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Past Your Ears: Recordings you may have missed but need to hear

What happens when you jam 30 people into a recording studio, decorate it like a nightclub, roll tape Well, you get Nighthawks at the Diner

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Tom Waits

Nighthawks at the Diner

Released 1975

What happens when you jam 30 people into a recording studio, decorate it like a nightclub, roll tape and fill it with unique American stories played to the sounds of lounge jazz? Well, you get Nighthawks at the Diner a record that captures the quintessential bar experience of the 1970s.

One of the best examples of this experience is "Putnam County." This track staggers through a small town with a colorful description that's spot on. "The GMC's and the straight-eight Fords were coughing and wheezing and they percolated as they tossed the gravel underneath the fenders... you're grinding gears, shifting into first and that goddam tranny's just getting worse."


Waits' storytelling also takes us inside our heads with songs like "Emotional Weather Report" where he tells about the storms inside all of us in his special twisted way. "Tornado watches... for... the western region of my mental health and the northern portion of my ability to deal rationally with my disconcerted precarious emotional situation."

Other standouts include "Eggs and Sausage" and the incredible bachelorhood lament "Better off Without a Wife." Load up the car and take a night drive with the phenomenal Nighthawks at the Diner, the view is great from the window seat.

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