Waits sings Waits


Dez 20 2006, 23h12

Pasties and a G-String is one of Tom Waits's most memorable songs. Sung by a drunken lecher on the verge of falling off his feet. He is surrounded by temptation and can hardly keep himself standing, much less indulge himself in the sins that surround him. Waits' voice slurs and breaks and cracks and, all in all, manages to tell the story much better than any words could have.

I have two cover versions of this song - on New Coat of Paint - Songs of Tom Waits and Step Right Up: The Songs of Tom Waits, the Tom Waits tribute albums. One is by Andre Williams, one by Jeffrey Lee Pierce - two artists I've never heard of before. Both of them were very disappointing when I first heard them, and I think for the same reason - they were both trying to sound like Waits.

You can argue whether their unstable rambling were more or less aesthetically pleasing than Waits', but they certainly weren't trying to make the song their own, which is what makes for a good cover.

Recently I got myself a copy of Cold Beer on a Hot Night, a live album from 1979. Most of it is comprised of songs from Small Change, like Pasties
and a G-String. On this wonderful album Waits jumps between moods and personas, from the broken-down washed-out has-been in Jitterbug Boy, in the throes of delirium tremens - to the wild and boisterious saxophones of I Wish I Was in New Orleans. Somewhere in there he starts with a cheerful romp through Hokey Cokey, which I think was called Hokey Pokey when I learned it in elementary school in Toronto - the put-your-hands-on-your-hips dance they teach kids. And then, before you know it, he's putting the entire Pasties and a G-String into the Hokey Cokey music. It's cheerful and friendly, and totally unlike the original version, and it simply WORKS. Waits has done a cover version of his own song that does it more justice than any attempted cover has done, not afraid (like he did a lot on that album) to simply squeeze one song into another.

In short, I really like covers - but covers shouldn't only be the original song sung in a the new performer's voice. A new cover should be a reinterpretation of the song, not just a clone.
Envios aceitos
Douglas Coupland, Tom Waits


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