Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Fresh On The Net)

Music

'The Wire' almost had a different theme, David Simon reveals

The Wire creator David Simon has revealed that although wildly popular with fans, the show nearly didn’t get permission to use ‘Way Down In The Hole’, a ballad penned by Tom Waits.

Known to be notoriously difficult to contact, Simon rustled himself a substitute option. It was ‘A Common Disaster’ by the Cowboy Junkies. “It’s a song I very much like,” said Simon. “The chorus is great. And the groove is great. But it’s a little bit too much about the interpersonal.”

But his heart ultimately lay with Waits. “The first [song] I found was ‘Get Behind The Mule,’” Simon explained to Entertainment Weekly. “And it didn’t quite work, lyrically. It worked emotionally, but the verses were all way off point. I kept trying to force it, tried to use different verses first, tried to play around with it. Finally, [executive producer] Bob Colesberry said, ‘I like the feel of it. I like the guy’s voice, but it’s not quite getting there.’ And I had to agree.”

“I went back and looked for similar things that were suggestive of the ubiquitous drudgery and pain of whatever you’re engaged in,” he continued. “And that’s when we found ‘Way Down In The Hole.’”

But the clock was ticking, and it looked like they would have to resort to ‘A Common Disaster’ after all. “We were getting near our air date and we still didn’t have permission,” he explained. “We mailed him versions of the show, so he could see what the show was about and he could see his song laid in, but he wasn’t responding. It was like, ‘Jesus, what are we going to do if he says no? We got to get him to sign off on this thing!’”.

Simon didn’t think it was a financial decision, but one based on Waits’ personal preferences: “I don’t think Waits ever did anything for money in his life, so it’s not like we’re luring him in with the money. He either wants to do it, or he doesn’t.”

When they finally reached the composer, he gave them a more logical answer for his prevarication: “He says, ‘I got the stuff you sent, but I don’t know how to work the VCR. Wait until my wife comes home.’ And then, the next day, he approved it! So I just imagine those tapes just sitting there next to his video cassette recorder. They’d still be there now if she hadn’t made the call.”

‘Way Down In The Hole’ is sung by The Blind Boys Of Alabama during the first season, but the creative team used the Waits’ original for the second.