Tom Waits and The Moon

Despite the epic, Shakespearean sprawl of Tom Waits’ music, several motifs of great import and inspiration to the songwriter occur regularly across the identity divides. The first that springs to mind perhaps is trains, then as that passes by, maybe thoughts go towards a scarecrow in a field, or the crow perched on its stuffed shoulder. Above all this however is the Moon, one of Tom’s first lyrical inspirations and one that he continues to attend to. Here then are the 37 times to which Waits referenced, ‘the arrant thief’*:

‘Grapefruit Moon’ – Closing Time (1973)

‘And the grapefruit moon, one star shining/ Can’t turn back the tide’


‘Little Trip To Heaven’ – Closing Time (1973)

‘Banana moon is shining in the sky/ I feel like I’m in heaven when you’re with me’


‘New Coat Of Paint’ – The Heart Of Saturday Night (1974)

‘We’ll laugh at that old bloodshot moon in that burgundy sky’


‘Diamonds On My Windshield’ – The Heart Of Saturday Night (1974)

‘Rolling restlessly by a twenty-four hour moon’


‘Drunk On The Moon’ – The Heart Of Saturday Night (1974)

‘Hearts flutter and race, the moon’s on the wane / Tarts mutter their dream hopes the night will ordain’


‘On A Foggy Night’ – Nighthawks At The Diner (1975)

‘Leaving me marooned beneath a bloodshot moon’


‘Nighthawk Postcards’ – Nighthawks At The Diner (1975)

‘Looks like a yellow biscuit of a buttery cue ball moon / Rolling maverick across an obsidian sky’


‘Putnam County’ – Nighthawks At The Diner (1975)

‘Until the moon was a stray dog on the ridge / And the taverns would be swollen until the naked of two a.m’


‘Big Joe And Phantom 309’ – Nighthawks At The Diner (1975)

‘Yeah, every now and then when the moon’s holding water / Well, they say that old Joe’ll stop and give you a ride’


‘I Wish I Was In New Orleans’ – Small Change (1976)

‘Make sure there’s a Dixie moon / New Orleans I’ll be there’


‘Pasties And A G-String’ – Small Change (1976)

‘Chopped and channeled and lowered and louvered and a cheater slicks and baby moons’


‘Bad Liver And A Broken Heart’ – Small Change (1976)

‘He ain’t the one for ya / And no the moon aint romantic it’s intimidating as hell’


‘Jack & Neal’ – Foreign Affairs (1977)

‘And a glass of beer in one hand and his arms around a girl / Neal was singing to the nurse underneath the Harlem moon’


‘Burma Shave’ – Foreign Affairs (1977)

‘And the road was like a ribbon and the moon was like a bone’


‘This One’s From The Heart’ – One From The Heart (1981)

‘The moon is a yellow stain across the sky’


‘Jockey Full Of Bourbon’ – Rain Dogs (1985)

‘And I’ve been stepping on the devil’s tail / Across the stripes of a full moon’s head’


‘9th & Hennepin’ – Rain Dogs (1985)

‘And the moon’s teeth marks are on the sky like a tarp thrown all over this’


‘Downtown Train’ – Rain Dogs (1985)

‘Outside another yellow moon / Punched a hole in the nighttime, yes’


‘Good Old World’ – Night On Earth (1991)

‘When I was a boy, the moon was a pearl’


‘Jesus Gonna Be Here’ – Bone Machine (1992)

‘He’s gonna cover us up with leaves / With a blanket from the moon’


‘Black Wings’ – Bone Machine (1992)

‘When the moon is a cold chiseled dagger / Sharp enough to draw blood from a stone’


‘November’ – The Black Rider (1993)

‘It only believes in a pile of dead leaves / And a moon that’s the colour of bone’


‘Lowside Of The Road’ – Mule Variations (1993)

‘The moon is read and your dancin’ real slow’



‘Hold On’ – Mule Variations (1993)

‘Well, the moon was gold, her hair like wind / She said don’t look back just come on Jim’



‘Come On Up To The House’ – Mule Variations (1993)

‘Well the moon is broken and the sky is cracked’ 



‘All The World Is Green’ – Blood Money (2002)

‘The moon is yellow silver / Oh the things that summer brings’



‘God’s Away On Business’ – Blood Money (2002)

‘Bloody moon rising with a plague and a flood / Join the mob, join the mob’




‘Lullaby’ – Blood Money (2002)

‘Sun is red; moon is cracked / Daddy’s never coming back’


‘Alice’ – Alice (2002)

‘You wave your crooked wand / Along an icy pond with a frozen moon’


‘Flower’s Grave’ – Alice (2002)

‘Someday the silver moon and I will go to Dreamland’


‘Don’t Go Into That Barn’ – Alice (2002)

‘Black cellophane sky at midnight / Big blue moon with three gold rings’


‘Metropolitan Glide’ – Alice (2002)

‘The low bottom of the china moon / The black swan and the way too soon’


‘Lowdown’ – Orphans (2006)

‘The second hand moon is shining for my gal’



‘Bottom Of The World’ – Orphans (2006)

‘Blackjack Ruby and Nimrod Cain / The moon is the colour of a coffee stain’


‘Shiny Things’ – Orphans (2006)

‘Leave me alone you big old moon / The light you cast is just a liar’


‘World Keeps Turning’ – Orphans (2006)

‘The world don’t care and yet it clings to me / The moon is gold and silvery’


‘Down There By The Train’ – Orphans (2006)

‘There’s a golden moon that shines up through the mist / I know that your name will be on that list’


‘Children’s Story’ – Orphans (2006)

‘He wanted to go up into the heavens / And the moon was looking at him so friendly / And when he finally got to the moon, the moon was a piece of rotten wood’

*Timon of Athens

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 oeuvre of the American singer songwriter, album by album every fortnight.

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