Listening to Tom Waits gave me a new dream

An ambition of mine was newly discovered this week, while listening to a Spotify playlist compiled from some songs that stood out and brought my roving and restless mind to peace.

Late Date on RTE Radio 1 has been regular company these past few months.

Cathal Murray, one of the presenters, has a particularly eclectic taste in music that seems to tick many of the my criteria for great music. (Admission: I have never set out what these criteria are, and I still haven’t. He just … picks music that seems to resonate with me, no matter what mood or frame of mind I’m in.)

During the pandemic, Murray has created his own little recurring tagline for the show:

“Escapism through music”

I like that. Music can transport us away in ways that few other things can. Call that escapism, or transcendence, or a mystic train through lands of wonder. Whatever it is, it is a moving and joyous experience to have songs selected, and given slow air-time to unfold, without the intense pressure of ads or the news cycle that torments so much of radio. (It’s no coincidence that the shipping forecast is aired during this late night show…)

One of the songs played not that long ago was “Downtown Train”.

Now I — and maybe you too — only remembered “Downtown Train” as a poppy Rod Stewart hit single from 30-odd years ago.

It was only lately, via Late Date, I realised that the song was written and recorded by Tom Waits for his 1985 album Rain Dogs.

Listening to the Waits original, and watching some of his old performances on YouTube, made me think a lot about how we spend our time.

And I realised, with some force, that it is an ambition of mine to do something, anything, in life with the all-in, screw-all-onlookers temperament of Tom Waits as he sings “Downtown Train”.

Here’s a live version he recorded at a festival in Italy in 1986.

And here’s the original.

Aside 1: YouTube comments are often a sewer-pipe of the Internet, but the original includes maybe the best YouTube comment I’ve ever read:

“Tom Waits writes songs about wounded people with just a few drops of dream left.”

Aside 2: I’ve previously written about a previous Late Date presenter, Maxi, here.