Back in 2006, Tom Waits released an outtakes and rarities compilation called Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards. At 56 tracks, it had a lot – but not nearly everything. So fans dutifully compiled a companion collection of everything left on the cutting room floor, cleverly titled Forgotten Orphans. In addition to more outtakes and b-sides, this fan bootleg included something the main set lacked: live performances. Many of those were super-rare covers, none of which have ever been officially released. But they are worth hearing. Tom Waits is widely regarded as an excellent songwriter, but these covers showcase Tom Waits’ power as a song interpreter. He’s never gone the Bob Dylan route of periodic forays into cover albums, but if he ever did, these songs show how great such an album could be.
Tom Waits hasn’t toured since 2008, but he emerged from his self-imposed cocoon on Saturday night for a San Francisco tribute to legendary Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The occasion was the Litquake’s Barbary Coast Award, presented to Ferlinghetti at the ceremony. Other performers included Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, and, strangely, Winona Ryder. (via TwentyFourBit)
Amidst all the speechifying, Tom Waits puts to music an untitled poem from Ferlinghetti’s 1958 collection A Coney Island of the Mind. The title seems right up Tom’s alley; eight years ago he wrote a song called “Coney Island Baby” and 25 years ago he could have used Coney Island in any of his titles. The video below shows Waits recalling his jazzbo past, sitting at the piano with a drunken warble and a hard-luck tale. Marcus Shelby accompanies on double bass. Check out the clip and MP3 below (good audio, useless video) and then read the full poem. Apologies in advance to Lawrence; the original had elaborate spacing that didn’t transfer here.