Downtown Train is a song by Tom Waits released on his album Rain Dogs in 1985. I remember hearing Rob Stewart’s version in my youth which was a huge hit. Bob Seger and Patty Smyth also recorded a version of it. Rain Dogs is often cited by many of Tom’s fans as their favourite record. You gotta love how Rod Stewart is singing in his video from his terrace in his Uptown doorman building while drinking a glass of wine, and Tom is outside of his Downtown walk-up and drinking out of a paper bag. What really stands out for me is Tom’s writing here:
Outside another yellow moon
Punched a hole in the nighttime, yes
I climb through the window and down the street
Shining like a new dime
The downtown trains are full
With all those Brooklyn girls
They try so hard to break out of their little worlds
You wave your hand and they scatter like crows
They have nothing that will ever capture your heart
They’re just thorns without the rose
Be careful of them in the dark
The guitar work here by the late Robert Quine is sublime! This and Tom’s voice has so much soul and passion which draws me in. He intentionally avoids the trappings of what we expect from mainstream pop stars, but sometimes like here he lands on something that seems destined to live a life in a mainstream way.
The promo video for this song below is a piece of art. It was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino and features the boxer Jake LaMotta thought to have one of the greatest chins in boxing history and whose life was depicted by Martin Scorsese in Raging Bull.