There was a bit of weird serendipity in the air with this one.
Seamus over at Vapour Trails had kick started my idea for 'Chicken Skins', pinpointing magic moments from songs, and then responded to my first post in the series (Sinatra) suggesting this song.
He did that as I was preparing my next 'Chicken Skin' which was the self same song.
What are the chances of that?
Anyway, Waits always had a talent for emotive balladry and has never been more potent than with this heart wrenching tale of vagabond childhood from 'Blue Valentines'.
According to Barney Hoskin's excellent biography, it's a true story, although you can never really trust Waits when it comes to his elusive past; the truth for Tom is apparently over rated; he still swears that he was born in the back of a New York cab, even though his mother was no where near the city at the time...
'Kentucky Avenue' nails me, always reduces me to a blubberer, particularly when Waits gets to the 'I'll take the spokes from your wheelchair and a magpie's wings' and the strings swell at around 3.20.
Please listen to the whole thing though, especially if you're new to the song.
I've followed the album track with a sublime, ramshackle solo performance from way back.
Who needs those beautiful swelling strings?
Well Eddie Grace's Buick got four bullet holes in the side
And Charlie DeLisle is sittin at the top of an avocado tree
Mrs. Storm will stab you with a steak knife if you step on her lawn
I got a half a pack of Lucky Strikes man so come along with me
And let's fill our pockets with macadamia nuts
And go over to Bobby Goodmanson's and jump off the roof
Well Hilda plays strip poker when her mamas cross the street
Joey Navinski says she put her tongue in his mouth
And Dicky Faulkner's got a switchblade and some gooseneck risers
That eucalyptus is a hunchback there's a wind down from the south
So let me tie you up with kite string and I'll show you the scabs on my knee
Watch out for the broken glass put your shoes and socks on
And come along with me
Let's follow that fire truck I think your house is burnin down
Then go down to the hobo jungle and kill some rattlesnakes with a trowel
And we'll break all the windows in the old Anderson place
We'll steal a bunch of boysenberries and I'll smear em on your face
I'll get a dollar from my mama's purse, buy that skull and crossbones ring
You can wear it round your neck on an old piece of string
Then we'll spit on Ronnie Arnold and flip him the bird
Slash the tires on the school bus now don't say a word
I'll take a rusty nail and scratch your initials in my arm
I'll show you how to sneak up on the roof of the drugstore
I'll take the spokes from your wheelchair and a magpie's wings
And I'll tie em to your shoulders and your feet
I'll steal a hacksaw from my dad, cut the braces off your legs
We'll bury them tonight out in the cornfield
Just put a church key in your pocket, we'll hop that freight train in the hall
We'll slide all the way down the drain to New Orleans in the fall