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'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?

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RobbieWilson 08 Jul 10 - 09:01 PM
Joe Offer 08 Jul 10 - 09:19 PM
oldhippie 08 Jul 10 - 09:37 PM
Lonesome EJ 09 Jul 10 - 02:44 AM
Rain Dog 09 Jul 10 - 03:18 AM
Charley Noble 09 Jul 10 - 08:06 AM
RobbieWilson 16 Jul 10 - 12:46 PM
GUEST 26 Jan 12 - 11:47 PM
GUEST 26 Jan 12 - 11:51 PM
Charley Noble 27 Jan 12 - 08:23 AM
Joe_F 27 Jan 12 - 08:15 PM
Jeri 27 Jan 12 - 08:27 PM
GUEST,Grishka 28 Jan 12 - 06:32 PM
GUEST 08 Mar 12 - 11:29 AM
GUEST 08 Mar 12 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,Bro. Ignatius Mary 30 Mar 14 - 05:35 AM
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Subject: shiver my timbers suicide?
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 09:01 PM

At Chester Folk festival Roger Wilson said he had suddenly sussedthat one of my favourite Tom Waits songs was about suicide. He reckoned this because of the line "I know Martin Eden would be proud of me", Martin Eden being the title Character in a book by Jack London, who commits suicide.

Does anyone know of anything to back this up or contradict it?


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Subject: ADDPOP: Shiver Me Timbers (Tom Waits)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 09:19 PM

Hi, Robbie-
I think there are lots of Tom Waits songs that could be considered "suicidal," including this one - but no, I've never heard this one specifically described as suicidal. It's not often that I would describe a Tom Waits song as "joyful" or "uplifting" - but I like a lot of his work. By the way, the Harry Fox Agency lists this song as "Shiver ME Timbers."

SHIVER ME TIMBERS
(Tom Waits)

I'm leavin' my fam'ly
Leavin' all my friends
My body's at home
But my heart's in the wind
Where the clouds are like headlines
On a new front-page sky
My tears are salt water
And the moon's full and high

And I know Martin Eden's
Gonna be proud of me
And many before me
Who've been called by the sea
To be up in the crow's nest
Singin' my say
Shiver me Timbers
'Cause I'm a-sailin' away

And the fog's liftin'
And the sand's shiftin'
I'm driftin' on out
Ol' Captain Ahab
He ain't got nothin' on me, now.
So swallow me, don't follow me
I'm trav'lin' alone
Blue water's my daughter
'n I'm gonna skip like a stone

So please call my missus
Gotta tell her not to cry
'Cause my goodbye is written
By the moon in the sky
Hey and nobody knows me
I can't fathom my stayin'
Shiver me timbers
'Cause I'm a-sailin' away

And the fog's liftin'
And the sand's shiftin'
I'm driftin' on out
Ol' Captain Ahab
He ain't got nothin' on me
So come and swallow me, follow me
I'm trav'lin' alone
Blue water's my daughter
'n I'm gonna skip like a stone

And I'm leavin' my family
Leavin' all my friends
My body's at home
But my heart's in the wind
Where the clouds are like headlines
Upon a new front-page sky
And shiver me timbers
'Cause I'm a-sailin' away

Also recorded by James Taylor and Bette Midler. Oh, and there's a terrific recording by Holly Cole.


from http://www.gugalyrics.com/TOM-WAITS-SHIVER-MY-TIMBERS-LYRICS/46831/
(one of those Websites with the popups....
I verified the transcription with the recording and found it to be correct.


YouTube Recording (click)

Martin Eden sysnopsis here (click)


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: oldhippie
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 09:37 PM

urbandictionary.com states "shiver me timbers" is pirate lingo, meaning to masturbate.


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 02:44 AM

Dont'know, but damned fine lyrics!


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: Rain Dog
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 03:18 AM

Q (1999): You've said that you tend to "bury" directly autobiographical stuff. What about Who Are You? Should we know who that's about?

TW: "Gee, I dunno. I think it's better if you don't. The stories behind most songs are less interesting than the songs themselves. So you say, "Hey, this is about Jackie Kennedy." And it's, "Oh, wow." Then you say, "No, I was just kidding, it's about Nancy Reagan." It's a different song now. In fact, all my songs are about Nancy Reagan."

(Source: "Mojo interview with Tom Waits ". Mojo: Barney Hoskyns. April 1999)


Waits, like quite a lot of writers, never likes to give too much away about what his songs might mean. You could certainly read that as a song about someone who is going to commit suicide. You could possibly read it as a song about someone who is dying.

