|Single by Suzanne Vega|
|from the album Solitude Standing|
|Suzanne Vega singles chronology|
"Tom's Diner" is a song written in 1982 by American singer and songwriter Suzanne Vega. It was first released as a track on the January 1984 issue of Fast Folk Musical Magazine. When first featured on one of her own studio albums, it appeared as the first track of her 1987 album Solitude Standing. It was later used as the basis for a remix by the British group DNA in 1990, which reached number 1 in Austria, Germany, Greece and Switzerland. The 1991 compilation Tom's Album includes the DNA version as well as cover versions by artists such as After One, Nikki D and Bingo Hand Job (R.E.M. and Billy Bragg). It was also used as the background soundtrack for the opening scene of the 1993 film Untamed Heart.
Background and writing
The "Tom's Diner" of the song is Tom's Restaurant in New York City, a mid-20th-century diner on the corner of Broadway and 112th Street. Singer and songwriter Suzanne Vega was reputedly a frequent patron during the early 1980s when she was a student at nearby Barnard College. The diner later became famous as the location used for the exterior scenes of Monk's Café in the popular 1990s television sitcom Seinfeld.
The song begins with the narrator stopping at a diner for a cup of coffee. The song mentions reading a newspaper as well as seeing two women, one who enters the diner and one who stands outside in the rain. The ringing of bells at a nearby cathedral causes the narrator to reminisce about an unnamed companion and a midnight picnic. At the end of the song, the narrator leaves the diner to catch the train after the coffee is finished.
Vega wrote the song based on a comment by her friend Brian Rose, a photographer, who mentioned that in his work, he sometimes felt as if "he saw his whole life through a pane of glass, and [...] like he was the witness to a lot of things, but was never really involved in them". She attempted to think and write in this fashion (including a male perspective) while sitting at Tom's Restaurant. The "bells of the cathedral" that she remarks hearing in the song are those of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, located one block to the east.
"Tom's Diner Day": The date of the composition
Vega said that she wrote the song in 1982; Brian Rose has said that it was written sometime between mid-1981 and mid-1982. The lyrics refer to a rainy morning, when she was at the diner on the corner, reading in her newspaper of "a story of an actor / who had died while he was drinking", and afterwards "turning to the horoscope / and looking for the funnies". Only two newspapers in New York City carried comic strips, or "funnies", in 1981 and 1982, and only one, the New York Post, featured a front-page story of the death of Oscar-winning actor William Holden, whose body was discovered on Monday, November 16, 1981. He had died from a fall at his apartment, suffered after drinking excessively. In a 2008 essay for The New York Times, Vega confirmed that Holden was the actor whose death she had read about and inspired the line in the song.
On that day in New York, however, the weather was not rainy, but overcast. Vega has acknowledged that "Tom's Diner" features a composite of events, and that the rain was from a morning she remembered being in the diner during the spring of 1982, after the initial events of the song.
Music and lyrics
Vega originally conceived "Tom's Diner" as a piece for voice and solo piano. Two versions feature on her album Solitude Standing; the album opens with an a cappella version, and closes with an instrumental version played on keyboards, with guitars lending support.
The "Mother of the MP3"
An article in the now defunct magazine Business 2.0 revealed that "Tom's Diner" was also used by Karlheinz Brandenburg to develop the audio compression scheme known as MP3 at what is now the Fraunhofer Society. He recalled: "I was ready to fine-tune my compression algorithm...somewhere down the corridor, a radio was playing 'Tom's Diner.' I was electrified. I knew it would be nearly impossible to compress this warm a cappella voice."
In a 2009 documentary about the history of the song by Swedish SVT, Brandenburg said: "I was finishing my PhD thesis, and then I was reading some hi-fi magazine and found that they had used this song to test loudspeakers. I said 'OK, let's test what this song does to my sound system, to MP3'. And the result was, at bit rates where everything else sounded quite nice, Suzanne Vega's voice sounded horrible."
Brandenburg adopted the song for testing purposes, listening to it again and again each time he refined the scheme, making sure it did not adversely affect the subtlety of Vega's voice. While the MP3 compression format is not specifically tuned to play the song "Tom's Diner" (an assortment of critically analyzed material was involved in the design of the codec over many years), among audio engineers this anecdote has earned Vega the informal title "The Mother of the MP3".
- 12" maxi
- "Tom's Diner"
- "Left of Center"
- "Tom's Diner" (live)
- "Luka" (live)
|UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)||58|
|"Tom's Diner (DNA Remix)"|
|Single by DNA featuring Suzanne Vega|
|Suzanne Vega singles chronology|
"Three years later, I heard that two young English guys called DNA had put a beat to it – and I cringed. I'd just had a big hit with Luka, which – unfortunately, despite its dark subject matter, child abuse – lent itself to all sorts of parodies and covers, most of which I hated. I feared more of the same, but to my great relief I loved what DNA had done. I thought it would be played in a few dance clubs and that would be it, but it surpassed everyone's expectations. I even got a plaque for it being one of the most played R&B songs – funny for a folk singer."
In 1990, two British record producers under the name DNA remixed "Tom's Diner", grafting Vega's vocals onto a dance beat from Soul II Soul ("Keep On Movin'") and turning her simple ad-libbed outro – "Da da da duh, doo da-doo doo" – into the song's driving hook. It was impossible to get a whole song into a sampler, so they spent evenings and weekends cutting Vega's vocals into little bits. Without permission from Vega, her record label, or publisher, the duo released the remix on a limited basis for distribution to clubs as "Oh Suzanne" by "DNA featuring Suzanne Vega". Vega's record company of the time, A&M, decided to buy and release the remix rather than take DNA to court for copyright infringement.
