Mr. MOJO Rising: TOM WAITS Celebrates The Mag’s 200th Issue!

This piece was originally published June 21st, 2010.

Tom Waits Post IconMOJO Magazine, the illustrious British music mag, has just published its 200th issue.

Incredibly, as a celebration for this important milestone, the powers behind MOJO have decided to turn their magazine over to one of the world’s more talented performers and uniquely creative minds, none other than the inimitable singer-songwriter/musician/actor Tom Waits.

Since their original launch on October 15th, 1993, MOJO Magazine has pretty much steered a righteous ship of sound music journalism with a varied array of splendid coverage of the wide field of popular music that is worthy of writing about.

Anything from the obvious giants such as The Beatles, The Stones, and other British Invaders, through all the Classic Rock, Garage Rock, Psychedelia, Soul, R&B, Funk, Jazz, Country, Folk, Progressive Rock and Krautrock that you could possibly ask for.

While some have derided the mag for spending too much time on the past, the truth is that an equally fair amount is given over to newer artists of all types, experimental acts and those musicians and bands who are so wide ranging as to defy easy categorization.

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This last variety would classify the glorious feather in MOJO’s cap—picking Tom Waits as this issue’s guest editor…


Like some supernatural carnival barker of entertainment, Tom Waits has hovered around mainstream success for almost four decades while still remaining an enigma with uncompromising integrity and underground appeal.


At times he’s charted on Billboard’s Top 100 album list, appeared on SNL, won Grammy Awards, been nominated for an Academy Award, sold out grand tours, has had his songs covered by scores of multi platinum acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, The Eagles, Tori Amos, and actress Scarlett Johansson,with 10 tracks of her debut album, given over to Tom Waits songs.

Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni in a scene from Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law


As an actor Tom has memorably appeared in numerous film masterpieces including Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law, Coffee and Cigarettes and Mystery Train , Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and Waits own concert/documentaryBig Time. More recent roles include that of “Engineer” in The Book Of Eli, and as “Mr. Nick” in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

So just what makes this combination of MOJO and Waits such a remarkable celebration?


A few ingredients include:

Tom Waits editorial opening: A particularly lovely, witty and inventive look at the nature of music and song that transcends the usual “Here’s a look at what’s inside this issue” cliche.

“The Ultimate Guide” to the music of Tom Waits, album by album, which also features a look at Tom’s favorite films of all time.

A dialogue between Tom and Hank Williams III (son to Hank Jr. and grandson of the country legend Hank Williams). This also includes a rundown of Tom’s favorite books.

An interview with one of Tom’s favorite artists, the great Harry Belafonte.

A segment called “Self Portrait” featuring a Q & A with “living legend” Mark E. Smith of The Fall.

A segment of MOJO’s “Last Night A Record Changed My Life” featuring renown experimental performance artist/musician (and wife of Lou Reed!) Laurie Andersonwho comically discusses just what it is about Mr. Waitsthat makes her heart aflutter.

Especially enticing is the CD which is included with the magazine. Tom Waits stayed awake painstakingly selecting, compiling and sequencing a compilation called “Step Right Up” which features his favorite selection of songs, influences and favorite performers. Of course Waits includes some Howlin’ Wolf along with a plethora of eclecticism. Along with Williams S. Burroughs croak crooning, there’s Son House, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Hank Williams and an early Bob Dylan track, which Waits wanted to use so badly he made a personal call to Dylan to clear it.

Congratulations MOJO on your 200th anniversary and a tip of the old black derby to everyone that has made this issue such an incomparable standout. I can’t think of a better way to usher in the heat of summertime reading than with this gem.

Here’s to another 200!!

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