The Art of the Sell: Nighthawks at the Diner

These posts celebrate the movie trailers, movie posters, commercials, print ads, and other promotional material that stand as their own works of art. 

waits

In 1975, when Tom Waits released Nighthawks at the Diner, he had only been a known quantity for two years, with just a pair of studio full-lengths to his credit. He was in his mid-twenties, though he already looked like a bedraggled middle-aged man who’d spent a few too many nights helping keep a barstool in place. The Waits persona was already firmly in place.

Not that there’s a desperate need for proof of the above assertion, but I’ll still submit the print as for Nighthawks at the Diner as evidence. There are so many spectacular details in the ad: the assertion that Waits is “the entertainer for the 70’s,” the word ballon that has Waits equating aspirations to syphilis, the implied use of the word “fuckers.” And there’s Waits — in the image from the album cover — cigarette in hand, peering out the window, looking near drunken collapse. I’m projecting a bit, but I’m quite confident my interpretation is the one the label was expecting.

As means of promoting an album, it may not have the modern panache of a surprise midnight announcement or the debut of a song at a Super Bowl halftime show. But it damn well makes me want to listen to the record again.

Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Art of the Sell” tag.

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