"Invitation to the Blues" as written by and Tom Waits....
Well she's up against the register with an apron and a spatula,
Yesterday's deliveries, tickets for the bachelors
She's a moving violation from her conk down to her shoes
Well, it's just an invitation to the blues

And you feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth
At the counter of the Schwab's drugstore
You wonder if she might be single, she's a loner and likes to mingle
Got to be patient, try and pick up a clue

She said How you gonna like 'em, over medium or scrambled?
You say 'anyway's the only way', be careful not to gamble
On a guy with a suitcase and a ticket getting out of here
It's a tired bus station and an old pair of shoes
This ain't nothing but an invitation to the blues

But you can't take your eyes off her, get another cup of java
It's just the way she pours it for you, joking with the customers
Mercy mercy, Mr. Percy, there ain't nothing back in Jersey
But a broken-down jalopy of a man I left behind
And the dream that I was chasing, and a battle with booze
And an open invitation to the blues

But she used to have a sugar daddy and a candy-apple Caddy
And a bank account and everything, accustomed to the finer things
He probably left her for a socialite, and he didn't 'cept at night
And then he's drunk and never even told her that her cared
So they took the registration, and the car-keys and her shoes
And left her with an invitation to the blues

Cause there's a Continental Trailways leaving local bus tonight, good evening
You can have my seat, I'm sticking round here for a while
Get me a room at the Squire, the filling station's hiring
And I can eat here every night, what the hell have I got to lose?
Got a crazy sensation, go or stay? now I gotta choose
And I'll accept your invitation to the blues

Lyrics submitted by yuri_sucupira, edited by HahnFurst, Mellow_Harsher, alerique, Stoo

"Invitation to the Blues" as written by Tom Waits

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Invitation to the Blues song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentOK, this has been one of my favorite songs for 25+ years, and I *just* today figured out that I might have been misinterpreting one of the lyrics. When she says, "There ain't nothing back in Jersey but a broken-down jalopy of a man I left behind" I have always assumed she was referring to an actual car. But when I heard the song today I realized it's probably a metaphor; she's referring to her ex- as a "broken-down jalopy of a man". I'm not usually so literal-minded! I can't believe this great little poetic turn of a phrase has tricked and evaded me for all these years.
    writerlyon November 07, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song opens the extraordinary movie, "Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession." Perfect song for the intro to a complex and disturbing film. Oh, and it proves that Tom Waits will always be one of--if not the--best storytellers in music history.
    driggsyon June 05, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMy favourite Tom Waits song. He KNOWS she's not saint, he KNOWS she's got baggage, he KNOWS it'll end in tears... and yet you get back on that horse called romance. And the imagery, man. "You feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth"... yet you get the feeling she probably isn't THAT good-looking in real life, she's getting on a bit, and he's just a drifter who's nothing like Jimmy Cagney. But hey, that's life.
    beer goodon August 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"He probably left her for a socialite, and he didn't love her 'cept at night,
    And then he's drunk and never even told her that her cared"

    Always brings a lump to my throat...
    smellystudenton September 26, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm not an American, so will someone be kind enough to tell me, when Tom waits speaks of getting a room at the Squire, what he means. Is this a well-known chain of hotels/motels. The other thing is "the counter of the Schwab's drug store", which also makes it sound like a chain of sorts, though the only mention I can find on the Net is Schwab's Pharmacy in LA. (This song - also one of my favourites, by the way, on what to me is the greatest of Waits's albums - sounds to me as if it's set in a smallish town.) I'd be grateful for any background anyone can supply.
    masterjackon June 26, 2012   Link
  • 0
    Song ComparisonThis song tells a story, and it paints the story in a way that is much clearer than most other songs which try to do the same thing.
    Methylphenylethylon November 03, 2013   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThis is one of the most touching songs by Waits. It very well follows americana ballad tradition when the story is easy to understand and the complex emotions and ideas are explained indirectly by pointing out to the details of the scene.

    The song is self-explanatory, really. There's just a few references worth exploring. Schwab's Drugstore (or Schwab's Pharmacy) is probably well-known to many Americans but not to the rest of the world. The place was an actual drug store on a Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood which also served as a cafe. It was a point where movie stars and Hollywood big shots would hang around in 30th-50th. Featured in Sunset Blvd movie, destroyed in 80th. Sunset Blvd is a noir movie, therefore reference helps to set the stage in a film noir style.

    Hollywood's movies of the time are not unlike Comedy del Arte, where every mask has its meaning and its speciality. Cagney's is a complex tough guy with a deep multi-faceted personality, a kinda person every male wants to be deep inside. Rita Hayworth's moniker was "Love Goddess", there's no need to say more.

    All the other names and places mentioned are circumstantial and placed by Waits to provide the feeling of realism, as he often does.

    As the result, song plays very much as a beginning of the film noir. And do you really need a camera to film a noir if you are Tom Waits?
    aleriqueon July 25, 2014   Link

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