OK, Michael Jackson is weirder, but Tom Waits is a more interesting sort of weird. I thought so before I read Barney Hoskyns' "Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits," but now I know it.
Thing is, Tom Waits is his own genre; there's no other songwriter or musician that does what Waits does. No one ever tagged Waits a folkie or rock musician, or even all that much of a musician. Waits is Waits, and that's all he has to be.
Hoskyns tries to nail down exactly who Waits is, but never really succeeds. We learn that in the early 1970s Waits was a beatnik poet of sorts, but somehow his tunes were covered by mainstream acts like the Eagles ("Ol' 55") and Bruce Springsteen ("Jersey Girl"). During his early days he was based in Los Angeles, but Waits wasn't really part of the radio-friendly LA singer/songwriter pack led by Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon. His early heavily textured, noir-romantic records were populated with stellar jazz players.… Read more