Monday, September 1, 2014


Started on the Far Away Series, and refined by the bloggers noted below, I've been somewhat of a wannabe player in the Battle Of The Bands blogfest, which happens on the first and fifteenth of each month. These guys are to blame for this foolishness:

Far Away Series


Tossing It Out

Your Daily Dose

The way it works is, I put up two versions of a song and you tell me which one you like better.

Simple right? If you look at past comments, some people agonize over this decision, but I'll let you in on a little clue.....there's no wrong answer! Whatever you like IS the right answer!

There's supposed to be a post in five days or so where I tally up the votes and disclose my preference, but I'm generally not motivated enough to do that second post. Plus, if you can sit infront of a computer, I am assuming you can count.

Sometimes, a cover song becomes more popular than the original-in fact, sometimes the original goes largely unheard and people assume that the cover is the original.

Not to pick on Rod Stewart again, but another song he covered was "Downtown Train" by Tom Waits.

Both Stephen T. McCarthy and I have sung Waits' praises as a songwriter, and he's put out some that rank him as one of the best.

His voice is an acquired taste, so he's more unknown as a songwriter than a performer, as the public has no idea who is behind the songs he's written that others turned into hits ("Old '55"-The Eagles, "Jersey Girl"- Bruce Springsteen, "Trampled Rose"-Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, "Long Way Home"-Norah Jones, "Temptation"-Diana Krall).

Me, I like Waits voice, at least on his output through the early eighties (through One From The Heart), after which both his voice and songwriting style seemed to become a "put-on" to be cool with the college crowd.

And while I also like Rod Stewart's voice, after his run of classic albums in the early seventies his choice of material became questionable-anyone else remember living through the pain of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

So let's compare Waits' original recording of "Downtown Train..." Rod's cover:

By now, you know what to do and where to do it...if not, one of the other sites probably spells it out.

And once again, here is a bonus rendition, from the lovely Patty Smyth (formerly of Scandal)...


  1. Tom Waits is one of those guys that I really want to like. I think he is a brilliant songwriter, but his voice... yikes, it just makes me cringe most of the time. And this is one of those times. He has what I call "smoker's voice" and it sounds like he is being strangled by cigarettes. Or just his vocal chords. Whatever.

    So, if the contest is between him and Rod Stewart, I give it to Rod. His voice is also raspy, but in a much more pleasant way for these old ears.

    However, my favorite version is by the incomparable Mary Chapin Carpenter (man, I love her) and one of her best albums - overall - is her first Hometown Girl. It came out in 1987 and didn't do much on the charts. It did include an unusual thing for her - a cover - because she writes nearly all of her own songs. Yep, she covered Tom Waits' Downtown Train.

    You can listen to it here...

    So, give my vote to Rod (grudgingly).

    1. Robin-

      You're not alone-I guess Waits is an acquired taste. I still think his first two albums (Closing Time and (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night) should be owned by everyone-his voice is a little more accessible there (I was never sure if it was produced to be smooth or if his voice is "put-on" in later years).

      I do have a couple of MCC's albums, but you can help me solve my dilemma since I've filed them differently.

      Do I file them under "Chapin-Carpenter" or "Carpenter?"

      One of life's little mysteries...

      Here's another of life's mysteries...I was taught in school to spell dilemna with an "n"....but spell check only likes dilemma.

      Is this another subversive plot?

    2. I am not sure where I would put her... Chapin or Carpenter? I think Carpenter. I think Chapin might be her middle name. Some parents like to give their kids the mother's maiden name as a middle name. My best friend in college has her mom's maiden name for a middle name, and I have discovered a few other cases since then. Or maybe it was just a family name, but I don't think it is part of her last name.

      I don't ever remember spelling dilemma with an "n." Hmm. No answer for you on that one.

    3. It goes on the list of mysteries I will present to St. Peter at the prealy gates....right up there with "does the light stay on after I close the refrigerator door" and "how many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop"?

  2. I had never heard this song by any of these singers before today. I know Tom Waits wrote it, but I've never liked his voice. While Rod Stewart's albums in the early 1970's were superb, his later stuff... enh, and that applies here. I really liked the way that Patty Smyth did this one; she get my vote.

    Arlee wanted me to let you know that I'm also doing BOTB, and I wanted to invite you to see my maiden voyage.

    John Holton
    The Sound Of One Hand Typing

    1. Well, John, almost everyone shares your view of Waits' voice. Check out my comment to Robin, and give those early two albums a listen to see if they change your mind.

