Song of the Day, December 7: Walking Spanish by Tom Waits

Today’s song is Walking Spanish by Tom Waits. A distinctive and often experimental singer and musician, Waits has had a varied and acclaimed career. He started with piano bar jazz and blues songs — mostly original compositions — and has moved into pioneering areas of alternative rock and industrial music, all with his unique vision and powerful sense of character. His sense of adventure has led to an unpredictable string of albums, each with its own charm. One of the most powerful is the much-lauded Rain Dogs from 1985.

The album has a loose theme exemplified by the title track. Waits thinks of a rain dog as an animal lost because the rain has washed away all of its scent markers, trying to recapture its place in an urban setting. That sense of tangetial belonging resonates throughout the songs, especially on Walking Spanish. The title comes from a term used to describe a practice of Spanish pirates; they would quick march prisoners on their tiptoes while holding them up by the scruff of their neck. Waits says he used that as a metaphor for anyone trapped in a circumstance they don’t desire. The series of vignettes, peppered with his trademark mysterious and oddball characters, lives up to that image perfectly.

Latella’s screeching for a blind pig
Punk Sander’s carved it out of wood
He never sang when he got hoodwinked
They tried it all but he never would
Tomorrow morning there’ll be laundry
But he’ll be somewhere else to hear the call
Don’t say goodbye he’s just leaving early
He’s walking spanish down the hall

Today is Waits’ 63rd birthday. Wish him many happy returns and enjoy this powerful song.

About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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