FoodJams, Vol. 4: “Just Another Sucker on the Vine”

Island; 1983Welcome back to FoodJams, where I listen to stuff and Mel bakes things.

But first a couple of quick questions. Are things weird enough where you guys are? Do you ever wish new age beatniks were actually worth paying attention to? Did you ever sell used office furniture down on San Fernando Road and hate your wife’s Chihuahua named Carlos who has some kind of skin disease and is totally blind?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re ready for this installment of FoodJams, which features Tom Waits and 1983’s excellent Swordfishtrombones.

This album on its own is the one that completely reinvented Waits’ career. Before this point, he was likened to more of a gravelly Randy Newman-esque figure, penning songs about the drunken and forelorn against jazzy band arrangements. And of course, the reviews were lukewarm at best, with only a few clear highlights in his 1970s oeuvre.

Then, sometime in the early 1980s, something snapped. Waits ushered in a slew of strange lyrics and inventive percussion with a string of albums that all started with this one. Whereas before it sounded like someone using a voice that didn’t exactly fit the music, Swordfishtrombones saw Waits sounding like Cookie Monster in a bigtop circus, trying to shake off the tail-end of a weeklong bender. (Which I hope you can tell is a fantastic compliment.)

The track we’re listening to today is “Just Another Sucker on the Vine”, a short, instrumental piece — which you should know, I’m always a sucker for myself. This is a beautifully, soulful duet between a pump organ and a trumpet, and even in the span of 1 3/4 minutes, the interplay, harmony and chord progression feel like a complete work. And then it transitions into the jazz organ of “Frank’s Wild Years”, the neo-beatnik spoken-word/jazz track whose lyrics informed the start of this post. (Another music vignette worth a listen!)

Tomato, Onion & Swiss Rye TartFor this occasion, Mel went with that working class classic, the vine-ripened tomato. She even took a day off to go to the farmer’s market to find the best, and it definitely paid off. These are Tomato, Onion & Swiss Rye Tarts, and they taste like a delicious hybrid of French onion soup and a vegetable quiche. You can check out Mel’s post here, and while you’re at it, ogle the fantastic photos she took this time around. Heirloom tomatoes are quite photogenic.

And of course, do yourself a favor and take two minutes out of your day to listen to “Just Another Sucker on the Vine” below, care of YouTube user jazzuela66.


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