Bob Seger covering Rod Stewart covering Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train”

Tom Waits Bob Seger and Rod Stewart have all recorded Downtown Train

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band have a new album coming out soon (no title yet) and the first single from the record was released on on Monday. The song is “Downtown Train,” which may sound familiar to fans of the adult classic contemporary rock genre because Rod Stewart scored a #3 hit with the same song back in 1990.

But the connection doesn’t end there! First, here’s the song:

(You can listen to the non-radio station version at – for some reason they don’t have it set up to embed from there)

I’m a huge Tom Waits fan, who originally wrote “Downtown Train” and recorded it for his 1985 album Rain Dogs, so I was interested in Seger’s connection to the song and was surprised to find out it was the source of a bit of a feud between Seger and Rod Stewart back in the early 1990s! Here’s a recap of the spat pieced together by

Seger recorded Tom Wait’s “Downtown Train” in early 1989. He traveled to England that summer, where he happened to tell Rod Stewart about recording the song. “The next thing I knew, a month later he recorded “Downtown Train” in London and two months later he recorded it in the same studio I recorded it in Los Angeles.” The song became a #3 hit for Stewart. (Gary Graff, August 4, 1991, Detroit Free Press. “Lost chances? Seger says he has no regrets.”)

Seger later called Stewart a “nonperson” for stealing his idea to record the song. Stewart’s manager claimed that Rod recorded the song before his get-together with Seger. Stewart himself replied: “It’s most disappointing to hear something like this, since the geezer knows very well the full truth. It sounds like sour grapes to me. Go ahead, Bob — feel free to record something of mine, like ‘Maggie May.'” (John Smyntek, July 30, 1995, Detroit Free Press. “New Seger album due out this fall.”)

Smyntek finished his article with a good comeback line: “As for the “geezer” charge… Stewart is four months older than Seger.” (John Smyntek, July 30, 1995, Detroit Free Press. “New Seger album due out this fall.”)

Here’s Rod Stewart’s version of “Downtown Train” from the box set Storyteller: The Complete Anthology 1964-1990:

And just for comparison’s sake I’ll include Tom Waits version as well so you can hear what “gravelly” really sounds like!

So who do you think has the best “Downtown Train?” Take the poll!

For the sake of trivia I feel I should mention that “Downtown Train” is the fourth Tom Waits song covered by Bob Seger, joining “Blind Love,” “New Coat of Paint” and “16 Shells from a 30-6.” (I had no idea Bob Seger had ever covered Tom Waits, much less four times! That being said, it takes a LOT of balls to cover “16 Shells from a 30-6” and I have no desire to give Bob’s version a listen.)

To close things out here is perhaps the greatest example of Steam Punk Rock ever recorded: