Following on from our last song, Frank Loesser’s Baby It’s Cold Outside, we continue on a call-and-response duet theme and also in a form of romantic context, where a guy played by Tom Waits chats up a woman, Bette Midler, in a bar. Taken from Waits’s fourth album, Foreign Affairs (1977), and later on the compilation Used Songs, it has a characteristically smoky, jazzy feel, but one particular strength is how Midler’s vocals are mimicked by the saxophone and vice versa, calling and repeating phrases, as well as in the sound. The vocal melody, part of the conversation, itself feels like a chatty saxophone solo.
Hell, I ain't a bad guy when you get to know me
I just thought there ain't no harm.
Hey, yeah, just try minding your own business, bud
Who asked you to annoy me
With your sad, sad repartee?
Besides I never talk to strangers anyway.
The pair, who have had a long association - Waits wrote some of the actress and comedian’s earliest songs when she started as a singer - make a great combination, as Midler’s part puts down the poor attempts at seduction sung by Waits, but gradually she begins to like him by the end of the song before they repeat the chorus about never talking to strangers. But they get to know each other, and like a couple drunks gradually falling in love, hostility turns to tenderness.
As long as we ignore
That we all begin as strangers
Just before we find
We really aren't strangers anymore.
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