Best tunes of 1990: #27 DNA featuring Suzanne Vega “Tom’s diner”

Da da da da da da-da da, da da da da da da-da da.

That’s right. Next up on this Best of 1990 list is a great ear worm that was a joint effort between songstress Suzanne Vega and British electronic producer duo, DNA: “Tom’s diner”.

I say “joint effort” because although Suzanne Vega originally wrote the song, it wasn’t until Nick Batt and Neal Slateford put their shoulder to the track that it became a worldwide sensation. Indeed, it’s sometimes easy to forget that this one wasn’t the original version. Vega had written the song as a vocal only, a capella track in 1981 and it appeared on her sophomore album, 1987’s “Solitude standing”. Her’s is a beautiful, thoughtful, and quite awkward sounding piece and that now infamous “da da da” bit only appears at the end of the song. If you’ve never heard it before, take the time and do so now. We’ll wait.

This bare bones version leaves only the words dangling before you. It’s like a stream of conscious paean to the mundane. The singer hanging out on a rainy day, perhaps wrestling with writer’s block, and jotting down the thoughts that occur to her and the little things that happen to her as she is sitting with a coffee in Tom’s Restaurant in New York City (which some of you might recognize from television).

The version by DNA took the original a capella track, layered it with synths and a sampled dance beat and looped the outro, over and over again, throughout the song. They originally released it as a bootleg without her permission but when Suzanne Vega heard it, she liked it so much that she bought the rights and re-released it, along with the music video you can watch below (complete with dancers). It brought Suzanne Vega her first dance hit, introduced her to a whole new audience, and perhaps turned her ear to a completely different world of music. Check out some of her more industrial sounding work on 1992’s “99.9F” if you’re not sure what I mean.

Although DNA worked magic with “Tom’s diner” and had some success with remixing other songs later on, a quick peek at Wikipedia reveals that neither Batt nor Slateford is still making music. Vega, on the other hand, is still quite active, her most recent album coming in 2016.

If this song isn’t stuck in your head yet, play the video below again and I promise you’ll be stuck with it all day. You’re welcome.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

5 Replies to “Best tunes of 1990: #27 DNA featuring Suzanne Vega “Tom’s diner””

  1. This was the first version I heard, but I do prefer the original version. Like you say, it’s a beautiful moment… slightly awkward in its flow, but ultimately pretty striking.

    Liked by 1 person

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