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Small Change

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iTunes Review

Before Tom Waits twisted up his sound with pump organs, screwball horn sections, and shuffling rhythms gyrating from the center ofthe earth, he staked a definitive spot as a pre-rock era gin-soaked piano balladeer who never bothered to sober up for the session at hand. Small Change, Waits' fourth album, features songs where his performances take his lyrics to their inevitable conclusions. "Tom Traubert's Blues (Waltzing Matilda)" is sung as if the song's sentimental narrator will collapse at the piano stool and cut his head on a broken whiskey glass. "Jitterbug Boy" is the story of a delusional conman who won't quit once he's caught your ear. "The Piano Has Been Drinking" and "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" continue this skid row streak, while "Step Right Up" finds our hero on the upside, energy peaking, anxious to sell you whatever you'rewilling to buy. Part drunken sailor, part beatnik dreamer, part sentimental wailer (with the schmaltzy strings to make every song sound like the end of a tragic B&W movie), Waits was a different kind of piano man than anyone else in 1976.

Customer Reviews

Tom Traubert's Blues

Tom Traubert's Blues is one of the most profound songs I have ever heard. Other highlights are Step Right Up, The Piano has been Drinking, Invitation to the Blues, and Jitterbug Boy.

C'mon, c'mon...

this is Tom Waits at his classic best. The down-and-out whiskey voice, muttering over the last drink in a smoke-filled room—lights flashing last call. I picked this album up in the 70s and come back to it time and again. It's like hooking up with an old friend that you know you'll always find sitting in his usual seat at the local watering hole, nursing a drink as he orders up another with the nod of his head. He's got lots to talk about and nothing to say— and he's consistent, right down to being a few bucks short and bumming another cigarette. Tom's music evokes the world of just getting by, where there's just enough cash to keep the beer coming —and there's no point in rushing if you've got nowhere to go.

Small Change (Got Rained On With His Own .38)

Essential to any decent collection. Brilliant. Hard to find, but worth the search. Fun, clever, sad, moving. A little something for everyone.


Born: December 7, 1949 in Pomona, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the 1970s, Tom Waits combined a lyrical focus on desperate, low-life characters with a persona that seemed to embody the same lifestyle, which he sang about in a raspy, gravelly voice. From the '80s on, his work became increasingly theatrical as he moved into acting and composing. Growing up in Southern California, Waits attracted the attention of manager Herb Cohen, who also handled Frank Zappa, and was signed by him at the beginning of the 1970s, resulting in the material later released as The...
Full Bio