I would not agree with Joe that Waits has written lots of songs that could be considered "suicidal," but I do agree with him about the Holly Cole cover. The version on the album Temptation (which is all Waits songs) is one I like a lot


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Jul 10 - 08:06 AM

Here's my favorite explanation for the expression "Shiver me timbers":

Shiver My Timbers! ... (expletive denoting surprise or disbelief)
Presumably, this expression alludes to a ship's striking a rock or shoal so hard that her timbers shiver. The expression was first seen in 1834 in the novel Jacob Faithfully by Frederick Marryat. In 1881, Robert Louis Stevenson found it to be the perfect exclamation for the irascible Long John Silver: "So! Shiver me timbers, here's Jim Hawkins!" This stereotypical expletive became extremely popular with writers of sea yarns and Hollywood swashbucklers.
From When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech (1996) by Olivia A. Isil


Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 16 Jul 10 - 12:46 PM

Thanks for the responses so far, sorry I haven't been in for a bit to reply before.

I wasn't really looking at the origins of the phrase so much as looking at the theme of the song. Roger Wilson came to the conclusion that it was about suicide from the Martin Eden reference.    I have never read Martin Eden myself, only a synopsis in wiki.

I have always felt that the song was more of a traditional rambler's "must be moving on" song with a fairly positive feel and that is still where I will be when I sing it. I just wondered if anyone else shared Roger's reading of it or knew of any comments from TW himself.


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Jan 12 - 11:47 PM

i totally read it as a suicidal song


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Jan 12 - 11:51 PM

(and two people have said the same in comments on this page: http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/50433/ )

it seems pretty obvious to me that the song is about suicide, but i guess it could just be the way i'm feeling right now that colors it like that


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Jan 12 - 08:23 AM

Guest-

Sometimes a song like this can help us re-access our thoughts, for better or for worse. Hoping for the better in your case.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: Joe_F
Date: 27 Jan 12 - 08:15 PM

Taking the 4th stanza alone, I could easily believe it was a suicide note. But the first (& last) seem to argue for a literal interpretation: He's going far away.


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: Jeri
Date: 27 Jan 12 - 08:27 PM

My body's at home
But my heart's in the wind


It's definitely metaphorical, but it strikes me as too optimistic to be suicidal. He's either just falling asleep and dreaming it or he's dying in some way. Could easily be about Alzheimer's.


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 28 Jan 12 - 06:32 PM

Altzheimer patients have their brains in the wind, but their hearts are usually more at home than in their younger days.

It is an old poetic stereotype to find oneself not at home in this world. Suicide is a metaphor by itself; those who write or sing about it, e.g. Goethe, tend die of old age. (Persons who threaten to kill themselves are not poets, and some actually do it.)


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Mar 12 - 11:29 AM

No Question the song is about suicide.

"My goodbye is written", (suicide note),"By the moon and the sky." "And nobody knows me, and I can't fathom my staying..." For whatever reason, the song is not about the "tragety," but "beauty" of exiting "this life" and moving toward "the next." An interesting spin from a master of spinning: Mr. Tom Waits.

One of my favorites!!! What a beautiful, soulfull ballad. They dont write stuff like this anymore.

Adam


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Mar 12 - 11:32 AM

No Question the song is about suicide.

"My goodbye is written", (suicide note),"By the moon and the sky." "And nobody knows me, and I can't fathom my staying..." For whatever reason, the song is not about the "tragety," but "beauty" of exiting "this life" and moving toward "the next." An interesting spin from a master of spinning: Mr. Tom Waits.

One of my favorites!!! What a beautiful, soulful ballad. They dont write stuff like this anymore.

Adam


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Subject: RE: 'Shiver My Timbers' (Tom Waits) - suicide?
From: GUEST,Bro. Ignatius Mary
Date: 30 Mar 14 - 05:35 AM

Obviously about suicide? Not even close.

Yes, Martin Eden is a Jack London character who killed himself, but there was more to that character than suicide. Why does everyone evaluate Eden by his last act? Martin Eden was struggling to become a writer. His obsession is to better himself to be accepted, but finds that acceptance never comes until he finally finds favor with publishers. By this time Eden is indifferent. This reminds me of indifference that comes when one's friend are fair-weather friends, only friends when one is successful.

In the song, then, Martin Eden would be proud of me can mean that Eden would be proud of our struggle to be what we want to be despite fair-weather friends.

I know this is a positive interpretation, but there is nothing wrong with that.

I think this interpretation is line with the reference of Captain Ahab, whose primary characteristic was his single-minded morbid obsession to after a perceived enemy, Moby Dick. But, in reality the enemy is himself.

The song, as I see it is about going to sea, that is, dying (not from suicide) and going into eternity, as in Tennyson's poem, Cross the Bar: "Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea..."

It is about a man with many flaws, whose enemy was himself, but who strived to accomplish something in life and resented fair-weather friends as this was not true acceptance of him as a person, as a writer. I identify with that.

I plan on using this song as one make my own farewell to family and fiends as a kind epitaph.


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