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Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits Paperback – May 11, 2010


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Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits + Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters (Musicians in Their Own Words) + Wild Years: The Music and Myth of Tom Waits
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767927095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767927093
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #656,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When a celebrity not only refuses to cooperate with a would-be biographer but persuades most of his inner circle not to grant interviews either, the writer's task is much more daunting. In trying to account for the 40-year career of eccentric singer/songwriter (and occasional film actor) Tom Waits, Hoskyns (Hotel California) puts his subject's reluctance front and center, openly speculating on the rumors that Waits's wife has engineered his withdrawal from his early associates. The armchair psychology extends to Waits's idiosyncratic public persona, but is buttressed with interviews with as many people as Hoskyns could get to talk, a few conversations he had with Waits for magazine pieces and excerpts from other articles over the years. For the most part, Waits's musical transformation from hip troubadour to far-out maverick is well contextualized, but when Hoskyns's resources are stretched thin in this overlong book, his pronouncements become less compelling. Readers may not particularly care what the biographer thinks of Waits's last album, for example, nor need a complete set list from a random concert. Despite these problems, however, Hoskyns deserves credit for trying to give Waits the critical scrutiny his work deserves. (Apr. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Absolutely outstanding" --Danny Baker, BBC

"[This] book lights up and whirls like one of the greasy carnival rides in Mr. Wait's own sprawling oeuvre" --The New York Times

Hoskyn's superlative overview of one of America's major (though idiosyncratic) popular artists will likely stand as the best book on his life"--Library Journal (starred review)

"Hoskyns persevered in writing the first Waits biography, netting fascination firsthand stories, terrific photographs, and fanatically detailed information about studio sessions and concerts...the result is a respectful, entertaining, and revelatory portrait set within a vivid cultural context."--Booklist

"It's about time [Waits] received biographical homage from a rock writer of the stature of Hoskyns."--Stephen Poole, The Guardian

"Comprehensive and judicious. [Waits] could not have found a more respectful, sympathetic and knowledgeable biographer if he'd chosen him himself."--Mick Brown, The Word

"Thanks to his diligence.  His Californian connections and some magazine interviews he conducted long ago with Waits, Hoskyn's life comes across as convincingly lifelike."--Robert Sandall, The Sunday Times


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Customer Reviews

Save your time and money...I wish I had.
will gaylord
While this book does indeed include some biographical material, it is more a list of the songs on his albums, and some conjecture about what they mean.
William A Morris IV
I get the impression the author really loves what he does, I just think in this case less is more.
Kawika

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Cubert Ambrose on June 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A lot of music fans would really love a good biography on Tom Waits, and the author Barney Hoskyns lets this desire overrun the question of whether or not he has the information for a decent biography.

Now, let's get to the problem with this book; Waits has no desire to play along with an unauthorized biographhy, and has requested that his friends honor his wishes to not play along. Hoskyns never forgives Waits for this.

Now, personally, I can see Waits's issue here. Hoskyns however makes a pretty big fuss over Waits excluding friends from his inner circle who don't honor his wishes to keep his private life private. Now this may sound cold, but two things; one, however cold it may sound, Waits is a grownup, his friends are grownups; there's never any evidence or even suggestion that Waits has treated people in any sort of dishonest, criminal or abusive way. Two, personall, I'm a private person if somebody was writing an unauthorized biography (I am in no way claiming to have done anything worth making me famous, or that anyone would be interested in my private life this is conjecture) yes, I would ask that my friends not blabber about my private life, and if they did anyway, I would be quite hurt.

I would love to know some of the stuff Hoskyns wants to know about. I would love to read interviews from the sidemen to get an inside story about the recordings of some of my favorite music, but again, Waits and his friends are grownups; if Waits would prefer that much for stories of his behind the scenes times get spread around, that's his time.

On that note, Hoskyns also conjectures quite a bit about Wait's marriage to Kathleen Brennan, suggesting that she's holding a Yoko-Ono type influence on his life, alienating his friends and affecting his work.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. French on November 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
More like a fraction of his life. It's a good account of Waits's younger days, but soon turns from a biography into the author's interminable opinions of the music--song by song by song--since he couldn't find out much of anything about his subject's adult life. Which apparently made him resentful, because we get a lot of foolish innuendo about the sinister control the Waits's have over their friends, and the even more sinister control Kathleen has over Tom. SUCH a wanker.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By default_test_string on July 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Some good anecdotes contained within but it was rather annoying to have to read Barney's opinion on nearly every Waits song ever released. No offence intended to Mr. Hoskyns but I am not interested.

He doesn't seems to enjoy Tom's most recent work, says things like "was Tom Waits finally chasing his own musical tail?" in regards to Real Gone [long answer: No], and when he went out of the way to slam songs like "Make It Rain" & "Lucinda" I tossed it into the trash.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William A Morris IV on December 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a 500 page review of Tom Waits' albums, this is the book for you. If you are looking for a good biography of Tom Waits, I'd look elsewhere. While this book does indeed include some biographical material, it is more a list of the songs on his albums, and some conjecture about what they mean. Really this is more a reviewer's take on Tom Waits then a biographers. I'm not really interested in being told which songs are the best on his albums and that his later work doesn't stand up to his early work. I'm also not interested in hearing the author's opinion on whether or not Kathleen Brennan ruined him, which he goes on at length to talk about. If you enjoy having your own opinions on the subject of Tom Waits, this is not the book for you.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. Ihadi on June 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We all know that Tom Waits didn't want to have anything to do with this book and went out of his to tell his friends to boycott this biographer. Still, Barney Hoskyns went ahead and wrote the best book that he could have written about a living legend who happens to be uncooperative. There are many things in this book that would only appeal to hard core fans such as song by song analysis of albums. Hoskyns is an excellent writer and I am left to wonder what this book could have been if Tom Waits had not asked his friends to not talk to Hoskyns. It is still the best book out there on the subject and who knows someday Tom Waits may soften his stance and talk to a biographer or at the very least let his friends talk. Waits reasons for not talking is obvious. There's a mystery attached to his persona and he wants to keep it that way. He walks a thin line of being real and putting on an act and he wants us to always guess what's real and what's a put on. I do think that's a minor detail. True Tom Waits fans don't care. They love the man and his music. Whether his wife is the second coming of Yoko Ono is irrelevant. That's their business. The album cover says Tom Waits and that's what I go by. Read this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jasper 25 on June 11, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book reads like one long, badly written record review. Most info and quotes come from older interviews and other sources. In the second half of the book Hoskyns doesn't even try to hide his distain for Waits' wife and co-writer, tries to make her into some sort of controling gate keeper manipulating things from behind the scenes. Tom Waits has a gift and if this is the way he chooses to protect it, so be it. Listen to his music instead of reading this and enjoy the ride.
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