Tom Waits – Tom Traubert’s Blues (live-1977)

Tom Waits performs his song Tom Traubert’s Blues (also known as Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen, sometimes referred to incorrectly as “Waltzing Matilda”, the Australian song from which it borrows) on The Old Grey Whistle Test, 1977.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZmqbcBsTAw

The song was written by Tom Waits while he was living in London, England in 1976. In an interview on NPR’s World Cafe in December 2006, Waits stated that the title character was “a friend of a friend” who had died in prison. The song’s subtitle (“Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen”) is a reference to the time that Waits spent in Copenhagen, Denmark while on tour in June 1976. In Copenhagen, Waits had met Danish singer and violinist Mathilde Bondo. Bondo performed violin during Waits’ appearance on the DR1 TV show Sange Efter Lukketid and said that she “of course had to show him the city–we were in Tivoli and on Christianshavn. It was a lovely night (…) we waltzed a lot” Bondo later said “I’m really proud to have been the muse for his song” and referred to Waits’ depiction of Copenhagen as “somewhat ambiguous but it’s a wonderful song.” In May 1979, Waits himself confirmed the song’s origins during a live performance in Sydney, Australia, stating “I met this girl named Matilda. And uh, I had a little too much to drink that night. This is about throwing up in a foreign country.”

It is the opening track on Waits’ third studio album Small Change, released in September 1976 on Asylum Records.

Lyrics

Wasted and wounded, it ain’t what the moon did
I’ve got what I paid for now
See ya tomorrow, hey Frank, can I borrow
A couple of bucks from you?
To go Waltzing Mathilda, Waltzing Mathilda
You’ll go Waltzing Mathilda with me

I’m an innocent victim of a blinded alley
And I’m tired of all these soldiers here
No one speaks English, and every thing’s broken
And my Stacys are soaking wet
To go Waltzing Mathilda, Waltzing Mathilda
You’ll go Waltzing Mathilda with me

Now the dogs are barking and the taxi cab’s parking
A lot they can do for me
I begged you to stab me, you tore my shirt open
And I’m down on my knees tonight
Old Bushmills I staggered, you buried the dagger in
Your silhouette window light
To go Waltzing Mathilda, Waltzing Mathilda
You’ll go Waltzing Mathilda with me

Now I lost my Saint Christopher now that I’ve kissed her
And the one-armed bandit knows
And the Maverick Chinamen, and the cold-blooded signs
And the girls down by the strip-tease shows go
Waltzing Mathilda, Waltzing Mathilda
You’ll go Waltzing Mathilda with me

No, I don’t want your sympathy, the fugitives say
That the streets aren’t for dreaming now
Manslaughter dragnets and the ghosts that sell memories
They want a piece of the action anyhow go
Waltzing Mathilda, Waltzing Mathilda
You’ll go Waltzing Mathilda with me

And you can ask any sailor, and the keys from the jailer
And the old men in wheelchairs know
That Mathilda’s the defendant, she killed about a hundred
And she follows wherever you may go
Waltzing Mathilda, Waltzing Mathilda
You’ll go Waltzing Mathilda with me

And it’s a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace
And a wound that will never heal
No Prima Donna, the perfume is on
An old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey
And goodnight to the street sweepers
The night watchman flame keepers and goodnight to Mathilda too

Sources