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Lowside Of The Road: A Life Of Tom Waits
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Lowside Of The Road: A Life Of Tom Waits

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  503 ratings  ·  83 reviews
With his trademark growl, carnival-madman persona, haunting music, and unforgettable lyrics, Tom Waits is one of the most revered and critically acclaimed singer-songwriters alive today. After beginning his career on the margins of the 1970s Los Angeles rock scene, Waits has spent the last thirty years carving out a place for himself among such greats as Bob Dylan and Neil...more
Paperback, 609 pages
Published 2010 by Faber and Faber Ltd (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,002)
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Paul
Nov 14, 2011 Paul marked it as assorted-rants-about-stuff  ·  review of another edition
I knew a woman called Debbie Fell, and one of my best friends is named Nick Barks. Like them, Tom Waits' name is also a sentence, but there the resemblance stops short. Or does it? I read a review of this bio and I think the reviewer has figured out The Mystery of Tom Waits - what lurks behind the impenetrability that is Tom Waits' private life? Why doesn't he let any of his friends talk to biographers? Answer : because for 28 years he's been a happily married man living a perfectly dull happy l...more
Anna
If listening to Waits was as boring as reading this book, we’d have never heard of him.

This wasn’t authorised, and Hoskyns has major difficulty in ‘building a bridge’ regarding his lack of access to Waits and his coterie. He still tries to find out about the ‘real’ Waits, based on secondary materials, ex-muso friends since ditched from use, and the public record. This is just plodding.

The fabulist Waits could have a great shaggy tale spun about him, a visioning of him from the outside, populat...more
Tiffany
I knew that I would not learn heaps about Waits from any biography, as he is one of the most private entertainers around. However, that being said, Hoskyns had interviewed Waits many times and had a good knowledge about some of what makes Wait tick. Hoskyns is quite vocal about his own preferences in regard to Waits's music, but he does nice song by song reviews of the albums as they come in context with the timeline. It made me want to read a book on the recording sessions themselves, how some...more
Tim
When I was a student in apartheid era South Africa, in the 1980s, it was hard to come by information about what was happening just over the hill. To find out personal details of completely obscure (to South Africans) musicians like Waits or Cohen was near impossible. No media here carried stories on them.

For years, myths grew up: Cohen was in jail for killing his wife. Rodriguez shot himself on stage/ was in jail for drugs/ had fled to Mexico after killing his brother/ had given up music and be...more
Anita
Jun 21, 2009 Anita rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: non-fiction
Barney Hoskyns does an excellent job, both in his documentation of Waits' artistic and personal evolution, and in his ability to simply write about music that brings to life the sights, sounds, and sensations of the music scene. He shows us a talented, thoughtful, troubled, and often humorous Tom who should probably have his own book of aphorisms. Hoskyns does all this despite some unfortunate obstacles that Tom himself seems to put in place, including preventing Barney from interviewing the peo...more
J.D.
I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and criticize this book because it's "unauthorized."

The great majority of biographies are unauthorized. I've read and enjoyed biographies of George Washington and Michel de Montaigne, I remember, and the authors labored without the benefits of cooperation from the dead subjects. The job of a biographer is to document and illuminate the subject's life, and this can be done -- is routinely done -- without the assistance of the subject.

Hoskyns says -- and demo...more
Amanda
An extremely unauthorized bio of Tom Waits, this book leads us from Waits' beginnings at the Troubador up until the Glitter and Doom tour this past year.

Honestly, I mostly never really want to know the person behind my favorite music and Waits has become one of my top favorites. I don't know, I guess I always figure that I'll be really disappointed if the person turns out to be a jackass and kicks puppies or something. I'm still a huge fan of Waits, probably even more so now.

This took forever to...more
Amy Eighttrack
This book was sort of a guilty pleasure for me. The author - British music critic Barney Hoskyns - attempts to pry into the determinedly private life of his subject. We ask & expect so much from our heroes and artists.

The story within the story is kind of funny - Hoskyns' frustrating attempts to get first-person perspectives, info & stories - when he himself appears to be such a great fan. It's amazing how loyal and protective others were of Waits. I think that says a lot about the man -...more
Nick
The further I read in Hoskyns biography, the more I was reminded of A.J. Weberman, the guy who spent years digging through Bob Dylan's trash and analyzing it. I was surprised when, a few pages before the end of this Tom Waits biography, Hoskyns asks himself, and his readers, whether he isn't doing something like Weberman. My answer is yes, and it's not pretty. While Hoskyns cites Waits' clear statements about the need to keep some part of his life private, and the relationship between mystery an...more
Annie Oosterwyk
I've been a fan of Tom Waits since I first bought Looking For the Heart of Saturday Night and think I have everything he's made since. That said, I know nothing about him personally and the closest I've ever gotten to seeing him live was a performance of The Black Rider at BAM.

