Monday, February 19, 2007

Rod Stewart butchers Tom Waits via You Tube

I guess technology is a double-edged sword, as I doubt without You Tube* there would be any way Rod Stewart's particularly shocking rendition of the Tom Waits classic "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)" would have any chance of being more than a hopefully rapidly fading memory to those unfortunate enough to witness Stewart's massacre back when it was released in '89.

Stewart is better known for taking Wait's great tale of despairing heartache, Downtown Train, and turning it into an overproduced piece of forgettable pop — quite an achievement given the quality of the material he had to destroy.

But this, well this is so much worse.

I had heard rumours he had covered Tom Traubert's Blues. My hopes were not high, but they were still shattered by the horror of it all.

This is an atrocity. Rod Stewart should be hauled to The Hague for his crimes against humanity. Needless to say, I flagged it as inappropriate.

(If Youtube have removed the clip, you can hear the audio-only version.)

I mean what hell does Rod Stewart think he is doing? I think he may have, just maybe, missed the point of the song. It is a lot of things, but smooth, overproduced and lifeless aren't among them. Why is he wearing a fucking dinner jacket? The song is about being drunk and disheveled, not going to a god damn concert recital!

This, while singing lines about being "No prima donna/ The perfume was on a/Shirt that was stained with blood and whiskey"! The only thing his shirt looks like it is ever likely to be stained with is cranberry sauce and chardonay.

And the horror of that perm has to be seen to be believed, topped off as it is with a gold earing and highly disturbing facial hair. Seriously, it looks like he fell into someone's pubic hair with glue on his face.

When you look like that, no amount of earnest staring into the camera, and clutching of the heart, is going to convince anyone you are or can relate to the first person character whose life consists of a "battered old suitcase/in a hotel someplace".

Especially not when when you replace Waits admittedly unmatchable gravely deep-throated voice with a high pitched squeal. It sounds like musak being tortured.

It does, however, have the fascination of a bloody car pile-up in peak hour.

Luckily, You Tube serves both the forces of good as well as evil.

To see how it is *supposed* to be done, see this sublime performance by Waits in 1977.

"Wasted and wounded, it aint what the moon did, I got what I paid for now".

Waits provides a genuinely moving and very beautiful version. If only because you believe he could very well be telling this story from personal experience.

Watching this, you would not be surprised to find out that, just before Waits entered the room and made his way to the piano, his manager was desperately searching the streets looking for him. And, upon finding him slumped on some random park bench, shook him furiously while shouting "Tom! Tom!!! Come on, your late for your show again!!!!"

Then, having shoved black coffee down his throat, pushed him out onto the stage, crossing his fingers and hoping for the best. And Waits, making it to the piano without falling over, produces something as stunning and near-perfect as this rendition of that classic song.

* The video has now mercifully been removed by Youtube - quite possible as a direct result of Carlo Sands' intervention.

However, there is a clip posted to You Tube of Stewart performing the song live on Top of the Pops in 1992 that is almost as bad. At least he isn't wearing the dinner jacket, though he does have the facial hair.

And you can still hear the horror of the studio version here. The person who posted the song was thoughtful enough to provide a slideshow of Rod in action to give at least a visual taste for what has rightly been buried.