  3. I am discovering I have little patience for Tom Waits. You can take the boy out of the pop...

    Although DT is not one of my faves of Rod, his is the vote.

    1. Now a surprise, CW, especially the way the vote is going...

  4. This is a tough one. There is something to dislike about either version. What I would like to choose is Rod Stewart's vocals with Tom Waits' band behind him. But that not being a choice I guess I'm going to go with Stewart on this one. Waits grates on the vocals.

    Patti's version is interesting, but I'd rather hear her band backing up someone like K.T. Oslin. The Smyth version struck me as having a sort of modern country feel.

    Tossing It Out

    1. Lee-

      You're talking trash about my GIRL! Patty rules (and I saw her a couple of years ago-she's still beautiful!)

      I am surprised that TW is getting shut out...

  5. No contest between Rod and Waits; Rod gets my vote. Tom Waits may be an awesome song writer, but he not much of a singer to my ears.

    Now if it was between Rod and Patty; I liked Patty :)

    1. Donna-check out my comment to Robin-I'd still recommend listening to those first two albums before you write off TW's entire body of work.

  6. I enjoyed the 80's energy of interpretation of Patty Smith's version -- I actually preferred that to Rod's. Somehow, he's turned into a schlock lounge act. I actually think Rod was best when he signing with the Jeff Beck Group in the 60's -- long before "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy."

    But I'm going to go with Tom Waits on this one. The vibe on the song with his vocal is a little more rugged and earthier. The recording's a little weird -- it sounds like he's recorded in the can and it doesn't quite mesh with the reverb level of the band. But overall, I like the guitar and Tom's vocals much more than Patty's version or the much-too-slick Rodney.

    1. Chris saves the shut out! Something about Waits' voice has always worked for me (up until about 1982, and then on his latest effort..)

      When he actually sang, it suited his material.

  7. I'm still not sure I'm completely over the pain of Rod Stewart's 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy'. What I do know for certain, however, is that the answer is a resounding "NO!"

    This song comes from the Tom Waits album 'RAIN DOGS', and that's right about where I stopped being a fan. But, that said, there are actually a few tracks on that album that I dig in a bizarre, Can't-Look-Away-From-The-Terrible-Accident sort of way:

    'CLAP HANDS' is freaky 'n' creepy but I genuinely like that one. One could dig an entire movie script out of those lyrics somehow.

    '9TH & HENNEPIN' (sp.?) isn't really a song; it's a spoken word piece but, boy, does it ever have that Film Noir vibe going for it. DR. DISCDUDE, have you ever run across this video someone put together for this Tom Waits track? It's pretty spectacular...

    And then there's 'BIG BLACK MARIAH' which I kinda-sorta like, but not enough to ever consider buying it in any format.

    Those are the only 3 tracks from 'RAIN DOGS' that fascinate me at all.

    On 'DOWNTOWN TRAIN', I like the instrumentation Waits uses better than what's found on the Stewart and Smyth versions. But he's got that "put-on" voice going so thick that the song pretty much loses any sense of melody and it's a chore to listen to.

    Never been much of a Rod Stewart fan and his version of the song has a very JOURNEY-ish feeling to it (and I liked Journey even less than I liked Rod Stewart) but the melody comes through very nicely and I have to admit that (for a Rod Stewart recording) this is pretty well performed. A little too slick, but still pleasing to the ears.

    Listening to the Patty Smyth cover all I could hear was that "Bryan Adams-ish" 1980s sound that pretty much drove me right into the open and waiting arms of Blues music. So... Patty can take her Bryan Adams sound and go home.

    Surprises me too but... I'll vote for Rod on this one.

    ~ Stephen
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Wow...I am SHOCKED!!!

      As I typed the comment about Chris saving the shut out, I was thinking, "well, Stephen will anyway."

      I am a little surprised, because even though I agree with your take on his voice on that album (as you know, we have discussed his career at length), I still though there was enough melody on this song to salvage it.

      Rod was just too smooth for me. A poor man's Sinatra.

      But just seeing you vote for a latter-career Rod Stewart song makes this whole effort wothwhile!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. HA!-HA!
    Well, I am genuinely pleased that I could make your day, Doctor Disc.

    Arlee Bird said the same thing I did, only more directly. If I could combine Rod's vocals with the musical backing on the Tom Waits track, THAT would be the best of both worlds.

