>Tom Waits (1985)- Downtown Train
Rod Stewart (1990)- Downtown Train
In one corner we have 61 year old California native, singer-songwriter/actor/ cult artiste extraordinaire Mr Tom Waits and in the other corner we have 66 year old formerly great singer/songwriter/london Scot/millionaire playboy pop star Mr Rod Stewart.
The former version of Mr Wait’s tune was made familiar to my young self by radio play and my father being a Rod fan also playing this version from 1990, by which time the formerly revered ex Faces front man was nearly fifteen years neck deep into his middle aged pop hack phase just prior to ‘The Rhythm of My Heart'(Corny Scottish Bollocks), ‘It Takes Two'(with Tina Turner) and eventually leading to…’All For Love’, that seminal meeting of three wheezy, creatively barren millionaire smugsters, Stewart fulfilling his life’s dream by recording a woeful MOR ballad with fake Canadian rock midget Bryan Adams and pseudo Jazz head Geordie poser The Sting. Downtown Train was a chart hit for Rod and provided Waits with I imagine some welcome royalties.
In all honesty, the latter version isn’t bad, just gussied up with a bit of 80’s over production and a fuller vocal melody which lets Stewart use his admittedly powerful voice to good effect and his heart seems to be in it.
But if you want your heartbroken, go to the original source where the stark sound of Waits low, mangled growl, his emotive phrasing of his vivid, gutter poetry lyrics the spindly guitar lines of Marc Ribot, a rickety organ and half a drum kit expose Stewart’s version for the flaccid middle aged carbon copyist it is as Waits offers up a lean, tender, bleeding chunk of nigh time heartbreak.