Tom Waits: “Ol’ 55”

Posted: December 7, 2013 in THE CLASH of Cover Tunes
Tags: , , , , , ,
"Free markets will not prevail without unfettered competition among cover songs." - Milton Friedbyrd

“Free markets will not prevail without unfettered competition among cover songs.” – Milton Friedbyrd

Ol’ 55 is one of Waits’ early masterpieces. Typical of his early work the delivery, imagery and rhythm of Ol’ 55 conjure up a scene as real as any you’ve actually experienced. This period of Waits’ work is akin to reading classic Bukowski, peering into the underbelly of society and, for that period of time, feeling as if you’re right alongside the protagonist, eager to continue observing, without actually having to experience the highs and lows of a unique and bizarre, yet somehow endearing, subculture that resides somewhere on the other side of town …

The Original

Tom Waits:

Ask yourself this: How many musicians can work the words “lickety-splitly” into a flawless number?

Wait’s original, stripped down version, which I think I like best.

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The more polished version that opened Tom’s debut album (i.e. Closing Time):

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The Most Popular

The Eagles:

The Eagles’ uninspiring, vanilla rendition of Ol’ 55 was sadly the song’s most popular version. In Wait’s words he was “not that particularly crazy about [the Eagles’] rendition of it … I thought their version was a little antiseptic.” Waits was being kind …

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The Cover Songs Competition

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Dave Alvin vs. Sarah McLachlan

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Dave Alvin:

Sarah McLachlan:

Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. Only one cover tune will live to play another day and it is your solemn responsibility to decide which one prevails. So tell me … Which Side Are You On?!!?

Also, keep in mind that if you should spontaneously self-actualize while playing a cover then you could – and probably should – nominate it for Top 10 (i.e. “Impeccable”) consideration.

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Votes can be cast up to seven days from the day and time of the original post.

Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.

Comments
  1. RDubbs says:

    One of my favorite Tom Waits songs. It never gets old. I don’t see anyone ever knocking this tune out as well as Tom did (and he’ll never be able to pull it off anywhere near as well as this again). Alvin does a good job but Sarah’s take is quite better.

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