The New York Times
Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waitsby Barney Hoskyns
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
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 Young. Like them, he is a chameleonic survivor who has achieved long-term success while retaining cult credibility and outsider mystique. But although his songs can seem deeply personal and somewhat autobiographical, fans still know very little about the man himself. Notoriously private, Waits has consistently and deliberately blurred the line between fact and fiction, public and private personas, until it has become impossible to delineate between truth and self-fabricated legend.
Lowside of the Road is the first serious biography to cut through the myths and make sense of the life and career of this beloved icon. Barney Hoskyns has gained unprecedented access to Waits’s inner circle and also draws on interviews he has done with Waits over the years. Spanning his extraordinary forty-year career from Closing Time to Orphans, from his perilous “jazzbo” years in 1970s LA to such shape-shifting albums as Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs to the Grammy Award winners of recent years, this definitive biography charts Waits’s life and art step by step, album by album.
Barney Hoskyns has written a rock biography—much like the subject himself—unlike any other. It is a unique take on one of rock’s great enigmas.
The New York Times
When a celebrity not only refuses to cooperate with a would-be biographer but persuades most of his inner circle not to grant interviews either, the writer's task is much more daunting. In trying to account for the 40-year career of eccentric singer/songwriter (and occasional film actor) Tom Waits, Hoskyns (Hotel California) puts his subject's reluctance front and center, openly speculating on the rumors that Waits's wife has engineered his withdrawal from his early associates. The armchair psychology extends to Waits's idiosyncratic public persona, but is buttressed with interviews with as many people as Hoskyns could get to talk, a few conversations he had with Waits for magazine pieces and excerpts from other articles over the years. For the most part, Waits's musical transformation from hip troubadour to far-out maverick is well contextualized, but when Hoskyns's resources are stretched thin in this overlong book, his pronouncements become less compelling. Readers may not particularly care what the biographer thinks of Waits's last album, for example, nor need a complete set list from a random concert. Despite these problems, however, Hoskyns deserves credit for trying to give Waits the critical scrutiny his work deserves. (Apr. 14)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Tom Waits has had a singular music career spanning over 40 years and encompassing a bewildering array of musical styles. Once known as 1970s beatnik style, his music has since moved into experimental percussion, free-form howling, bizarre dark stories, and obscure, old-fashioned instrumentation. British journalist Hoskyns (Hotel California) takes us from the formative 1960s all the way up to a short description of Waits's most recent concert tour in the summer of 2008. From the mid-1980s forward, Waits has made concerted efforts to maintain his privacy, so a lot of the details of recordings and tours since that time period will be new to many readers. Of particular interest are the recording details of his groundbreaking albums Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, and Frank's Wild Years and descriptions of his work with Robert Wilson on The Black Rider stage presentation. Patrick Humphries's previous biographies (Small Change; Many Lives of Tom Wait) and Jay S. Jacobs's Wild Years cover much of the same ground, but unless and until Waits works with an official biographer, Hoskyns's superlative overview of one of America's major (though idiosyncratic) popular artists will likely stand as the best book on his life.
"[This] book lights up and whirls like one of the greasy carnival rides in Mr. Wait's own sprawling oeuvre" The New York Times
Hoskyn's superlative overview of one of America's major (though idiosyncratic) popular artists will likely stand as the best book on his life"Library Journal (starred review)
"Hoskyns persevered in writing the first Waits biography, netting fascination firsthand stories, terrific photographs, and fanatically detailed information about studio sessions and concerts...the result is a respectful, entertaining, and revelatory portrait set within a vivid cultural context."Booklist
"It's about time [Waits] received biographical homage from a rock writer of the stature of Hoskyns."Stephen Poole, The Guardian
"Comprehensive and judicious. [Waits] could not have found a more respectful, sympathetic and knowledgeable biographer if he'd chosen him himself."Mick Brown, The Word
"Thanks to his diligence. His Californian connections and some magazine interviews he conducted long ago with Waits, Hoskyn's life comes across as convincingly lifelike."Robert Sandall, The Sunday Times
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Meet the Author
Barney Hoskyns is cofounder and editorial director of the online rock-journalism library Rock’s Backpages (www.rocksbackpages.com), and author of several books including Across the Great Divide: The Band and America (1993), Hotel California: Singer-Songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the LA Canyons (2005), and the newly reissued Waiting for the Sun: A Rock and Roll History of Los Angeles. A former U.S. correspondent for Mojo, Hoskyns writes for Uncut, the Observer Music Monthly, and other U.K. publications, and has contributed to Vogue, Rolling Stone, and GQ. He lives in southwest London.
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I loved it. Tom Waits is the best, such an interesting Guy. If you like Tom Waits you will love this book