"A Sight for Sore Eyes" as written by and Tom Waits....
A sight for sore eyes, it's a long time no see
Workin' hard hardly workin', hey man, you know me
Water under the bridge, did you see my new car?
Well, it's bought and it's payed for, parked outside of the bar

And hey barkeep, what's keepin' you, keep pourin' drinks
For all these palookas, hey, you know what I thinks
That we toast to the old days and DiMaggio too
And old Drysdale and Mantle, Whitey Ford and to you

Oh, you know, the old gang ain't around, everyone has left town
'Cept for Thumm and Giardina, said they just might be down
Oh, half drunk all the time and I'm all drunk the rest
Yeah, Monk's still the champion, oh but I am the best

And hey barkeep, what's keepin' you, keep pourin' drinks
For all these palookas, hey you know what I thinks
That we toast to the old days and DiMaggio too
And old Drysdale and Mantle, Whitey Ford and to you

Guess you heard about Nash, he was killed in a crash
Oh, that must have been two or three years ago now
Yeah, he spun out and he rolled, he hit a telephone pole
And he died with the radio on

No, she's married, with a kid, finally split up with Sid
He's up North for a nickel's worth for armed robbery
And I'll play you some pinball, no you ain't got a chance
Then go on over and ask her to dance

And hey barkeep, what's keepin' you, keep pourin' drinks
For all these palookas, hey you know what I thinks
That we toast to the old days and DiMaggio too
And Drysdale and Mantle, Whitey Ford and to you


Lyrics submitted by yuri_sucupira, edited by Mellow_Harsher, jeanenepr

"A Sight for Sore Eyes" as written by Tom Waits

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A Sight for Sore Eyes song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentThe melody is based on the Christmas song 'The First Noelle'. This is probably my favourite Waits song, it's just beautiful.

    I think it's sung from the point of view of a guy sitting at a bar drowning his sorrows, so to speak. An old friend comes home (maybe for Christmas time going on the melody) and decides to visit his old hangout/bar only to find out from his old friend at the bar (the singer) that they're all gone their seperate ways. The majority of the song is these two catching up on old times. The singer fills the other guy in on what's happened to everybody. The singer definitely comes across as very lonely the all the old gang are gone, I'd guess that before his old friend walked in he was sitting at the bar on his own.

    I love the way that, from line to line, it jumps between different conversation topics, showing the progression of the convo throughout the night and how time passes so quickly as they're catching up. In the last verse, for example, they're challenging each other to pinball in one line and the singer is telling his friend to approach a girl in the next. It's kinda sad, I think this really conveys how delighted they are to see each other after all these years. The night flies by and it'll be years more before they see each other again (if ever).

    Gotta say, the second last verse (where he tells about his old friend being killed in a crash) gets me every time. The line "he died with the radio on" is amazing. It's syllabically shorter than all the other lines that take place at that part of the melody during the song and because of this (the dead, unexpected stop in the lyrics) it just hits you. It's possible that this was done not just to make you notice but to reflect the notion of the car stopping suddenly upon hitting the telephone pole. Apart from that the line itself sends a chill down my spine. It's such a small detail to say that the radio was on but it just personalises it so much and places you in the situation yourself.

    Anyway, I've rambled on long enough...
    DongerBankson June 30, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentPalooka is a 20-30s term for a boxer of average skill: a big, dumb lug who get paid to be punched in the face - like the narrator, a palooka's life is all about rolling with the punches.

    Notice how the mention of a car parked under a bridge foreshadows the crash in the next verse; Donger's point is especially prescient- the line "& he died with the radio on" is cut short, just like his life was cut short - by a car suddenly coming to a stop by hitting a telephone pole as punctuation mark.

    'Hey barkeeper whats keeping you keep pouring drinks' is especially brilliant. Its an example of either polyptoton or antanaclasis- repetition of the same word with different a) roots b) meanings*.

    Like lots of Waits, this could be 1/2 of a play's dialogue. With the other conversationalist's words elided, it seems as if the narrator is talking to himself more than his friend, speachifying as drunks do. Its as if the more he drinks, the more the past comes swirling into focus, making the present fades away. I wouldnt be surprised if his 'new' car was almost a decade old. Its 'new' because his old friend hasnt seen it yet.

    * An example of antanaclasis if Franklin's: We must all hang together, or we'll all hang seperately; and of polyptoton is Shakespear's "With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder." Wait's phrase is a mix of the two - different meanings, different roots.
    KubalahtKoalaon April 24, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFantastic. I wish I did this song, and those great lyrics.
    But the melody... did Tom Waits borrow this one, like he did with Tom Traubert's Blues?
    MardyAsson October 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoh yeh... Auld Lang Syne or something, right?
    MardyAsson October 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe intro is Auld Lang Syne, but the rest of the song seems very familiar...
    MardyAsson February 05, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is perhaps my favourite Waits song. I have to say "perhaps" because he's written so many masterpieces, but I really do love this one.

    You can almost picture him in his crumpled jacket and newsboy hat, perched on the counter of some seedy New York bar, knocking back the booze and talking to complete strangers the whole night through...
    Diego8978on February 21, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti didn't know that definition for palooka, thanks! only other time i've ever heard it is in quentin tarantino's 'pulp fiction'. travolta's character calls bruce willis's character, a boxer, a palooka. willis takes great offense at that.
    luckymustardon October 28, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the guy he's talking to isn't really there. There's too much affection in his voice. If the guy was really there, he'd be more gruff.
    ASaltyDogon July 09, 2012   Link

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