Tom Traubert's Blues

Album: Small Change (1976)


  • In his usual manner, Waits has given multiple stories about possible meanings and inspirations for "Tom Traubert's Blues." However, in 2007, Waits gave NPR an explanation that sounded particularly sober. He said, "He was a friend of a friend of mine... who lived in Denver, and died in jail. He's a real guy. So, that's a song that is about a lot of things, but mostly I think the idea that a Matilda is a backpack, so it's about going on the loose, being on the road, chasing your dream."
  • Tom Waits wrote this song after visiting skid row in Los Angeles, drinking a pint of rye whiskey and throwing up.
  • Although the chorus is based on the popular Australian anthem, the "Waltzing Matilda," in this song it refers to the cycle of alcoholic behavior. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Russell - London, England, for above 2
  • In 1992 Rod Stewart covered this as "Tom Traubert's Blues (Waltzing Matilda)." It peaked at #6 in the UK singles chart. This was the second time Stewart had charted with a Tom Waits song. In 1990 he had a transatlantic top 10 hit with Waits' "Downtown Train."

Comments: 6

  • Michael from Hornslet, DenmarkActually Matilda refers to the Danish singer and violinist Matilda Bondo with whom Tom Waits had a short, but hot affair with in the early 1970's. The undertitel to the song also refers back to the land of Amled (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen). So Matilde can proudly take her great share of the responsibility why this great song was ever written.
  • Adrian from Melbourne, Australia"Matilda" is what swagmen (hobos) in Australia called their "swags" (bedrolls). So "waltzing matilda" was basically a never-ending dance along the road with one's burden
  • Rocket from New Orleans, LaIn Wild Years it explains that Waits would hang around skid row bars doing character sketches for his songs. One day he told his producer that all those guys are on skid row because of a woman. "A battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace and a wound that will never heal." In Australia "Waltzing Matilda" means to go walk-about (drifting in American).
  • John from Mobile, AlFor the record, Bushmills is Irish whiskey.
  • Eb from Orlando Metro, FlThis song is brilliant in that tragic, doomed, seedy, Sid & Nancy, Charles Bukowski, kind of way. If you spent any time around alcoholics or have battled the curse of the bottle yourself, you will get this. Nothing seems to make sense, yet it a comes together in a fuzzy, poetic, alcoholic haze.
  • Donagh from Nashville, Late Of Nj, TnA Google (or other search engine) search of Tom Traubert's Blues will bring up countless sites rendering numerous theories speculating on the meaning behind this song. College theses on the topic are not uncommon. (kinda sad) Testimonials of people supposedly 'in the know' about the details are plentiful. I spent several hours perusing fascinating writings on the topic of this one song. Some of it paints Waits as a tragic character, who will neither deny or confirm any personal relationship to the song. It's really worth a look.
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