Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Tom Waits' Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech
I just want to know if there’s a keychain version that I can keep with me just in case I hear someone say, “Pete, take the cuffs off. I think he’s a Hall of Famer.” Thank you for the kind words, Neil. I’m honored to be honored. And, gee, I don’t know where to begin. Songs, uh, are really just interesting things to be doing with the air. I love working with tunes. I love music, but we really want music to love us. Neil was saying the other night, he said, “When there’s a song approaching it’s kind of like there’s an animal in the room, and you don’t want it to run off.” You know, how did it get in?
I was, uh, fifteen and I snuck in to see Lightnin’ Hopkins. I put white-out in my hair and I drew on a mustache and I put on an overcoat and I stood there and I said, “Ticket for one.” Amazing show. Every time he opened his mouth, that orchestra of gold teeth was just devastating. And then I saw him leave the show and he walked through a door and slammed the door behind him. And on the door, it said, I swear to God, “KEEP OUT. THIS ROOM IS FOR ENTERTAINERS ONLY.” And I knew at that moment that I had to get into show business as soon as possible. So, uh, that was a real big one for me. And I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of playing with a lot of great musicians over the years. Some of you are here and some of you are not here. Some of us are on the wrong side of the dirt, as they say. But any day on this side of the dirt is a good day, for me and for all of us.
Let’s see, what else? They told me I should talk for quite a while, but I don’t intend to. I fully do not intend to. I’d like to thank my family. They know me and they love me anyway. My wife and her incandescent light that has guided me and kept me alive and breathing and sparkling. And my kids who, well, they taught me everything I know. Or maybe they taught me everything they know. I don’t know. They taught me a lot.
Okay, I did the bit about the door and the club. Um, the first time I went onstage, my face felt like it was made of plaster and if I smiled, it would crack off, and I thought, “This is such an interesting [Christian?] experience” and somehow wanted more of it. They say I have no hits and I’m difficult to work with, and they say that like it’s a bad thing. [crowd cheers] The only thing I really can compare this to is I was given the key to the city of El Paso several months ago. It was a really kind offer. They told me there’s only one key to the city, but I found out later there were a whole lot of them, and they fit nothing. So, I’m just hoping there are some fringe benefits that go along with this baby. Thank you very much. This has been very encouraging.