Inspirational Quotes from Tom Waits

Don’t you know there ain’t no devil, it’s just god when he’s drunk.

Tom Waits

We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness.

Tom Waits

Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends.

Tom Waits

I saw a crow building a nest, I was watching him very carefully, I was kind of stalking him and he was aware of it. And you know what they do when they become aware of someone stalking them when they build a nest, which is a very vulnerable place to be? They build a decoy nest. It’s just for you.

Tom Waits

When you’re writing, you’re conjuring. It’s a ritual, and you need to be brave and respectful and sometimes get out of the way of whatever it is that you’re inviting into the room.

Tom Waits

Mostly, I straddle reality and the imagination. My reality needs imagination like a bulb needs a socket. My imagination needs reality like a blind man needs a cane.

Tom Waits

If people are a little nervous about approaching you at the market, it’s good. I’m not Chuckles The Clown. Or Bozo. I don’t cut the ribbon at the opening of markets. I don’t stand next to the mayor. Hit your baseball into my yard, and you’ll never see it again.

Tom Waits

I’m so horny the crack of dawn better watch out.

Tom Waits

My reality needs imagination like a bulb needs a socket. My imagination needs reality like a blind man needs a cane.

Tom Waits

Songs really are like a form of time travel because they really have moved forward in a bubble. Everyone who’s connected with it, the studio’s gone, the musicians are gone, and the only thing that’s left is this recording which was only about a three-minute period maybe 70 years ago.

Tom Waits

Their memory’s like a train: you can see it getting smaller as it pulls away And the things you can’t remember Tell the things you can’t forget that History puts a saint in every dream.

Tom Waits

I always liked the idea that America is a big facade. We are all insects crawling across on the shiny hood of a Cadillac. We’re all looking at the wrapping. But we won’t tear the wrapping to see what lies beneath.

Tom Waits

I do like books on anatomy. I have to say I’m an amateur physician, I guess.

Tom Waits

I think I have an adrenaline addiction, no question about that.

Tom Waits

I’d rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.

Tom Waits

I look for things that are left of center, something you’ve only seen your whole life, but never heard. Hit it! With a stick! I have a guitar made out of a 2×4 that I bought in Cleveland.

Tom Waits

I guess I’ve always lived upside down when I want things I can’t have.

Tom Waits

For a songwriter, you don’t really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they’re made of, and wonder if you can make one, too.

Tom Waits

The sight of the first woman in the minimal two-piece was as explosive as the detonation of the atomic bomb by the U.S. at Bikini Island in the Marshall Isles, hence the naming of the bikini.

Tom Waits

Writing songs is like capturing birds without killing them. Sometimes you end up with nothing but a mouthful of feathers.

Tom Waits

Sometimes the magnetism of a song is impossible to ignore, and it demands that it be sung in a certain way.

Tom Waits

If you’re in the middle of the ocean with no flippers and no life preserver and you hear a helicopter, this is music. You have to adjust to your needs at the moment.

Tom Waits

The blues is like a planet. It’s an enormous topic. You can’t ignore the impact that it has had and continues to have on the whole musical culture. It’s a tree that everyone is swinging from. Without it, I don’t know where I would be. It’s indelible and indispensable.

Tom Waits

Don’t look back, because someone might be gaining on you.

Tom Waits

When I was younger, I wanted to be older. Now I am older, I am not quite so sure.

Tom Waits

Most songs that aren’t jump-rope songs, or lullabies, are cautionary tales or goodbye songs and road songs.

Tom Waits

Any place is good for eavesdropping, if you know how to eavesdrop.

Tom Waits

I hate Disneyland. It primes our kids for Las Vegas.

Tom Waits

Most people don’t care if you’re telling them the truth or if you’re telling them a lie, as long as they’re entertained by it. You find that out really fast.

Tom Waits

I always had a great appreciation for jazz, but I’m a very pedestrian musician. I get by. I like to think that my main instrument is vocabulary.

Tom Waits

Any image I have, it’s just what I do, but it comes off as being very pretentious. When you’re a bit in the public astigmatism, anything you do seems like you did it so somebody would see you do it, like showing up at the right parties.

Tom Waits

I’m one of those guys that is still a bit afraid of the telephone, its implications for conversation. I still wonder if the jukebox might be the death of live music.

Tom Waits

What you want is for music to love you back. That’s why you pay your dues. You want to feel like you belong and are part of this symbiosis, metamorphosis, whatever you want to call it.

Tom Waits

The big print giveth and the small print taketh away.

Tom Waits

You know what I really love? The CD players in a car. How when you put the CD right up by the slot, it actually takes it out of your hand, like it’s hungry. It pulls it in, and you feel like it wants more silver discs.

Tom Waits

If you’re a writer, you know that the stories don’t come to you – you have to go looking for them. The old men in the lobby: that’s where the stories were.

Tom Waits

Most people don’t care if you’re telling them the truth or if you’re telling them a lie, as long as they’re entertained by it.

Tom Waits

If you are making a record, you are the one saying ‘action’, and you are the one saying ‘cut,’ and you have to be sure that the most interesting thing is not going on outside the frame.

Tom Waits

I have an audio stigmatism whereby I hear things wrong – I have audio illusions.