This is an unauthorized biography and the author goes to great pains to share the names of those who refused to violate Tom's wishes not to spill, in a bit of passive aggressive sniping.

I found it interesting to get a gene...more
Anthony Barr-jeffrey
This was book was cool as biographies go but there is something about unauthorized biographies that feels weird. But Tom Waits is weird in that he engenders the kind of dedication that would make a person write about him despite ridiculous amounts of rejection from nearly every possible first or second hand source available. The most awesome part of the book is the appendix, almost an entire chapter's worth, of all the polite letters of rejections from countless sources that could give first han...more
Bryan Clark
Hmmm. I think the problem with reading a book about someone you admire is that you have your own version of that person tucked away in your head. My key problem with this book is that the author and I both love Tom Waits, yet each of us have a very different, mutually exclusive view of him.



I made a mistake in that I began this book by reading the appendix containing the author's top 40 Waits songs. Exactly half of these were drawn from the Asylum/Electra period and sentimental ballads in the 'K...more
Jim
I haven't spent much time with biographies, so I wanted to pick an interesting one. And I did. Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits. If you're not familiar with the artist and actor, he's had an interesting life, and even though this wasn't an "authorized" biography, Barney Hoskyns does a decent job in outlining Waits's life.

While I love Waits's music, I probably would have gotten a lot more out of the book if I had been much more familiar with it. I know several songs, but I'm not enough of...more
Ron
I wanted to like this biography more than I did, because I'm a huge Tom Waits fan, but it's one of those unauthorized biographies where, because the subject refuses to cooperate--and, in Waits's case, is able to convince many of his friends not to participate as well--the book becomes as much (if not more) about what the biographer thinks about the subject as it is about the subject. And I just didn't feel that Hoskyns's track-by-track opinions on every single Tom Waits record, or a song-by-song...more
Tom Choi
This is a mostly serviceable biography that suddenly veers into a (failed) Nabokovean digression in which the biographer airs on-going grievances and personal vendettas. You see, Tom Waits wants to keep his private life private, and Barney Hoskyns can't seem to come to terms with this request: on the one hand, he admires Tom Waits for being so artistically productive and groundbreaking while maintaining a relatively normal, if a bit peculiar, family life (Tom Waits is a huge junk collector, for...more
Howard
Here's the deal- I'm a huge Tom Waits fan these days. I used to listen to him here and there, but never to the extent of how often I'm listening to him now. I adore his music and wanted to learn more about the mysterious man behind the music, despite knowing Waits was a private man who certainly had no interest in having a book written about him. That said, I figured this book was the closest I was going to get to learning as much as possible. And unless Barney Hoskyns really decided to make up...more
Eugene
Lowside of the Road is an unauthorized biography of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns, published in 2009. I'm going to come clean and say upfront that I haven't read many biographies I really loved and I don't read that many biographies period. I really liked the Patty Smith book, Just Kids, and although I'm no Rolling Stones fan, I thought Keith Richards' book Life was excellent. Tuffy P read this one and while she didn't recommend it without reservation, she said it was well worth reading. We both h...more
Belinda
Well, this is going to be an odd review--by virtue of it's subject, I suppose that makes sense. The first thing I must do is put it out there that I am a huge fan of Tom Waits. I was not always. My partner for 9 years was a devoted fan (as many professional musicians are) and his preferred Waits was generally the later, "scarier" Waits. When we lived together I remember going in and asking him to turn the volume down on some Waits he was listening to as it was literally making it impossible for...more
Graham
A chapter on Tom Waits's later work in this book recalls a live show being recorded for television in which Waits talked "about the sort of person who leans over to a companion during a movie and whispers that it's based on a true story. 'Does it really improve the film?' Waits asked rhetorically.'"

Which essentially is the question at the heart of this book. Not a standard musician bio, Barney Hoskyns penned a loving, yet fiercely unauthorized work (even including a section of correspondence fro...more
Bill O'driscoll
Great Waits bio by a British journalist and author who's known and written about Waits for decades. Lots of focus on his early days as a neo-Beat troubadour, his musical roots and his partnership with wife, Kathleen Brennan, whom many readers might not know has been a huge influence on not only Waits' career choices but also his musical direction for some three decades.

