's music in what must have been the perfect scenario. A friend and I were visiting the US for the first time and we were in Boston but wanted to make our way across country to Huntington Beach, California were my friend had a relative he wanted to visit.
We enquired about a drive-away car, wherein a car that needs delivering to a customer is driven by someone with adequate credentials and in need of a car on a short term basis.
We were given 10 days to deliver our vehicle to Los Angeles docks where we would leave it to continue it's journey to it's new owner in Hawaii.
I was hoping for some enormous muscle car but instead we got a little Suzuki Samurai 4x4, not exactly the American Dream car but at least we got good fuel mileage.
My friend had a compilation tape of blues music (it was 1990, we still used tapes back then) which we listened to as we drove across the country. there were two tracks that really got my attention, Singapore and Big Black Mariah by a guy called Tom Waits who I had never heard of before.
It sounded like some sort of mutant blues/country/jazz music and his voice was like he was gargling with gravel down the bottom of a well.
The lyrics were seedy but poetic and I would give my right arm to be able to write words as evocative and colourful as he can.
We listened to that tape as we drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains, through torrential rainstorms on the Kansas plains and past weird, moonlit rock formations in Arizona that made it look like we were on another planet.
It was perfect road trip music and for a couple of Brit lads on their big American adventure it was like an introduction to the side of America that doesn't get advertised.
But I never met him. Sorry.