Foreign Affairs (album)

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This article is about the album by Tom Waits. For other uses, see Foreign affairs (disambiguation).
Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Tom Waits.jpg
Studio album by Tom Waits
Released September 1977
Recorded July 28–August 15, 1977
Genre Jazz, Blues, Folk
Length 41:53
Label Asylum
Producer Bones Howe
Tom Waits chronology
Small Change
Foreign Affairs
Blue Valentine
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars link
Mojo 3/5 stars
Robert Christgau (B) link
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[1]

Foreign Affairs is the fourth studio album by Tom Waits, released in 1977 on Elektra Entertainment. It was produced by Bones Howe, and featured Bette Midler singing a duet with Waits on "I Never Talk to Strangers".


Bones Howe, the album's producer, remembers the album's original concept and production approach thus:

[Waits] talked to me about doing this other material [...] He said, "I'm going to do the demos first, and then I'm gonna let you listen to them. Then we should talk about what it should be." I listened to the material and said, "It's like a black-and-white movie." That's where the cover came from. The whole idea that it was going to be a black-and-white movie. It's the way it seemed to me when we were putting it together. Whether or not it came out that way, I don't have any idea, because there's such metamorphosis when you're working on [records]. They change and change.[2]


Pictured on the cover with Waits is a Native American woman named Marsheila Cockrell, who worked at the box office of The Troubadour in Los Angeles. "She was a girl who was... not a girlfriend but she thought she was a girlfriend."[3]

For the album cover Waits wanted to convey the film-noir mood that coloured so many of the songs. Veteran Hollywood portraitist George Hurrell was hired to shoot Waits, both alone and in a clutch with a shadowy female whose ring-encrusted right hand clamped a passport to his chest. The back-cover shot of Tom was particularly good, casting him as a slicked-back hoodlum—half matinee idol, half hair-trigger psychopath. The inner sleeve depicted the soused singer clawing at the keys of his Tropicana upright.[3]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Tom Waits, except where noted.

Side one

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Cinny's Waltz" (Instrumental)   2:17
2. "Muriel"     3:33
3. "I Never Talk to Strangers"     3:38
4. "Medley: Jack & Neal/California, Here I Come"   "California, Here I Come" by Joseph Meyer, Al Jolson and Buddy De Sylva 5:01
5. "A Sight for Sore Eyes"     4:40

Side two

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Potter's Field"   Words: Waits - Music: Bob Alcivar 8:40
2. "Burma-Shave"     6:34
3. "Barber Shop"     3:54
4. "Foreign Affair"     3:46



  1. ^ "Tom Waits: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 19, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Tom Waits Time line: 1976—1980". Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  3. ^ a b Hoskyns, Barney. Low Side of the Road: a life of Tom Waits pp. 189-91