FYI, that’s Cassandra Peterson AKA “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” in the background with the pasties
I’ve been on a Rickie Lee Jones bender for the past week—I
don’t want to can’t listen to anything else at the moment—and I was poking around on YouTube for clips of her (not even her official YouTube channel has that much good stuff, sadly. And what’s up with there being not even a single decent version of the “Chuck E’s in Love” video on YouTube?). Expect a Rickie Lee Jones megapost here sometime soon…
I was also looking around for information about why she and Tom Waits split up. There is a lot of conflicting information about their iconic soulmate boho pairing on the Internet (surprise, surprise) and the version of the story I’d always heard, and thought was true (that she revealed her junk habit to him and he left for New York the next day and never spoke to her ever again) turned out to be apocryphal. Whereas Jones has reluctantly told her side of the story—she must get damned tired of being asked about a former boyfriend from over 30 years ago—Waits has been more tight-lipped about what went down between them.
This 1979 interview with Waits, taped at the Shryock Auditorium in Carbondale, Illinois, sheds some light on their relationship—among other topics, like Waits’ famous lasagna (“talked about all over town”), how you should never play pool with a guy named “Fats” and the exhaustion of incessant touring—which was then ongoing. He alludes to something without actually saying it, but the message is pretty clear when he’s talking about how she’s doing. (For those of you reading this who are too young to remember, Jones had a reputation in the early part of her career as the Amy Winehouse of her day, an image she struggled to shake for a long time after it had ceased to be in any way accurate.)
There’s a great moment when the interviewer, Phil Ranstrom asks “I was reading an article from Rickie Lee Jones, she was saying you have become that person…you became that character you talk about in your songs through living it, through having to live it as an artist.”
Waits: “She’s right! It’s a dangerous business, y’know?…It’s kind of like a photographer going to a wedding and ending up married…You’re bound to get a little on ya, if you go poking your nose down the wrong street. As far as being a character in my stories, in my songs, I remain in all the stories, but at the same time I think the creative process is like gumbo, it’s a combination of imagination, experience and memories.”
Ranstrom also asks Waits “Who is one historical figure you would have liked to be?” Waits thinks about this for a moment, then eventually comes up with “Castro maybe?” He then adds STP racing CEO Andy Granatelli (who died last week at the age of 90) to that short list.
Note: The longer version of this video can be seen at the Media Burn website (it autoplays, so I can’t embed it here). The part where Waits speaks about Jones isn’t in the YouTube clip below, but starts at approximately 9:16 during the Media Burn clip.