Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lowside Of The Road: A Life Of Tom Waits” as Want to Read:
Lowside Of The Road: A Life Of Tom Waits
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Lowside Of The Road: A Life Of Tom Waits

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  633 Ratings  ·  94 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lowside Of The Road, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lowside Of The Road

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Paul Bryant
Nov 14, 2011 Paul Bryant 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
Jan 30, 2010 Anna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 08, 2012 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies, music
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
Jun 21, 2009 Anita rated it really liked it  ·  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
Oct 28, 2012 Eugene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 27, 2013 J.D. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 27, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amy Eighttrack
Apr 29, 2014 Amy Eighttrack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 -
Feb 07, 2011 Nick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, biography
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
Apr 11, 2016 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book and thought it was a lose-lose for everyone involved.

On the author's part, because the whole enterprise was unauthorized (and thus only partially informed) Hoskyns' work comes across as alternating between a fanboy piece and a venue for those who have been excommunicated from the Waits/Brennan universe to grind their respective axes.

As far as Waits/Brennan are concerned, the primary sources being relied upon are those who have for whatever reason(s) already lost their ties t
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
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
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
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
Dec 31, 2011 Tom Choi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2013 Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 2012 Belinda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Feb 06, 2010 Graham rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bill O'driscoll
Sep 06, 2010 Bill O'driscoll rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2011 Armand rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 23, 2009 Bjorn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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
Mel C
Jan 20, 2015 Mel C rated it it was ok
I'm really not sure if I liked this. It seemed very dry and structured almost entirely around descriptions of every song on every album, chronologically. If you're into track-by-track breakdowns this is the book for you. If you want a book which you'll scull every time Beefheart is mentioned, this is _definitely_ the book for you. And why, at the end of the book, include copies of emails rejecting interview requests if not to make Waits look a little petty? I doubt this is a book I'd pick up and ...more
J.D.  Brayton
Lowside of the Road-A life of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns could have been better. At 513 pages I came away with the sense that writing a biography of someone like T.Waits without his approval or involvement is a fool's errand. Some artists don't need explaining-in fact the wasted exercise merely cheapens the effort. Ah well, back to Van Gogh's bio...he's still dead enough not to avoid career 'biographers'.
Aug 15, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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)
Rob McLeod
Aug 24, 2016 Rob McLeod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good point to start for background of a seminal 20th century songwriter. If of course you're into that kind of thing.

Though I didn't find it too personally revealing - the book will give some insight as to why you're unlikely to find any source overly revealing about Tom Waits. Even if you met him you'd probably come away not knowing a damn thing about him at all...
Jan Jørgensen
Apr 30, 2014 Jan Jørgensen rated it liked it
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
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Heroes And Villains: The True Story Of The Beach Boys
  • Wild Years: The Music and Myth of Tom Waits
  • Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians
  • Swordfishtrombones
  • Innocent When You Dream: The Tom Waits Reader
  • The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography
  • Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers
  • Good Night and Good Riddance: How Thirty-Five Years of John Peel Helped to Shape Modern Life
  • Cole Porter
  • Love You to Bits and Pieces: Life with David Helfgott
  • Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle
  • Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era
  • Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, Madness, and the Mob
  • Bad Seed: The Biography of Nick Cave
  • Can't You Hear Me Calling: The Life Of Bill Monroe, Father Of Bluegrass
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan : Caught in the Crossfire
  • Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World
  • The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash

Share This Book