Monday, January 31, 2011

"Rock Box" Track of the Day: The Blind Boys of Alabama, "Way Down in the Hole"

'Bodie, beam me up.'
"'Rock Box' Track of the Day" is a series of weekday posts about each of the existing songs that are streamed during the "Rock Box" block on A Fistful of Soundtracks (4-6am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Mondays and 5-7am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Fridays). Each post provides info on a different track from the "Rock Box" playlist and points out the movie or TV series moment where the track is so effectively used.

Song: "Way Down in the Hole" by The Blind Boys of Alabama
Released: 2001
Why's it part of the "Rock Box" playlist?: The gospel group's cover of the Tom Waits tune was selected by Wire creator David Simon to be the theme during his show's brilliant first-season opening title sequence, which Andrew Dignan astutely described in a Museum of the Moving Image video essay as a sequence that "announces that The Wire is not a kicking-down-doors-and-busting-heads kind of cop show. The compositions are often off-center or partly out-of-focus, conveying world weariness and tedium on both sides of the divide."

Each subsequent season of The Wire would feature a different version of "Way Down in the Hole" in the titles. Season 2 episodes opened with Waits' original version, season 3 eps opened with a Neville Brothers version that was commissioned for the show, season 4 eps kicked off with a version that was also recorded for the show and performed by Domaje, a group of Baltimore teens, and season 5 eps opted for a cover by Steve Earle, who had a small role on the show as Bubbles' AA sponsor Waylon.

The Blind Boys version--the first piece of music that ever appeared on The Wire--was also the last existing song that was featured on the show. It accompanied the montage that concluded the series finale "-30-."

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