Wondering what on earth Tom Waits listens to? Here’s his 20 favourite albums

Ever been absolutely befuddled at what mixture of music could have possibly influenced Tom Waits? Gear it from the man himself with a list of his 20 favourite albums of all time.

Making your way through Tom Waits discography, you’ll be guided through scenes of seedy night clubs, pubs, and bars inhabited by drunks, poets and a series of questionable characters. Its agreed, nobody makes music like Tom Waits. 

If you’ve ever wondered what bizarre combination of musical tastes have influenced Waits’ gloriously unique body of work, you’re not alone. Luckily Waits himself has shared his all-time 20 favourite albums, giving us all a brief glimpse of what has made its way through his earholes throughout the years.

Tom Waits
Photo: David Corio/Redferns

The list includes various musical icons one would expect to find, including Frank Zappa, Leonard Cohen, Thelonious Monk, and James Brown. Yet there are definitely a few surprises too.

Tom Waits influences: Waits has previously expressed his love of James Brown, comparing seeing him live to a “mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Christmas… You’d been changed… everybody wanted to step down, step forward, take communion… get close to the stage and be anointed with his sweat, his cold sweat.”

Not only has Waits shared his list of favourite albums, he also wrote a mini-essay on each album for the Guardian, succinctly explaining his love for each one.

Waits’ career of avant-garde jazz, experimental, rock, and blues has undeniably influenced and inspired musicians around the globe, and will continue to do so for generations to come. Though if you want to hear for yourself what has influenced Tom Waits, check out Tom Waits favorite albums and listen to a playlist of these albums courtesy of Open Culture.

Top 20 albums list below:

  1. Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours
  2. Thelonious Monk – Solo Monk
  3. Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica
  4. The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street
  5. Gavin Bryers – The Sinking Of The Titanic
  6. Bob Dylan – The Basement Tapes
  7. Lounge Lizards – Self Titled
  8. The Pogues – Rum Sodomy and The Lash
  9. Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
  10. Little Richard – The Specialty Sessions
  11. James Brown – Startime
  12. Texas-Czech – Bohemian-Moravian Bands
  13. Frank Zappa – The Yellow Shark
  14. Passion for Opera Aria
  15. Bill Hicks – Rant in E Minor
  16. Prison Songs: Murderous Home Alan Lomax Collection
  17. Marc Ribot – Cubanos Postizos
  18. Houndog – Self Titled
  19. Les Claypool – Purple Onion
  20. Elvis Costello – The Delivery Man