Friday, 18 September 2009

The Obituary Mambo

Just been listening to Tom Waits' "Swordfishtrombones", the song from the album of the same name, and once again the phrase "he's doin' the Obituary Mambo" leapt out at me. Has there ever been another song in which the information that someone has died is communicated with such disreputable, poetic relish?

There must be some other truly unforgettable evocations along similar lines. I always liked, 'He's away down the crow road', which of course Iain Banks used as a title for his - best - novel. (I used to live just off the Crow Road, btw, and I almost never felt properly dead. Just drunk, depressed and on a permanent come-down mostly).

Any better ideas than the Obituary Mambo? Best effort wins a very dinky, highly limited edition CD-style booklet featuring the '40 Greatest Death Songs' chapter from I Shot A Man In Reno, with a specially written new (well, it was new 18 months ago) introduction by me. Oh yes.


Anonymous said...

Always loved the kinks 'see my friend': "She is gone, gone across the river," very sad and mysterious... apprently he wrote it about his sister.


Graeme Thomson said...


Good call, absolutely beautiful song.

Anonymous said...

You can't really beat 'sleeping with the fishes' or - as one variation I heard went - 'snoozing with the sardines'! Genius.

Anonymous said...

Find the River - REM

Anonymous said...

the hangman's jig

Anonymous said...

I always saw "The Obituary Mambo" as Waits' description of the common con of regularly reading obituaries in order to identify recent widows to take advantage of in one of several ways.

The line that immediately follows is "and some say he's hanging on the wall", which I DO see as the possibility of death. It is his use of "and" as a contrasting conjunction that suggests the two have seperate meanings.