Swordfish trombones

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Swordfish trombones
Studio album by Tom Waits


September 1983


August 1982

Label (s) Island Records

Format (s)

CD , vinyl

Genre (s)

Alternative rock , blues rock , experimental rock

Title (number)


running time


occupation #Occupation


Tom Waits

Studio (s)

Sunset Sound Studio

One from the heart Swordfish trombones Rain Dogs

Swordfishtrombones is analbum released in 1983 by Tom Waits . It is his first album on Island Records and is considered a stylistic turning point in Waits' work. Sometimes the album is seen as the prelude to a trilogy that includes the subsequent albums Rain Dogs and Frank's Wild Years .


In April 1982 Waits played demo versions of Frank's Wild Years , 16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six and Shore Leave to the representative of his then-publisher Elektra-Asylum Joe Smith . He refused to record such experimental and unconventional music. Waits decided to record the album anyway. It was subsequently released by Island Records , whose boss Chris Blackwell proved to be more open to Waits' experimentation.

The album was written, arranged and produced in its entirety by Waits (Francis Thumm was also involved in the arrangements of individual songs). A tour for the album did not follow, because Waits preferred to stay at home with his pregnant wife. Instead , the “ MTV era” had begun, and with the documentary filmmaker Haskell Wexler and the artist Michael A. Russ , who also designed the album cover, Waits realized his first video for the slow ballad In the Neighborhood , which was also in his own was shot in the immediate vicinity. "It's amazing how many people are watching these clips," he said in disbelief.

The unusual title came to him while looking at an alphabet picture book with his daughter. On the left the letter "S" was introduced by "Swordfish", on the right "Trombone" gave the example for the "T" initial sound.

The cover of the album was designed by the American photo artist Michael A. Russ and shows Tom and the actors Lee Kolima and Angelo Rossitto .

Style and subject

Swordfishtrombones represents a turning point in Waits' work, a departure from lounge jazz towards experimental rock music . Many elements that were typical of his music up to that point were deliberately abandoned, such as the saxophone and string parts. Piano parts were used very sparsely. Instead, the sound became much more percussive, and many unusual drum and percussion instruments were used during the recordings. The album was heavily influenced by the work of such musicians as Captain Beefheart and Harry Partch . At the center of the songs, which are sparsely arranged compared to previous albums, is Waits' characteristic voice.

The album is conceived as the story of a man who "... leaves his old quarter and goes to the merchant navy, gets into trouble in Hong Kong, returns home, marries his girl, burns his house down, and goes on an adventure."


In the English edition of the music magazine Rolling Stone the album received positive reviews (4 out of 5 stars):

"The combination of weirdness, heartfelt lyrics and haunting instrumentals adds up to a superior LP and an opportunity to rediscover Tom Waits."

"The combination of madness, intimate lyrics and ghostly instrumentation results in a great album and an opportunity to rediscover Tom Waits."

- Don Shewey : Rolling Stone

The German Rolling Stone included the album in 1997 in its overview of "The musical milestones of the '80s". "Impressionistic and unforgettable" is Waits' "greatest record". In 2008, Chris Wiesner wrote in the Sounds theme magazine published by Rolling Stone that it was his "by far the bulkiest album", a "crumbling work full of songwriting grandeur [...] which he artfully concealed under grinding, rattling and rumbling sound sources". Lyrically, "he broke away from the self-tearing navel gaze that had dominated until then" and "dedicated himself to the losers of this world in cryptic short stories".

Ten years after it was released, the Musikexpress put the album at number 43 of its “100 masterpieces”. The first listening is a “shock” because of the “weird sound collages”, which however lose their mystery after a while. Two years later, Swordfishtrombones was also among the “100 best low-priced records” on the grounds that it was an addicting “black and white film” about the “shadowy realm of the losers and the lost” for them.

Music journalist Robert Christgau rated Swordfishtrombones "A-". He stressed that it was the first album on which Waits lived up to his possibilities and talent by using his "unsightly" voice as an advantage.

The album was rated 5 stars on Allmusic , the author of the review noted, "Artistically, Swordfish trombones marked an evolution of which Waits had not seemed capable (though there were hints of this sound on his last two Asylum albums), and in career terms it reinvented him. "

Track list

  1. Underground - 1:58
  2. Shore Leave - 4:12
  3. Dave the Butcher - 2:15
  4. Johnsburg, Illinois - 1:30
  5. 16 Shells From a 30.6 - 4:30
  6. Town With No Cheer - 4:22
  7. In the Neighborhood - 3:04
  8. Just Another Sucker on the Vine - 1:42
  9. Frank's Wild Years - 1:50
  10. Swordfishtrombone - 3:00
  11. Down, Down, Down - 2:10
  12. Soldier's Things - 3:15
  13. Gin Soaked Boy - 2:20
  14. Trouble Braids - 1:18
  15. Rainbirds - 3:05


Individual evidence

  1. Rain Dogs milestone review on laut.de, accessed January 25, 2015.
  2. ^ Hoskyns, p. 350.
  3. ^ Waits to Kristine McKenna, New Musical Express , October 1, 1983
  4. a b Stefan Nink: Tom Waits. Swordfish trombones (1983) . In: Musikexpress . No. 454 , November 1993, The 100 Masterworks. Part 2. Place 67 to 34, p. 99 .
  5. a b Swordfishtrombones -Rezension in Rolling Stone , accessed on January 25, 2015.
  6. ^ Waits in Hoskyns, pp. 345-346.
  7. Tom Waits. Swordfish trombones . In: Rolling Stone . November 1997, The musical milestones of the '80s, p. 6 (leaflet with its own pagination).
  8. Chris Wiesner: Swordfishtrombones. Tom Waits (1983) . In: Sounds . By Rolling Stone. The themed magazine on popular music. 5: The album. The best of the best! 250 masterpieces from five decades, 2008, The Eighties, p. 65 .
  9. (us): Tom Waits. Swordfish trombones (1983) . In: Musikexpress . No. 477 , October 1995, The 100 best low-price records, p. 50 .
  10. ^ Swordfishtrombones review in Village Voice, March 24, 1984, accessed January 25, 2015.
  11. "Artistically, Swordfishtrombones marked an evolution that Waits had seemed incapable of (although some of his previous two Asylum albums had hinted at this sound), and he reinvented himself and his career with it."
  12. Swordfishtrombones - Review by William Ruhlmann, accessed January 25, 2015.