Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Have a Dream: Innocent When You Dream

Tom Waits: Innocent When You Dream


There is a history of other artists missing the point when covering the songs of Tom Waits. I love Bruce Springstein’s version of Jersey Girl, but it has a completely different backstory from Waits’ original. As for Rod Stewart’s Downtown Train, don’t get me started. There are a scattering of covers of Innocent When You Dream as well. Probably the best known artists to try the song are Great Lake Swimmers and Mark Ereli. Something very strange happens in these versions: the narrator sobers up! No! Innocent When You Dream starts with the line, “The bat’s are in the belfry.” Here is a guy who lost his love through his own mistakes, and he is drinking himself into oblivion, trying to forget. And that’s not beer either, it’s the strongest whiskey he can find. Tom Waits has portrayed characters like this throughout his career. They scrape the bottom of society, but Waits has always been able to find the beauty in their lives. That is his particular genius, and it is also the quality that is missing in so many covers of his songs.

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