    There is absolutely NO QUESTION WHATSOEVER that the Tom Waits "Voice" after the album 'The Heart Of Saturday Night' was a "put-on". I can even PROVE that assertion:

    Waits' third album was the live 1975 release 'Nighthawks At The Diner', and although it IS one of the all-time greatest live albums ever, he clearly has that "over-the-top croaking voice" thing going on. His first two albums, while definitely displaying a gruff, masculine voice, were not "hard" to listen to at all. (It was closer even to Waylon than to Satchmo.)

    It all started with that live third album, then he released 4 more albums that had "the fake voice" throughout them. Many of the songs were great, but you HAD to overlook the sound of the fake voice singing them.

    Then, in 1982, the soundtrack to the movie 'ONE FROM THE HEART' was released and SUDDENLY - VOILA! - Waits, for the most part, sounds more like he did on his first two albums than he did on ANY album that came after.

    Why? Because it was a mainstream movie soundtrack release and NEEDED to appeal to more mainstream music listeners.

    After that, he went back to the fake voice and stayed there... and mostly lost my record-buying money.

    But the only songwriter who has ever been in his league is Dylan, and it was Dylan who influenced Waits. In my opinion, lyrically-speaking, no one has ever topped 'IT'S ALRIGHT, MA (I'M ONLY BLEEDING)', but after that one, I think Waits is the better songwriter.

    I think I'd recommend Tom's 'ONE FROM THE HEART' soundtrack to females before I'd recommend his first two albums. There's the nice Crystal Gale voice included to smooth out the gruff Waits, plus, most women are "romantics" and that is one helluva romantic album!

    The 'One From The Heart' soundtrack is unquestionably one of my Top 20 or 25 favorite albums of all time. (I would even rate it higher than Tom's debut album, but NOT higher than 'The Heart Of Saturday Night'.)

    This was a good BOTB blog bit, LC, because of the diversity of styles.

    Have you checked out that video I gave the URL for? It's really GREAT - PERFECT for that Waits recording.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Stephen-

      I still always wonder if the "softer" voice was party created with studio magic. I agree with your take on the timing, I have just always wondered if his voice was "tampered with" on the first two albums to make it more marketable.

      Just viewed the is classic. It looks good enough to be the artist video!

      For the record-the deleted comment had nothing to do with this exchange.

      I'd posted a note this am letting people know I'd had connectivity issues yesterday and would post comments and responses throughout the day.

      But when I posted all of the reader comments, it looked silly down at the bottom.

  10. I did not know Waits wrote this song, just like I had no idea he wrote 'Ole 55'. Contrary to all the other comments I like him, his songwriting, and his voice; affected or not.

    I used to like Rod and I'm not exactly sure where he turned kind of pretentious and silly to me (maybe it was that 'Do You Think I'm Sexy' - no, not really with that spiky hair and those skinny legs), but I do remember this song and liked his version.

    As for Patty Smyth, she just doesn't seem to have the right feeling in this one.

    Give my vote to ole gravel throat, he is one hell of a songwriter and quite the performer.

    1. I like his voice too, although it was best on the first two releases and like nails on a chalkboard by 1985...but it has a quality that can be almost soothing, if that makes any sense.

      Dylan's voice has developed that over the last ten years or so...they're not going to make Barbara Streisand worry about her place in the pantheon of vocalists, but their voices least for me!

  11. Tom Waits has a one-of-a-kind voice, which I really like, but for this song? Nah, it doesn't do too much for me. So, I'm going to have to go with Rod Stewart on this this. Of course, I am a Rod Stewart fan, but no I don't think he's sexy. He's anything, but sexy. lol

    1. No wrong answers here, Cathy...although I usually go with the writer...

  12. "A poor man's Sinatra." I like that. Maybe that's why I've never liked Rod Stewart. Something about him just never fired on all cylinders for me, and this is no exception.

    As for Tom Waits, well, it seems that either people love him or hate him. I'm in the former, so for me personally this was a very easy vote for Tom.

    1. Bryan- it does seem that way (love him or hate him), right? Although I am still dumbfounded by McCarthy's vote....or maybe I am simply dumb....

  13. My vote is for Rod. I think Tom Waits version would grow on me. The tempo on Patty's version made it sound to hurried to my ears.

  14. votes for Rod, three for TW, one for Patty vote would go to Tom Waits (sorry Patty)

  15. rod and patty bring back memories - gotta go with them! but loved the back stories!