Chapter 21

Tom Waits for No Man

Listen to "Tom Waits for No Man"

Way back in the mists of time, Xero was on his way to France for a sojourn with The Left Bank Poseurs. Everyone else was already over there and here he was stuck in bloody Dover, a few quid short of the ferry ticket to Calais. The weather was atrocious - wet and freezing cold - and he really did not feel like busking.

Between downpours, he set up shop in the town centre and ran through a few tunes before he noticed a couple of blokes in snappy suits checking him out.

"Uh Oh" he thought, " they're either Jehovas Witnesses or Detectives."

After performing what he thought was a particularly impressive version of "Out of The In Door" and receiving mere shillings for his troubles, he could feel the rain starting again so he resolved to have a breather and a fag. The two men in suits meandered over and told him they were agent and tour manager respectively for a young up and coming jazz musician from America called Tom Waits. They said that they really liked what Xero did and they wanted to introduce him to Mr Waits when he arrived on the next ferry - the very one that Xero hoped to catch to France.

Xero instinctively recoiled at an American accent (as did a whole generation of his colonised compatriots on aircraft carrier England). Besides, he hadn't heard of anyone called "Tom Waits". Unfortunately, he explained politely to them, he had some money to make and a boat to catch to go on Tour himself in France. The two men watched a while longer as he launched into "Dearly Beloved" and then they sauntered off, presumably to meet their man Waits. A few minutes later, as he finished the tune, Xero noticed that one of them had put a twenty quid note in his sax case.

"Bloody Hell!" He exclaimed, to noone in particular. There was a moment's hesitation when he wondered about these guys and pondered on what might have been. But now at least he had enough for his ticket and he was on his way to Paris to meet up with Alphonse Material and the rest of the Left Bank Poseurs.

Many years down the track, when "Shove It!" had been recorded and released and The Incident had taken place, I found myself at a loose end in Amsterdam en route to my own Hoek van Holland ferry home to England. I saw that Tom Waits was in town to promote his latest album "Rain Dogs". Unable to buy a ticket to the sold out show I hung around the stage door in the hope of meeting Mr Waits and presenting him with a freshly pressed vinyl copy of Xero's debut album.

After all, with a track named after their almost-but-not-quite encounter all those years before, I figured Tom should at the very least have a copy. He turned out to be the perfect gentleman, inviting my companion and I to the gig as his guests and receiving our gift with what appeared to be genuine interest. The performance that night in the sumptuous Dutch theatre was stunning, but I never did find out what he thought of the LP.



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