The book's subplot, if you will, is Waits' nearly obsessive guardianship of his privacy and his hostility to anyone who tries to...more
Armand
A disappointing read that doesn't attempt much more than a chronological (and then song-by-song) run through of each of Waits's albums, with a bit of interview-extracted biographical information provided along the way. While Waits's fiercely private life doesn't lend itself to unauthorized biographies -- and I had some guilt about even reading something like this for that reason -- the author doesn't do himself any favors by continually re-raising the point. I think he's trying to explain away t...more
Bjorn
I find giving good reviews or even appropriate reviews to books difficult. I often like to get lost in them and enjoy their worlds. This is easier though because it is a biography (however unauthorized) and i can base it on what I learned through it.

I have grown to enjoy Tom Waits' music but at times found it difficult to enjoy. This book helped place the albums and songs in context and gave me valuable information about how Tom Waits became Tom Waits. I do wish there was more information availa...more
Lisa
I can only imagine how difficult it is to write a biography of someone and get no cooperation from the subject or anyone close to them. So I have to give the author kudos for trying to write a bio about someone so many of us are interested in knowing. Thing is, he doesn't want us to know him and you have to respect that.

BUT this book was tedious and pretty much just a run down-play-by-play of all his albums and opinions (that frustrated me to no end since everyone has their OWN opinion on songs)...more
Jan Jørgensen
Emnet er jo godt og spændende det er bare så forbandet synd at Barney Hoskyns får så lidt ud af det. Ja ja Waits har gjort sit for at bevare sit privatliv og derved ikke gjort det nemt for Barney.
Men selvom Waits og venner ikke vil udtale sig kunne bogen nemt være grebet meget bedre and!! Barney ender med at ignurere Waitses røverhistorier for i stedet at gennemgå hvem der spiller hvad på forskellige album og belæmre læseren med han egene holdninger til album og film. lidt trist da Barney er af...more
Michael
There should be a "skimmed" shelf between "read" and "reading." The leitmotif of this book is that Waits (and, more importantly, the author implies, Waits' wife) are so protective of his privacy that little information is there to be had. The best part of the book is the intro, a nice little essay on the invention of the persona that every pop artist inevitably performs. The rest is made of third-party anecdotes about events that you would wish to hear first-person. Some is amusing; none is very...more
Ian Shaw
I love Tom Waits, and I'm a sucker for a good music bio. I like to know what goes into the creation of the music, who played on what, how the songs came about, and the general history. This bio ... well, the author did a good job ferreting out Waits' story despite Waits' reluctance to have it told. I didn't have much interest in the sordid details the author provided (and there weren't too many) but Waits' recalcitrance left not enough said about the creative process. My biggest complaint is tha...more
Andrew Ludke
I am a huge Tom Waits fan and really want to learn more about him, his background, and the stories behind his music. I was disappointed to learn that this was an unauthorized biography and that Tom and Cathleen asked their friends not to speak with Barney Hoskins once they learned of his plans to write a biography. So the book slacks the details and autobiographical snippets only the subject himself could add.

Note to Tom and Cathleen ... OK, the music should be enough and maybe it is, but i can'...more
Arthur

i have liked the music of Tom Waits from the moment i heard "Step Right Up" for the first time, and i continue to buy his music when it's released. This book is an unauthorized look into his grow and development as a musician, song writer, arranger, actor, husband, and father. The author does have a musical bias, i don't share, toward the early and middle of Waits' career and he pans some of his later work. The author also appears frustrated at times by his lack of access behind the scenes, whic...more
Kate Musselman
So ambivalent about this. I feel a bit wrong to read an unauthorized biography - and who can blame Waits for not wanting someone to write yet another one? Still - as a huge Waits fan I'm always curious about him. Hoskyns draws from a variety of sources - his own interviews with Waits over the years as well as others', and the handful of people who willingly spoke with him (most of Waits' friends and associates refused). Eventually it becomes clear that he's grasping a bit - there are a great man...more
Elizabeth
While Hoskyns might have found the lack of access to the subject of his book a disadvantage, I think it becomes its greatest strength. The best thing about good art is that each person can bring their own interpretation to it that makes it stronger in their hearts and minds. Tom Waits has created an amazing body of work that has a life of its own. I found Hoskyns' book shed just enough light on the man and his experiences to gain further insight into influences and processes without destroying t...more
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