Tom Waits??? Who is that?

Tom Waits??? Who is that?
I was fed up with the pablum the producer was forcing Tim to sing. “Martha” was a tepid love ballad and was not what we were developing on the road. It wasn’t why I came to LA to play music. Tim Buckley’s band was getting hot. Tim’s voice was soaring, riding my pummeling rhythms. The band was an afterthought during the encores. It had come down to just Tim’s ecstatic vocal yodeling sounds with my driving Afro Cuban Southern fried rock n roll soul Voodoo hitting hard. The grooves drove the audience into a cheering frenzy. I knew where this act should go. But here we were sitting in a cloistered rehearsal room at Bizarre/Straight Records at 5830 Sunset Boulevard rehearsing some boring slow love song that Herb wanted us to do. The politics of making an album can be the most frustrating and disheartening part of music. It is no fun. Herb had signed Tom to a publishing deal, so by having Tim Buckley cover Tom Waits’ songs, Herb was making money from both artists. We cut “Martha” in New York after performing at Max’s Kansas City. It was a single and it stiffed. The producer had no idea what to do with us. One live album came out of that era called “Honeyman”. That was proof of what we were doing then. I didn’t know who Tom Waits was then because I was isolated. Touring meant not being in LA and hearing local music. The world of the touring musician was totally different than staying in town, looking for the new up and coming acts and hitching your wagon to a rising star. I didn’t hang out in LA. There were no coffee houses, like in New York or Coconut Grove. I didn’t feel much of a connection to the talent on the street. I had not heard Tom’s song, “Searching for the heart of Saturday Night”. That would have been a good one for Tim to cover. Herb and Zappa collected acts that were like exotic butterflies; non commercial exotica. They would put them on needles under glass in their own little private collection. Then they would gradually let the acts get exposure. micromanaging every little detail of their creative quirkiness. That was their identity with Warner Brothers record company who distributed their albums. They put out the weird stuff; like Captain Beefhart. They were so locked in to this outsider mentality that when Herb and Frank signed Alice Cooper, they refused to put out Alice Cooper’s first album because Frank thought it was too commercial. Tim was not really commercial yet he wasn’t really esoteric either. He had been a folkie. He wanted to push the levels of Soul music as well as go into trance and yodel in some foreign language. It was a paradox that we even got to work with that music at all. But there were angelic influences watching over us. I could feel them. It reminded me of Coconut Grove. This was important music to be playing. Herb not withstanding. He was making it possible, even though we had no control over anything other than what we played on stage.
excerpt: “History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm ©2015 all rights reserved

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.