Tom Waits: Martha

Earlier today a friend sent me this video of Tom Waits performing Down in the Hole. Performing, not singing; Waits at his peak was a throttle-throated spasm of theatricality. It's wonderful. But I still prefer the younger, more melodic Waits. I prefer Martha.


What's the first song you ever made someone listen to? I would like you to hear this, because it says more about me and about you and about us than I know how to right now. This is mine. And if you think it's silly that I identified so closely with a song about two people reconnecting late in life when I was sixteen, it should be an outright stunner that Waits recorded it when he was just 23 years old.

Martha bats sixth on Closing Time, Waits' debut album, which was met with a broad shrug in 1973 by critics and consumers alike. That's a pity, because it's so very nearly perfect. It's jaunty, it's lithe, it's emotive, it's sad. And Martha, a song that's just barely spared from melodrama by its simplicity and grace, is its emotional core.


I rarely listen to it on its own any more, but I revisit the album frequently. And while every song on Closing Time has its own artful touches, the more you listen through the more you realize that Martha is a stone dropped in the middle of a lake, and every other track reflects the ripples from its impact. Listen to it when it's dark out, when you're out of scotch, when you're out of words. And then find someone to listen to it with. [Amazon, iTunes]

SOUNDTRACK is a sample of what the Gizmodo crew is listening to today. Got an awesome song you want to share with us? Send it our way!


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Good news everyone! Tom Waits new album "Bad as Me" is coming out next month.