Laughing at funerals and the mysteries of Stonehenge: An animated Tom Waits interview from 1988

By on September 29, 2015

Blank on Blank/PBS Digital Studios return with a new season of flash-animated conversations today, kicking things off with this new one featuring Tom Waits, from an interview he did with journalist Chris Roberts for a Melody Maker article back in 1988. Waits muses on many topics, including laughing in church and at funerals, showbiz shirts, and the mysteries of Stonehenge.


In this interview with Waits from September 1988 — which is archived over at Rock’s Back Pages (for subscribers only) – you really get a sense of what’s on Tom Waits’s mind, which is “everything and nothing.”

Here’s a couple of our favorite parts:


Chris Roberts: Where have you never been that you’d like to go?

Tom Waits: “I’ve never been to Stonehenge. There are moles in Stonehenge… the most elaborate systems of mole catacombs is in Stonehenge. There are more moles at Stonehenge than there are anywhere in the world. In the community, they reward moles that have the courage to tunnel beneath great rivers, it takes an understanding of physics and engineering, that type of thing.”

“You make a false move, you bring the river in on you, wipe out the whole world. And they have executions for moles that have made the wrong turn.”


Tom Waits: “When I first got into show business, my stepfather bought me a wild shirt, which said more about what he thought show business was than what I thought it was. It was like this lime green shirt, with like seven different kinds of fabrics and textures on it, with wooden buttons, like a Hawaiian nightmare.”


“He gave it to me, he was very serious when he gave it to me, it was like he was giving me a sword to go out into the world of show business, and ‘kill some dragons, pal, and bring us back the skins.’ And I looked at that shirt and I went ‘goddamn.'”


Here’s our previous Blank on Blank posting, which featured an animated Hunter S. Thompson talking about riding with the Hells Angels biker club.

This is the first episode of Blank on Blank’s new season – next up they have Patty Hearst and Bill Murray. Episodes come out every other week on Tuesday.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.