Monday, November 29, 2010

“Gun Street Girl”

Happy Monday!  I’m back with some Monday Morning Blues, tho using the word “blues” for today’s song is a bit of a stretch.  It’s Tom Waits’ great song “Gun Street Girl” from his amazing Rain Dogs album—for my money, definitely a “desert island” selection.

If by chance you haven’t heard the original—& for that matter, the entire Rain Dogs album—you really need to do so.  Waits’ whiskey-&-cigarettes-at-4:00 a.m. voice is backed by banjo & some very cool percussion.  Of course, to say that a Waits’ song has cool percussion is stating the obvious, especially on practically all of his work from the 80s & 90s.  But since the arrangement of “Gun Street Girl” is so spare, the percussion becomes a major voice on the song, even by Waits’ standards.

For those who are interested in musical minutiae: as was the case with last week’s song, “Country Blues,” I was tempted to record this using the banjo as backing.  I tried it in the standard G tuning, playing what amounted to a D “power chord” alternating with a D suspended chord, but the key of D didn’t seem to mesh with my voice.  I re-tuned the banjo to some odd tunings in the key of F, & that didn’t seem to work either, tho the banjo part sounded weird in all the best senses of the word—there were just too many dissonances in any tuning I tried.  So I decided to vocalize this in F, but using the Regal resonator guitar in drop D tuning, with a capo on fret 3.  I love the drop D tuning for modal songs.

Next month Mondays will be a bit different—between Hank Williams, Dock Boggs & Tom Waits, these last few weeks have been pretty dire!  No Christmas tunes, but something much more light-hearted—yours truly will be dusting off the ukuleles to play you some old standards—instrumentals all!  & yes, there will be an Alice of Wonder Band song of the month on the Monday prior to Christmas—& that one will be seasonal.

If you'd like some more music
—& poetry too—please check out the first installment of Music Theory for Poets on The Spring Ghazals blog.

In the meantime, hope you enjoy my take on “Gun Street Girl.”


  1. Yet another delightful track, and another introduction to an album I have not listened to. Needless to say, I have checked it out on Spotify.

  2. Ah, I've always loved Tom Waits! Nice work on your version, John.

  3. Hi Alan & Roy

    Alan: I'm glad you listened to my track first! Enjoy Rain Dogs.

    Roy: Thanks! Yes, I've loved Waits' music just about from the get-go.

  4. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed the post. I'm not very musically inclined nor do I know much about music (even though I did play the violin and the clarinet growing up) but I do enjoy these posts as they challenge my brain! :-)

  5. Hi Raquelle: Thanks so much! You can't be completely musically challenged with a bit of violin & clarinet under your belt! I really appreciate your support of these music posts.

  6. Ah! Whiskey and cigarettes at 4am.That takes me back! Well, to the cigarettes. I don't think we could afford whiskey, then, which is just as well. When I was a student, years ago, a friend and I both chainsmoked Woodbines (were they around in the US? Strong and filterless they were). By 4am we were usually breaking up the nubs and rolling them. By 6am we were down to rolling the nubs of the nubs...

    Thank God I gave up.

  7. Hi Dominic: Sounds familiar! & I'm glad I gave up both too. I actually found I could afford whiskey quite a bit in my delinquent, but I had to forego luxuries like food to do so!


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