Tom Waits isn’t afraid of dying, if addressing his decayed body and the mice living in his skull right at the beginning of new single “Satisfied” means anything. But he’s very much alive in the video for the song, off his new (17th!) album Bad As Me, demonstrating moves younger men only wish they could pull off.
Shot in black and white in a backyard with a strong backlight, Waits may appear ghostly, but his stomping and hand-clapping early on in the video quickly brings him back to life, transforming him into a drunk undertaker at his niece’s wedding. Or, if you take the “put the bullet back in the barrel” lines and cocaine-shooting mimings seriously, he’s a man at the door of death. But that’s part of what Waits is getting at—a person’s existence doesn’t end at death, but transcends it (if their legacy is strong enough). Which is why he’s not sitting on his laurels—not that Waits stands still long enough to even think about sitting. That satisfaction he’s proclaiming as his is something he’s still after and will be chasing until he’s gone. Like he tells Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, “I will scratch what I’ve been itching” (a vow that would seem incomplete without Waits doing his best gorilla impression and actually scratching himself). We just want to learn how to dance like that.