Tom Waits

I think all songs should have weather in them. Names of towns and streets, and they should have a couple of sailors. I think those are just song prerequisites.

Tom Waits

I don’t really like listening to the radio so much.

Tom Waits

All records are riddles, and whatever you may want people to think it’s about, it may just be throwing them off. And you don’t want it to get in the way of what someone else’s understanding is. It’s not really about anything. At the same time, it will find some meaning.

Tom Waits

You almost have to create situations in order to write about them, so I live in a constant state of self-imposed poverty. I don’t want to live any other way.

Tom Waits

I bark my voice out through a closed throat, pretty much. It’s more, perhaps, like a dog in some ways. It does have its limitations, but I’m learning different ways to keep it alive.

Tom Waits

I used to imagine that making it in music – really making it in music – is if you’re an old man going by a schoolyard and you hear children singing your songs, playing jump-rope, or on the swings. That’s the ultimate. You’re in the culture.

Tom Waits

I don’t like listening to records a lot after they’re done. There’s just no real nourishment there for me.

Tom Waits

George Burns was a Vaudeville performer I particularly loved.

Tom Waits

I didn’t really identify with the music of my own generation, but I was very curious about the music of others.

Tom Waits

The only thing worse than being in the Hall of Fame is not being in the Hall of Fame.

Tom Waits

I don’t like the word ‘poetry,’ and I don’t like poetry readings, and I usually don’t like poets. I would much prefer describing myself and what I do as: I’m kind of a curator, and I’m kind of a night-owl reporter.

Tom Waits

I’m just trying to make a buck like everyone else.

Tom Waits

It’s hard to win when you always lose.

Tom Waits

George Bush is a fan of mine, he came to see me in the Seventies. His coke dealer brought him.

Tom Waits

The piano has been drinking, not me.

Tom Waits

As a kid, I did want to be an old-timer, since they were the ones with the big stories and the cool clothes. I wanted to go there. Now, I guess I want to bring that with me and go back in time.

Tom Waits

You know when you throw a party, you think people will show up and no one will like each other. It’s like that with music – parts of your musical psyche have never met other parts. You wonder if you should get them together.

Tom Waits

But then I’m one of those guys that is still a bit afraid of the telephone, its implications for conversation. I still wonder if the jukebox might be the death of live music.

Tom Waits

Music has generally involved a lot of awkward contraptions, a certain amount of heavy lifting.

Tom Waits

Most songs have meager beginnings. You wake up in the morning, you throw on your suspenders, and you subvocalize and just think. They seem to form like calcium. I can’t think of a story right off the bat that was that interesting. I write things on the back of my hand, usually, and sing into a tape recorder.

Tom Waits

You hope people are going to be listening to you after you’re gone. And they like you better after you’re gone.

Tom Waits

I knelt at the altar of Ray Charles for years. I worked at a restaurant, and that’s all there was on the jukebox.

Tom Waits

When you’re a kid and you’re trying to find your own voice, it’s rather daunting to hear somebody like Howlin’ Wolf, because you know that you’ll never achieve that.

Tom Waits

If you are recording, you are recording. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a demo or a temporary vocal.

Tom Waits

I think this whole division between the genres has more to do with marketing than anything else. It’s terrible for the culture of music.

Tom Waits

Sometimes words are just music themselves. Like ‘Chicago’ is a very musical sounding name.

Tom Waits

There’s not much difference between what I appear to be on stage and what I am. I think people like that, that I’m not trying to pull a caper.

Tom Waits

I used to think that all great recordings happened at about 3 A.M.

Tom Waits

I have a Chamberlain I bought from some surfers in Westwood many years ago. It’s an early analog synthesizer; it operates on tape loops. It has 60 voices – everything from galloping horses to owls to rain to every instrument in the orchestra.

Tom Waits

If you record the sound of bacon in a frying pan and play it back, it sounds like the pops and cracks on an old 33 1/3 recording. Almost exactly like that. You could substitute it for that sound.

Tom Waits

I’m usually more concerned with how things sound than how they look on the page. Some people write for the page, and that’s a whole other thing. I’m going for what it sounds like right away, so it may not even look good on the page.

Tom Waits

My first big gig was an opening show for Frank Zappa, and I think that was difficult.

Tom Waits

Oh, I got a beautiful 1959 Cadillac Coupe DeVille four-door. No one will ride in it with me.

Tom Waits

I don’t know if any genuine, meaningful change could ever result from a song. It’s kind of like throwing peanuts at a gorilla.

Tom Waits

Some day I’m gonna be gone and people will be listening to my songs and conjuring me up. In order for that to happen, you gotta put something of yourself in it.

Tom Waits

People say all kinds of things about the ingredients of songs. But you know they are a kind of magic, in the sense that they may easily include a stain on your bedroom wall… and a variety of mis-recollections. And then you name it after a girl’s name that you just made up.

Tom Waits

I didn’t really want to be part of a clique or a niche. But I also was looking for my own voice, as a writer, y’know? And a world I could call my own.

Tom Waits

Somebody said I sound like an old lady, and I was really insulted by that. I’m trying to sound like Skip James and Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye.

Tom Waits