Tom’s Diner

Red-haired, blue-eyed Suzanne Vega (b.1959) is an American songwriter and singer, an icon of 1980s’ and 1990s’ alternative rock and folk rock.

In 1987 she released a single called Tom’s Diner from her album Solitude Standing. I’ve always preferred the a cappella version of the song to the DNA‘s dance track.

This is the cover of the 1987 edition:

Tom's diner - cover via wikiepedia

Tom’s diner – cover via wikipedia

This song is interesting to me not only for its musical qualities.

Trivia: Tom’s Diner was used by Karlheinz Brandenburg to develop the audio compression scheme known as MP3

I am intrigued by the fact that we can decode the lyrics (which, of course has been done), and trace back the creative process of the author. Suzanne Vega told us (her audience) what inspired her to write the song, where the famous diner was (see the picture below) and even gave us clues about the issue of the paper mentioned in the lyrics (It’s New York Post, Wed, 18th Nov 1981).

Tom's Restaurant from Suzanne Vega's song at 2880 Broadway (on the corner of 112th Street), in New York, photo via wikipedia

Tom’s Restaurant from Suzanne Vega’s song at 2880 Broadway (on the corner of 112th Street), in New York, photo via wikipedia

When I hear this song on the radio, I can’t get the tune out of my head. This Tuh tuh tuh da tuh tuh tuh da tuh tuh tuh da tuh tuh tuh da keeps following me. The phrase I am thinking of your voice is magical.

I want you to see how I imagine these lyrics in objects:

Tom’s Diner

Kitchen or diner wooden sign by Oh Dier Living

Kitchen or diner wooden sign by Oh Dier Living

Open 24 hours art photo by Eclectic Forest photo by Steven Brincat

Open 24 hours art photo by Eclectic Forest photo by Steven Brincat

I am sitting
In the morning
At the diner
On the corner

I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee

Vintage Mellita coffee pot via Berlino Vintage

Vintage Mellita coffee pot via Berlino Vintage

And he fills it
Only halfway

1970s red coffee mug by ReDigIt

1970s red coffee mug by ReDigIt

And before
I even argue

He is looking
Out the window
At somebody
Coming in

“It is always
Nice to see you”
Says the man
Behind the counter

To the woman
Who has come in
She is shaking
Her umbrella

Love watercolor by The Noble Owl

Love watercolor by The Noble Owl

And I look
The other way
As they are kissing
Their hellos

I’m pretending
Not to see them
Instead
I pour the milk

Warszawa coffee mug by Spod lady

Warszawa da się lubić – coffee mug by *Spod lady*

I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor

Red and white picnic fabric by Fabric Brat

Red and white picnic fabric by Fabric Brat

Who had died
While he was drinking
It was no one
I had heard of

And I’m turning
To the horoscope
And looking
For the funnies

Retro sewing newspaper fabric by Scizzors

Retro sewing newspaper fabric by Scizzors

When I’m feeling
Someone watching me
And so
I raise my head

There’s a woman
On the outside
Looking inside
Does she see me?

No she does not
Really see me
Cause she sees
Her own reflection

And I’m trying
Not to notice
That she’s hitching
Up her skirt

And while she’s
Straightening her stockings
Her hair
Has gotten wet

Turquoise glass lamp by gie el

Turquoise glass lamp by gie el

Oh, this rain
It will continue
Through the morning
As I’m listening

To the bells
Of the cathedral
I am thinking
Of your voice…

And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time
Before the rain began…

Vintage bluebird clock by Abbazappa

Vintage bluebird clock by Abbazappa

I finish up my coffee
It’s time to catch the train

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