Tom Waits on the mysteries of Stonehenge and laughing at funerals

It's an archival interview from 1988

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A vintage interview with Tom Waits has been animated by PBS as part of their ongoing Blank On Blank series.

The PBS’ Blank On Blank series has previously featured animated archival interviews with Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Elliott Smith and Jim Morrison.

The interview with Waits took place in 1988, around the release of his Big Time album. The interview was conducted for Melody Maker by Chris Roberts, a former Uncut writer.


In the interview, Waits discusses subjects ranging from Stonehenge to showbusiness and laughing at funerals.

“I’ve never been to Stonehenge,” he admits. “There are moles in Stonehenge… the most elaborate systems of mole catacombs is in Stonehenge. There are more moles at Stonehenge than there are anywhere in the world. In the community, they reward moles that have the courage to tunnel beneath great rivers, it takes an understanding of physics and engineering, that type of thing.”

On showbusiness, he said: “When I first got into show business, my stepfather bought me a wild shirt, which said more about what he thought show business was than what I thought it was. It was like this lime green shirt, with like seven different kinds of fabrics and textures on it, with wooden buttons, like a Hawaiian nightmare.

“He gave it to me, he was very serious when he gave it to me, it was like he was giving me a sword to go out into the world of show business, and ‘kill some dragons, pal, and bring us back the skins.’ And I looked at that shirt and I went ‘goddamn.’”

On laughing at funerals, Waits admitted, “I was always laughing in church. There’s nothing that makes me laugh more than being in the situation where you’re not supposed to laugh. Funerals. People crying. Breaking down. Telling you their life. I’m the worst. I’m the worst at that.”


The History Of Rock – a brand new monthly magazine from the makers of Uncut – a brand new monthly magazine from the makers of Uncut – is now on sale in the UK. Click here for more details.

Meanwhile, the November 2015 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring Rod Stewart, Joanna Newsom, Julian Cope, Otis Redding, John Grant, The Doors, Harmonia, Linda Ronstadt, Dave Gahan, John Cooper Clarke and more.

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.


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