Big Sound Saturdays: Good Morning Blues

Tom Waits, harbinger of Good Morning Blues, was so delicate in the nineties. Like Blind Willie Johnson, he threw his voice in multiple directions, dug underground for the Mad-Meg-style scratchy gorging sound that definitely doesn’t owe, entirely, to the cigarettes, and rose above the surface for the croon that he sustained throughout his early years. “Blue Skies,” a sweet, lovesick prayer for the morning, is Waits at his upper-register prettiest.

It’s not really a “pretty mix,” though; Jimmie Rodgers’ “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” is lovely (and, I admit, something I’ve used before), The Beatles’ 1966 instrumental warm-up of “I’m Only Sleeping” has a lounge-y xylophone thing that’s very pleasant, Leadbelly’s “Good Morning Blues” is a peripatetic affront of an instruction book—how to fight the blues—and the song of my youth, Belle & Sebastian’s “Sleep the Clock Around,” is kind of aggressively nice, but the rest are much more unsettling. Sticking mostly within the late 1960s to the early 1990s, this mix is meant for the all-powerful and totally movable witching hour: can’t go to sleep, can’t wake up, early old morning and late late night.

Lee Hazelwood, whose music’s is so disorienting in the morning, all sexy and string-y and smarmy and full, sings back and forth with David Bowie (RIP): “The Bed” to early Bowie’s mono version of “Let Me Sleep Beside You.” Then across to Randy Newman—famed LA-lover and composer of one of the greatest cartoon movie theme songs ever—Randy Newman (“Last Night I Had A Dream”), and back out to the vibing and sufficiently wobbly Incredible String Band’s “No Sleep Blues.” Anchored by Rolf Harris—a comedian in Australia, once famous for being funny and for imitating the didgeridoo with his voice in “Sun Arise,” track 7—and rounded off with Marvin Pontiac, John Lurie’s very talented and “very elusive” alter ego, Good Morning Blues charts the sun in orbit. Good morning, sweet dreams ~

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