This album "TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone" is the album by American singer-songwriter Tom Waits, released in September 1983. It was the first album that Waits produced himself.

This web page has photos of album covers, inner sleeves, record labels together with production details, musicians and track-listing.


TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album front cover

Album Description:

n a dark and stormy night in 1983, the world was gifted with a piece of musical artistry that defied convention and took listeners on a surreal journey through the realms of avant-garde. Tom Waits, the gravel-voiced troubadour known for his eccentricity and unique storytelling, delivered his masterpiece, "Swordfishtrombone", a 12" LP vinyl album that would forever etch his name into the world of musical history.

The Birth of "Swordfishtrombone"

"Swordfishtrombone" marked a significant turning point in Tom Waits' career. It was his first album as a self-produced artist, giving him complete creative control to weave his tales of the strange and the beautiful. Released in September 1983, it was a daring departure from his earlier works and signaled a shift towards a more experimental and avant-garde style.

The Meaning of "Swordfishtrombone"

"Swordfishtrombone", the title of Tom Waits' 1983 album and the opening track of the same name, is a term that appears to be a product of Waits' unique and often surreal lyricism. It doesn't have a clear, literal meaning in the conventional sense, and its interpretation largely depends on the context within the song and the album as a whole.

In the song "Swordfishtrombone"," the lyrics are cryptic and fragmented, much like many of Waits' works. The term seems to evoke a sense of mystery and the bizarre, which is characteristic of Waits' storytelling style. It's important to note that Tom Waits often incorporates unconventional and abstract imagery in his lyrics to create a dreamlike or otherworldly atmosphere.

Overall, "Swordfishtrombone" can be seen as an example of Tom Waits' use of language to create vivid and enigmatic storytelling rather than having a specific, readily definable meaning. It's part of the charm and intrigue of his music, inviting listeners to interpret and immerse themselves in his unique lyrical universe.

Behind the Sound

Behind this auditory masterpiece was a team of talented individuals who contributed to the album's unique sonic landscape. Biff Dawes, the sound/recording engineer, played a pivotal role in capturing the raw essence of Waits' vision. The album was mastered by Jeff Sanders at Kendn Recorders, ensuring that every note resonated with precision.

The album cover, adorned with a TinTone photograph by Michael A. Russ, set the stage for the surreal experience that awaited listeners. It was a visual representation of the otherworldly journey that the music would take them on.

The Musicians

Tom Waits, with his distinctive gravelly voice and mastery of keyboards, led the charge as the album's vocal and keyboard maestro. He was accompanied by a roster of remarkable musicians who added layers of complexity to the album's sonic tapestry:

- Victor Feldman, the bass marimba bells virtuoso.
- Larry Taylor, the maestro of the acoustic bass.
- Randy Aldcroft, who lent his baritone horn prowess.
- Stephen Taylor Arvizu Hodges, the percussion wizard, handling drums, cymbals, parade bass drum, and the haunting glass harmonica.
- Fred Tackett, the electric guitar virtuoso.
- Francis Thumm, responsible for the mesmerizing metal aunglongs.
- Greg Cohen, the bass virtuoso.
- Joe Romano and Bill Reichenbach, the trombone tandem.
- Anthony Clark Stewart, whose bagpipes added a haunting dimension.
- Clark Spangler, the synthesizer program wizard.
- Dick (Slyde) Hyde, another master of the trombone.
- Ronnie Barron, the Hammond Organ virtuoso.
- Eric Bikales, who handled the organ.
- Carlos Guitarlos, the electric guitar maestro.
- Richard Gibbs, who contributed to the eerie soundscape with the glass harmonica.

This ensemble of extraordinary talents created a cacophony of sounds, textures, and emotions that defied categorization, transcending the boundaries of traditional music genres.

The Sonic Journey

"Swordfishtrombone" isn't an album; it's a sonic odyssey. Tom Waits, with his unique storytelling abilities and unconventional instrumentation, invites listeners to embark on a voyage through the strange and surreal. Each track unfolds like a chapter in a dark and whimsical fairy tale.

From the jarring clang of metal aunglongs in "16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought-Six" to the haunting bagpipes in "Frank's Wild Years" and the mysterious glass harmonica in "Shore Leave", every song paints a vivid picture in the listener's mind. The lyrics, in true Waitsian fashion, are a combination of the profound and the absurd, leaving room for interpretation and contemplation.

Music Genre:

  Alternative Rock, Jazz Rock 

Album Production Information:

The album: "TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone" was produced by:

Sound/Recording Engineer(s): Biff Dawes

Mastered by Jeff Sanders at Kendn Recorders

Album cover TinTone photograph by Michael A. Russ.

Record Label Information:

  ISLAND 205 774

Media Format:

12" LP Vinyl Stereo Gramophone Record

Total Album (Cover+Record) weight: 230 gram

Year & Country:

  1983 Made in Germany / Holland
Personnel/Band Members and Musicians on: TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone
    Band-members, Musicians and Performers
  • Tom Waits - Vocal , Keyboards
  • Victor Feldman - Bass Marimba Bells
  • Larry Taylor - Acoustic Bass
  • Randy Aldcroft - Baritone Horn
  • Stephen Taylor Arvizu Hodges - Drums Cymbals (2:1), Parade Bass Drum (2:8), Glass Harmonica (2:9)
  • Fred Tackett - Electric Guitar
  • Francis Thumm - Metal Aunglongs
  • Greg Cohen - Bass
  • Joe Romano - Trombone
  • Anthony Clark Stewart - Bagpipes
  • Clark Spangler - Synthesizer Program
  • Bill Reichenbach - Trombone
  • Dick (Slyde) Hyde - Trombone
  • Ronnie Barron - Hammond Organ
  • Eric Bikales - Organ
  • Carlos Guitarlos - Electric Guitar
  • Richard Gibbs - Glass Harmonica
Complete Track-listing of the album "TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone"

The detailed tracklist of this record "TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone" is:

    Track-listing Side One:
  1. "Underground" – 1:58
  2. "Shore Leave" – 4:12
  3. "Dave the Butcher" (instrumental) – 2:15
  4. "Johnsburg, Illinois" – 1:30
  5. "16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought-Six" – 4:30
  6. "Town With No Cheer" – 4:22
    Track-listing Side Two:
  1. "In the Neighborhood" – 3:04
  2. "Just Another Sucker on the Vine" (instrumental) – 1:42
  3. "Frank's Wild Years" – 1:50
  4. "Swordfishtrombone" – 3:00
  5. "Down, Down, Down" – 2:10
  6. "Soldier's Things" – 3:15
  7. "Gin Soaked Boy" – 2:20
  8. "Trouble's Braids" – 1:18
  9. "Rainbirds" (instrumental) – 3:05

Album Photo Gallery of TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album


Front Cover Photo Of TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album


TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album front cover

 Note: The photos on this page are taken from albums in my personal collection. Slight differences in color may exist due to the use of the camera's flash. Images can be zoomed in/out ( eg pinch with your fingers on a tablet or smartphone ).

Photo Of The Back Cover TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album


TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album back cover

First Photo Of Custom Inner Sleeve TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album


TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album custom inner sleeve

Second Photo Of Custom Inner Sleeve TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album


TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album custom inner sleeve

Close up of Side One record's label TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombone 12" LP Vinyl Album

"Swordfishtrombone" Record Label Details: ISLAND 205 774

Close up of "Swordfishtrombone" Record Label Details: ISLAND 205 774