- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits Hardcover – 5 Mar 2009
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Comprehensive and judicious... [Waits] could not have found a more respectful, sympathetic and knowledgeable biographer if he'd chosen him himself. -- Mick Brown, Word Magazine
Hoskyns admirably sifts through the yarns and misinformation to deliver an engrossing portrait. ... -- Terry Staunton, Classic Rock
Just about the most absorbing satisfying and (whisper it) important biography of a modern artist that I can recall reading. Absolutely outstanding. -- Danny Baker
Meticulous... wonderfully insightful about songs and their origin... [Hoskyns'] piecing together of Waits' formative years... is a serious piece of investigative work. -- Tim Adams, The Observer
[An] engrossing, compendiously detailed biography... much enlivened by colorful anecdote and fastidious scrutiny of the formidable body of work Waits has accumulated. -- Allan Jones, Uncut
Comprehensive and judicious... [Waits] could not have found a more respectful, sympathetic and knowledgeable biographer if he'd chosen him himself.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
The problem with the book lies with Barney Hoskyns' response to his lack of personal access to Waits. Hoskyns is a competent music journalist and, having done some solid background research, makes a good job of setting Wait's music in the context of his unsettled upbringing and early adult experiences in 60s and 70s southern California. In particular the influence on his song writing of Waits' relationship to his semi-absent alcoholic father (Frank!) is very plausibly traced.
The difficulties start when the book gets to the period round about 1980 when Waits marries, changes record label and embarks on one of the most extraordinary reinventions in music. Because Hoskyns has no access to Waits the man, and much less than previously to his friends and collaborators, the book morphs into an extended record review, where we learn much more about the author's tastes and opinions than about the subject of the book. We discover that Hoskyns is basically a "Blue Valentine" rather than a "Frank's Wild Years" Tom Waits fan, and we are now down to questions of opinion. So while I, for example, would agree about the brilliance of Bone Machine, I feel that he has overrated Mule Variations and sadly misjudged the exquisite Alice and the radical Real Gone. This is all fun in a way, but I felt I learned little from the second half of the book.
Until we get an authorised biography, or even better a personal memoire (it won't ever happen), this will have to do, but it can't be more than 3 stars.
It's a fascinating set-up, and one might expect it would be followed by a revealing account of Hoskyn's much impeded search for the elusively real Tom Waits. Disappointingly this is far from the case. Instead what we get is a meticulous, chronological account of every documented Waits move and comment, every song and every performance.
For Waits fans this thoroughness makes Hoskyn's book a must-buy. It is like a text book for those who want to enrol in the University of Waits. And once completed it acts as an excellent reference book: the tiresome precision with which Hoskyns describes every single track on every single album comes into its own if one wants to look up a particular song.
But it also gives the book a pedantry and small-mindedness that Waits himself would despise; and one can almost feel Hoskyn's self-consciousness that he himself knows this would be the case, but he just cant stop himself from sharing every last fragment of Waitsabilia.
For that we should in some ways be grateful. For instance, I had no idea before reading this book how unsuccessful Waits perceived himself to be until very late into his career - and inded how little esteem he was held in by his original record label, Asylum. Nor did I know just how much Waits seemed to regard his life as a piece of performance in its own right.Read more ›
Despite this tricky task in front of him, Hoskyns' manages to acquire two significant sources of information (amongst others) that were supposedly banished from Waits' circle of trust, his producer of all his Asylum era albums Bones Howe, and saxophonist Ralph Carney who worked on every album from Rain Dogs to Mule Variations, as well as touring with Waits. They are the two biggest names to assist Hoskyns' in his quest, with great insights and stories, and are accompanied by a cluster of other names who come forward with their memories of the man. All in all, Hoskyns' biography is fantastic, truly fascinating and builds a great story of Tom's background and road to success, taking in his early boho days to his infamous time living in the Tropicana motel, all through his 80s musical left-turn with Brennan by his side and various film and theatrical works, mainly with Jim Jarmusch and Robert Wilson.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Somewhat circumstantial biography lacking input from principal subject. Gave up about a third of the way through. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Mr. David L.
A very thoroughly researched book by Barney Hoskyns, and one of the best rock biogs I've read in a long time. Well put together with plenty of exclusive interviews as well. Read morePublished 17 months ago by LEE MAN
This has got to be a must-buy for all Waits fans. Informative, funny & enlightening. It answers all those questions l wanted to ask about lyrics, name-checks & places. Read morePublished on 12 April 2015 by ian wallace
JUST OK-SOMEWHAT INDULGENT-PLENTY OF FACTS-TOO MUCH INFORMATION -LITTLE SUBSTANCE OTHER THAN REPORTED WORDS-TOO DEFINITIVE NOT PERSONAL ENOUGH FOR ME THIS TIME!!Published on 18 Feb. 2014 by TED
A really absorbing work and hats of to the author who produced such a monumental work without the cooperation of the subject. Read morePublished on 28 Oct. 2013 by steve
Captivating insight on one of my favourite characters in the world of entertainment. A must read and value for money.Published on 13 Sept. 2013 by gladmanthegreat
Bought as a present for my brother - he was really pleased with it and thought it was a great read!Published on 15 April 2013 by Susan Hodges