Jan 312010

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can.

“This is a song about suicide,” Tom Waits said by way of introduction to “Tango Till They’re Sore” at a 1996 concert. “But it’s a fun song.”

That dichotomy could describe half of Tom’s musical oeuvre, but in a 1983 promo for Rain Dogs, the album on which “Tango” first appeared, Tom made everything clear: “I had this friend who fell out of the window on New Year’s Eve. 12 storeys, not a scratch. His hat blew off. The only thing that broke his fall was the fact that he had a little confetti in his hair.”

Here’s Waits performing “Tango” on Letterman in 1985, with a similar introduction (and actual confetti). Plus, keep the video going for an incredible follow up interview where Dave can barely keep it together. “My father was an exhaust manifold and my mother was a tree…”

Hailing from St. Petersburg, Vadim “Billy” Novik describes the music he makes with Billy’s Band as “funeral Dixieland.” If that screams “Waits” to you, it’s no coincidence. Discovering Tom’s music in the late ‘90s inspired Novik to revive a flagging music career. In 2005 the band released the phenomenal covers album Being Tom Waits as tribute. You can download three tracks (“Clap Hands,” “Temptation,” “More Than Rain”) at their Russian-language website.

From the cabaret stomps to the hoarse vocals hollers, “Tango Till They’re Sore” gets the complete off-kilter treatment with Eastern-bloc accent and a little “Clap Hands” reprise thrown in for good measure. “I’ll tell you all my secrets, but I’ll lie about my past,” Novik sings, and from the sound of his sinister bar-buddy delivery you wouldn’t trust him farther than you can throw him. Which, given that he’s rarely without his double-bass, wouldn’t be very far.

Billy’s Band – Tango Till They’re Sore (Tom Waits) [Buy]

What do you think? Discuss this song in the comments section below.

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