‘As the Crow Flies, There the Truth Flies’ – Tom Waits & Crows

Though undeniably a shadowless shapeshifter of the highest order, there remains a deep mythology of motifs within the music of Tom Waits. Images and symbols that repeat across his mammoth output, helping to cohere his oft disparate soundscapes. Amongst his numinous touchtones, Waits is fascinated by trains, odd town names too like Mufreesberg and Kankakee, and, much like Ted Hughes & Edgar Allan Poe before him, corvids.

Waits’ use of the crow is multi-dimensional, at times merely he mentions for set dressing, at others such as within ‘We’re All Mad Here’, the bird becomes a harbinger. Regardless of their song, the crows of Waits help to bring a certain flavour of unease and secrecy to proceedings. Collectively then it would make sense, on a certain level, to deem this list one of a murder:

’16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six’ – swordfishtrombones (1983)

‘I plugged sixteen shells from a thirty-ought six / And a black crow snuck through a hole in the sky’

‘Downtown Train’ – Rain Dogs (1985)

‘Well, you wave your hand and they scatter like crows’

‘Hang on St. Christopher’ – Rain Dogs (1985)

‘Hang on St. Christopher with the hammer to the floor / Put a hi ball in the crank case, nail a crow to the door’

‘Train Song’ – Franks Wild Years (1987)

‘And I fell down at the Derby, the night’s as black as a crow’

‘(On) The Other Side of the World’ – Night on Earth soundtrack (1992)

‘And a crow turns into a girl on the other side of the world / And she tastes like the sea and she’s waiting for me’

‘The Earth Died Screaming’ – Bone Machine (1992)

‘With crows as big as airplanes, the lion has three heads’

‘Big in Japan’ – Mule Variations (1999)

‘I got the rooster, I got the crow / I got the ebb, I got the flow’

‘Georgia Lee’ – Mule Variations (1999)

‘Here’s a toad in the witch grass, there’s a crow in the corn / Wild flowers on a cross by the road’

‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’ – Blood Money (2002)

‘A long dead solider looks out from the frame / No one remembers his war, no one remembers his name / Go out to the meadow; scare off all the crows’

‘Starving in the Belly of a Whale’ – Blood Money (2002)

‘As the crow flies / It’s there the truth lies / At the bottom of the well’

‘There’s Only Alice’ – Alice (2002)

‘A murder of silhouette crows, I saw in the tears on my face’

‘We’re All Mad Here’ – Alice (2002)

‘Let the crows pick me clean but for my hat’

‘Buzz Fledderjon – Orphans (2006)

‘Papers full of stabbings, the sky’s full of crows’

‘Shiny Things’ – Orphans (2006)

‘The things a crow puts in his nest / They are always things he finds that shine best’


Have you heard our Tom Waits centric podcast yet? Hosted by long-time friends/fans Sam Whiles (@sidwidle1) and Tom Kwei (@tomkweipoet), ‘Down in the Hole’ explores the entire ouevre of the American singer songwriter, album by album every fortnight.

Download off iTunes

Stream all our reviews so far on YouTube

Follow us @tomwaitspodcast

3 thoughts on “‘As the Crow Flies, There the Truth Flies’ – Tom Waits & Crows

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