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Oct 05

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The Ghost of Saturday Night

Toma Waits is known for his ability to paint a picture using his words and music. These sketches are often some of life’s common and even mundane occurrences. His raspy voice adds a smokey flavor to the lyrics. His use of profanity is a turn off for some people, but I think it is part of the package and it adds a degree of saltiness to the stories.

I introduced Waits last year around this time in this article. It seems that the titles to some of his compositions deserve a place in the analogue of scary tales fitting for a chilly October evening. This one is not so scary really. It’s just Waits’ rhythmic rambling through the verse telling a story of the late-night into early morning scenes at an all-night diner. Some of the word phrases are fun and interesting American slang. For example; “Tryin’ to rake in that last night’s fare” — to rake in is slang to make money. Kents is a brand name for a menthol cigarette. Maxwell House is a famous brand of American coffee — “Maxwell House eyes” are very dark brown eyes. “Pigs in a blanket” means sausages on toast. Adam & Eve on a log” is restaurant slang for two eggs with bacon. Hash Browns are a popular breakfast food made of fried shredded potatoes.

The Ghost of Saturday Night.

By Tom Waits

(After Hours At Napoleone’s Pizza House)

A cab combs the snake, tryin’ to rake in that last night’s fare
And a solitary sailor, who spends the facts of his life like small change on strangers
paws his inside P-coat pocket for a welcome twenty-five cents
and the last bent butt from a package of Kents
as he dreams of a waitress with Maxwell House eyes
and marmalade thighs with scrambled yellow hair
Her rhinestone-studded moniker says “Irene”
as she wipes the wisps of dishwater blonde from her eyes

And the Texaco beacon burns on
The steel-belted attendant with a “Ring and Valve Special”cryin’:
Fill ‘er up and check that oil
You know it could be your distributor and it could be your coil

The early mornin’ final edition’s on the stands
and the town cryer’s cryin’ there with nickels in his hands
Pigs in a blanket, sixty-nine cents
Eggs, roll ’em over, and a package of Kents
Adam and Eve on a log, you can sink ’em down straight
Hash browns, hash browns, you know I can’t be late

And the early dawn cracks out a carpet of diamonds
across a cash crop car lot, filled with twilight Coupe Devilles
leaving the town in the keeping
of the one who is sweeping
up the ghosts of Saturday night

*

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