on April 13, 2019 | Last updated April 13, 2019
Tom WaitsDowntown Train
Release Type: User Audio Type: Single-track Reductions: Yes (Authored) Pitched Vocals: Yes Vocals Gender: Male (1)
“They say that I have no hits and that I'm difficult to work with. And they say that like it's a bad thing."
Tom Waits – fittingly, he said this during his Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
And indeed, Tom Waits have no “hits”, and he never really seemed to attempt any either. His arguably best work was done right in the middle of the 80’s – the height of synthesizers and drum machines – but Waits was busy recording accordions and marimbas instead. He would spend hours trying to achieve the sound he wanted organically – in various methods, such as hitting the bathroom door with a two by four to create percussion – much to the frustration of his studio engineers, who claimed they could achieve anything he wanted with modern technology. But Tom Waits is pretty stubborn.
But if he ever came close to having a hit – it’s probably this song right here. It took 17 songs, but right at the end of his magnum opus “Rain Dogs”, and after going through many different genres, “Downtown Train” is the first song that have any resemblance to the decade it was released in. It’s still quite far from an actual 80’s pop tune - but the snare drum, the melodic chorus and the smooth guitar line in it definitely have their potential. Which Rod Stewart realized several years later, when his infamous pop cover of this tune became a major Billboard hit. When asked about his opinion of the cover, Waits said he liked it, because “it paid for my swimming pool”.
The Tom Waits original, charted here, is widely beloved by music fans. Rock Band wise, the guitar track is the definite highlight – smooth rhythm, a catchy riff that’s inseparable from the chorus, a great solo, and a sweet outro too. Other instruments are more basic, but are all entertaining and ever present. Waits is an unique vocalist, and you get to sing along with him, and the brilliant ways in which he reinterprets the verses and the chorus. It’s a classic from a legendary artist.