The title track for Waits’s second album (Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night confirms his ambition to be true to his vision of himself as a jazz-centric Beat poet. The idea comes straight from Kerouac’s Visions of Cody, in which the protagonist was “hurrying for the big traffic, ever more exciting, all of it pouring into town Saturday night.” Composing the song while literally cruising down Alvarado Street and Hollywood Boulevard, Waits was striving after an elusive epiphany, trying to locate stillness in motion or find a center of innocence in America’s most heartless city.
I love this story in LARB, but I have to object.
Los Angeles is not a heartless city. Finding the heart of L.A. (or any city, for that matter) is like finding the heart of a Vulcan: it’s there somewhere, but if you can’t find it, that’s only because you aren’t looking in the right place.
- Tom Waits, Playing the Down-and-Out Barfly, Appears in Classic 1978 TV Performance (openculture.com)
- “Waits: The Beats Go On” (1975) (byjeffburger.wordpress.com)