Tag Archives: tom waits

Where Nobody Lives

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“There’s a house on my block that’s abandoned and cold,
The folks moved out of it a long time ago,
And they took all their things and they never came back,
It looks like it’s haunted with the windows all black,
Everybody calls it the house, the house where nobody lives.

“Once it held laughter,
Once it held dreams.
Did they throw them away,
Did they know what it means?
Did someone’s heart break,
Or did someone do somebody wrong?

“The paint is all cracked, it was peeled off of the wood.
The papers were stacked on the porch where I stood.
The weeds had grown up just as high as the door.
There were birds in the chimney, an old chest of drawers.
It looks like no one will ever come back
To the house where nobody lives.

“Once it held laughter,
Once it held dreams.
Did they throw them away,
Did they know what it means?
Did someone’s heart break,
Or did someone do somebody wrong?

“So if you find someone, someone to have, someone to hold,
Don’t trade it for silver, oh don’t trade it for gold.
Because I have all of life’s treasures, and they’re fine and they’re good,
They remind me that houses are just made of wood.
What makes a house grand oh it ain’t the roof or the doors,
If there’s love in a house, it’s a palace for sure.
Without love it ain’t nothin’ but a house, a house where nobody lives.”

—Tom Waits, “House Where Nobody Lives” (from “The Mule Variations”)

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Versions

For no particular reason, other than I saw Tom Waits’s name on my Rhapsody (scaredy-cat legal online music) list:

I remember hearing a country song/story called “Big Joe and Phantom 309” (en Español “Big Joe y Fantasma 309”) sometime in the ’70s. Hated it. Don’t know who was doing it — probably Red Sovine, who wrote it – but I hated it. There was something kind of smug and obvious in the story-telling. Then sometime in the late 1980s, my brother John put on a record that Kate had in her collection but I hadn’t listened to. Tom Waits, “Nighthawks at the Diner,” which was not a new album, with a live version of the same number. Wow, what a great track. Yeah, he hams it up. Still, he makes the song his own enough that you believe it really is his story.

“…Yeah, it was just about that time that the lights of an ol’ semi topped the hill
You should’ve seen me smile when I heard them air brakes come on
Yeah, and I climbed up into that cab where I knew it’d be warm
At the wheel… well, at the wheel sat a big man
And I’d have to say he must’ve weighed two ten
As he stuck out a big hand and he said with a grin
‘Big Joe’s the name, and this here rig’s called Phantom 309’

“Well, I asked him why he called his rig such a name
And you know, he turned to me and said
‘Why son, don’t you know this here rig’ll be puttin’ ’em all to shame
Nah, there ain’t a driver
No, there ain’t a driver on this or any other line for that matter that…
That’s seen nothin’ but the taillights of Big Joe and Phantom 309′
So we rode and we talked the better part of the night
And I told my stories and Joe told his
And I smoked up all his Viceroys as we rolled along
Pushed her ahead with 10 forward gears
Man, that dashboard was lit like the old Madam La Rue pinball
Serious semi truck. …”

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