I’ll Be Gone (1987) – Tom Waits

I’ll be Gone was released on Franks Wild Years – the tenth studio album by Tom Waits. It was written by Waits and collaborators (mainly his wife, Kathleen Brennan) for a play of the same name. The shared title of the album and the play is an iteration of “Frank’s Wild Years“, a song from Waits’ 1983 album Swordfishtrombones. The play had its world premiere at the Briar St. Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, on June 22, 1986, performed by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Tonight I’ll shave the mountain
I’ll cut the hearts from pharaohs
I pull the road off of the rise
Tear the memories from my eyes
In the morning I’ll be gone

I drink a thousand shipwrecks
Tonight I steal your paychecks
I paint the sheets across my bed
The birds will all fly from my head
And in the morning I’ll be gone

I’ll Be Gone on the surface (and pertaining to the play it was written) is about a man called ‘Frank’ contemplating suicide and / or eventually acting it out. He paints a depressing fantasy and eventually (in his dreams) takes on Vegas and Broadway. When I read the lyrics and heard the song before knowing the context and background of the album, I gathered it was principally about ‘deprivation‘, whether it be from individuals (losing their senses, themselves and lost ones), Governments or Corporations. Such is with great poetry many different interpretations can be construed.

This song came out well before the World Economic Forum initiative (in response to the COVID crises) – The Great Reset, and I’ll Be Gone was interpreted as exemplary dreamlike imagery with great accordion, trombone, xylophone and guitar accompaniment. I get that and agree…But I elucidated in our current epoch this song as not just imaginary, but a reflection of what is actually happening now regarding the Multinational power-hungry elite juxtaposed with the heavy burden on the suppressed individual obsessing to have that same power but falling into the abyss. To illustrate this, I want to highlight this comment from You Tube:

In order to stay part of the control group (vaccines)… I was bullied out of my job, my 20 year marriage broke down, I no longer have contact with my family and I lost 99% of my friends. But my gut instinct was so strong I had to listen to it. I still have my 2 adult children (in their 20’s) in my life and one friend. Interesting how these times have changed a whole lifetime of trust and belief.

1. Franks Wild Years – Wikipedia
2. I’ll Be Gone – Song Meanings

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
5 comments on “I’ll Be Gone (1987) – Tom Waits
  1. I like it – even though it’s a bit bizarre and depressing. When it started with the rooster crowing I took my headphones off and went into the lounge thinking “How the hell did that get in here?” but it was nowhere to be found! I like the fact that his “tone of voice” has no pretensions.

    • I had a similar appreciation of this song. That’s funny about the rooster. On another matter Gloria just sent through another painting of Watermelon man. I’ll send it on. Perhaps the idea is to put the first painting on a separate title page and on the second and third page with the translations put her second illustration there. What do you think?

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