Tom Waits Pens a Poem in Honor of His Old Buddy Keith Richards
Titled simply "Keith Richards ... ," the poem celebrates the long friendship between the two, which dates back to the sessions for Waits' 1985 Rain Dogs album. As Waits told Pitchfork, it all started with his flippant response to a record company query about the possibility of enlisting special guests for the recording.
"I said, 'What about Keith Richards?' I was just joking, but somebody went ahead and called him. And then he said, 'Yeah.' And I said, 'Now we're really in trouble,'" he recalled. "I was really nervous. He came with about 600 guitars in a semitruck. And a butler. We were in these huge studios in New York, like The Poseidon Adventure. Huge, high ceilings in these rooms like football fields. They'd fill these things up with orchestras and we were in there with five guys. It felt a little weird. He killed me. I was really knocked out that he played on all those things."
The two have collaborated more than once over the ensuing years, including spending a substantial period of time together working on songs for Waits' 2011 effort Bad as Me — not that any of those compositions made the cut, or even made it out of the room where they were written.
"We wrote songs together for a while and that was fun [but] he doesn’t really remember anything or write anything down," he said later. "So you play for an hour and he would yell across the room, ‘Scribe!’ And I looked around. ‘Scribe? Who’s the scribe?’ And he’d say it again, now pointing at me. I was supposed to have written down everything we said and dreamt of and played, and I realized we needed an adult in the room. I’ve never been the one that one would consider the adult. It was an interesting dynamic."
That interesting dynamic is reflected in "Keith Richards ... ," which opens with the lines "He can run faster than a fax machine / His urine is blue" and concludes, "Keith once took my 10,000 dollar overcoat / To put down across a mud puddle / To allow an octogenarian laundress / Named Clementine Moorehouse to cross the street / Comfortably / That’s Keith always the gentleman."
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