A&M struck the deal after consulting with Vega, who liked the interpretation, and DNA, who conducted the transaction through intermediaries without revealing their true identities. The remix became a much larger hit than Vega had with the song originally, peaking at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart and number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and it became one of a handful of tracks to chart in the top 10 of both the Modern Rock Tracks (number 7) and Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Tracks (number 10) charts. The remix also reached number 1 in Austria, Germany, Greece and Switzerland. A music video was also made of this version.
It was certified Gold in Germany in 1990.
Larry Flick from Billboard commented, "Don't miss the exceptional "Tom's Diner", by DNA Featuring Suzanne Vega." He noted that the Brit outfit "has placed a slammin' Soul II Soul-flavored swing instrumental" underneath Vega's song. He also described it as "indelibly infectious." Columbia Daily Spectator called it a "surprise hit". Marisa Fox from Entertainment Weekly said the dance beat is "mesmerizing". Music & Media wrote that "the lonely vocal part is perfectly complemented by the Steely Dan type horns and the grinding hip-hop beat. A fine version." Music Week put the song at number-one in their Top 10 list, Pick Of The Year - Dance. The Network Forty commented that "the connection of Vega's sensuously soft voice and the unlikely rhythm (for her music, anyway) is startlingly vibrant, and its jazziness is an instant ear-catcher." Smash Hits said that remixes like this one "end up sounding far better than the originals and the result is rather refreshing."
- "Tom's Diner" (7-inch A) – 3:47
- "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega – 2:39
- "Tom's Diner" (a cappella) by Suzanne Vega – 2:08
- "Tom's Diner" (12-inch A) – 5:20
- "Tom's Diner" – 3:47
- "Tom's Diner" (a cappella) by Suzanne Vega – 2:08
- "Tom's Diner" (remix) – This version, containing a piano with a solo part, has never been released on CD or MP3 yet.
- "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega
- "Tom's Diner" (a cappella) by Suzanne Vega
- "Tom's Diner" 7-inch version by Suzanne Vega (side 1)
- "Tom's Diner" 12-inch version by Suzanne Vega (side 2)
Charts and certifications
Giorgio Moroder version
|Single by Giorgio Moroder featuring Britney Spears|
|from the album Déjà Vu|
|Released||October 9, 2015|
|Giorgio Moroder singles chronology|
|Britney Spears singles chronology|
For the release of his fourteenth studio album Déjà Vu on June 12, 2015, record producer Giorgio Moroder included a remake of the song, featuring American singer Britney Spears on his album as the eighth track. It was later released as the album's fourth and final single on October 9, 2015 with two new remixes included, marking the second release from Spears in 2015, following "Pretty Girls", and additionally her first featuring participation since "S&M (Remix)" in 2011.
Despite being a non-single track at that time, it became Moroder's best-selling digital song to date, debuting and peaking at number 38 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Songs chart, and number fourteen on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Digital Songs chart, during the week of July 4, 2015.
- "Tom's Diner" – 3:32
- "Tom's Diner" (Leu Leu Land Remix) – 2:58
- "Tom's Diner" (Hibell Remix) – 3:17
|Lebanon (Lebanese Top 20)||11|
|Ukraine Airplay (Tophit)||26|
|US Hot Dance/Electronic Songs (Billboard)||38|
|US Dance/Electronic Streaming Songs (Billboard)||14|
|Ukraine Airplay (Tophit)||149|
|Various||October 9, 2015||Digital download||
|Italy||October 16, 2015||Contemporary hit radio||
|Russia||October 29, 2015||Sony|
Remakes and samples
The song spawned a number of hip hop, dance, and rock remixes and remakes from artists such as Peter Behrens (drummer from Trio) and Bingo Hand Job, a whimsical one-time collaboration between Billy Bragg and R.E.M.. It was also sampled in songs by Public Enemy, Nikki D, Twin Hype, Yo Gotti and Lil' Kim, among other hip hop acts.
In 1991, Vega, noting the huge number of remakes of the song, released Tom's Album, a compilation of different versions of the song, spanning a variety of musical genres, including a parody by Mark Jonathan Davis that worked in references to I Dream of Jeannie called "Jeannie's Diner", which Nick-at-Nite would use to promote its airings of the show. The album also featured another DNA remix of one of her songs, "Rusted Pipe." On the album's sleeve, Vega wrote: "A small song about eating breakfast became a song about accidental pregnancy (Daddy's Little Girl – Nikki D.) and the recent war in the Gulf (Waiting at the Border). One version incorporates forgotten bits of pop culture (Jeannie's Diner). All of them surprised me; a couple made me wince. I include them anyway."
In 2015, sound artist and composer Ryan Maguire released the track "moDernisT" (an anagram of "Tom's Diner") as a part of his project "The Ghost in the MP3". "moDernisT" is composed exclusively of the sounds deleted during MP3 compression from the song "Tom's Diner", known as the mother of the MP3. A detailed account of the techniques used to isolate the sounds deleted during MP3 compression, along with the conceptual motivation for the project, was published in the 2014 Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference.
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