tom waits Mouths Cut Just Like Razor Blades

Tom Waits, the master of words.

When it comes to wordsmiths, Tom Waits heads my list by a very long way. His ability to create images with often just a few immaculately chosen words always has me in awe of his brilliance. ‘With their mouths cut just like razor blades and their eyes are like stilettos‘, is one classic example of his mastery. This appears in the poem ‘Small Change’ and has, after more than thirty years since he recorded it with only saxophone accompaniment, remained one of my favourites.

If you have never heard or read Small Change by Tom Waits, enjoy the following video and accompanying lyrics. If you do know it, well why not sit back and enjoy it yet again. The pleasure never diminishes.

Small Change by Tom Waits

Small Change got rained on with his own thirty-eight,
And nobody flinched down by the arcade
And the marquees weren’t weeping, they went stark-raving mad,
And the cabbies were the only ones that really had it made
And his cold trousers were twisted, and the sirens high and shrill,
And crumpled in his fist was a five-dollar bill
And the naked mannequins with their Cheshire grins,
And the raconteurs and roustabouts said “Buddy, come on in, ’cause
‘Cause the dreams ain’t broken down here now, they’re walking with a limp
Now that Small Change got rained on with his own thirty-eight”

And nobody flinched down by the arcade
And the burglar alarm’s been disconnected,
And the newsmen start to rattle
And the cops are telling jokes about some whorehouse in Seattle
And the fire hydrants plead the Fifth Amendment
And the furniture is bargains galore
But the blood is by the jukebox on an old linoleum floor
And what a hot rain on Forty-Second Street,
And now the umbrellas ain’t got a chance
And the newsboy’s a lunatic with stains on his pants, ’cause
‘Cause Small Change got rained on with his own thirty-eight

And no one’s gone over to close his eyes
And there’s a racing form in his pocket,
Circled “Blue Boots” in the third
And the cashier at the clothing store didn’t say a word
As the siren tears the night in half, and someone lost his wallet
Well, a surveillance of assailance, it that’s what you want to call it
And the whores hike up their skirts and fish for drug-store prophylactics
With their mouths cut just like razor blades and their eyes are like stilettos
And her radiator’s steaming and her teeth are in a wreck, and nah,
She won’t let you kiss her, but what the hell do you expect?
And the Gypsies are tragic and if you want to buy perfume,
Well, they’ll bark you down like carneys, sell you Christmas cards in June, but
But Small Change got rained on with his own thirty-eight

And his headstone’s a gumball machine,
No more chewing gum or baseball cards or overcoats or dreams
Someone’s hosing down the sidewalk, and he’s only in his teens, ’cause
‘Cause Small Change got rained on with his own thirty-eight

And a fistful of dollars can’t change that,
And someone copped his watch fob, and someone got his ring
And the newsboy got his porkpie Stetson hat
And the tuberculosis old men at the Nelson wheeze and cough
And someone will head south until this whole thing cools off, ’cause
‘Cause Small Change got rained on with his own thirty-eight, yeah,
Small Change got rained on with his own thirty-eight

Small Change is an album by Tom Waits, released in 1976 on Asylum Records. It was recorded in July 1976.

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3 thoughts on “Mouths Cut Just Like Razor Blades

  • 03/07/2012 at 2:56 pm
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    I only have a couple of his albums, and not that one, but yeah, his lyrics are incredible sometimes. I really should get more, but I don’t listen to music much these days. It’s too distracting when I’m writing.

    Reply
  • 04/07/2012 at 3:42 pm
    Permalink

    This is a brilliant article and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it and listening to him sing.. Iv’e never heard of this guy before, he’s a great Lyricist…. :))

    Reply

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