The Wire is a popular crime series, written by a former police reporter, David Simon. The theme song of the show is "Way Down in the Hole."
This song is written by singer and lyricist Tom Waits. The song is controversial and weighty in its meaning and while the meaning of the lyrics seems pretty straightforward, many viewers of The Wire haven't really sat down to listen to the song or consider its meaning. Here are 10 things about the theme song and introduction of The Wire which viewers might not know.
10 Gospel Message
The song which begins The Wire is clearly a gospel song, mentioning Jesus Christ as saviour and mentioning Satan as the deceiver and instigator of evil.
This fire-and-brimstone song is sung from the perspective of an evangelist, warning that Jesus is the only way and the devil would tempt the Lord's children away from this truth. This apt theme brings good and evil into the picture from the outset, setting the scene for the crime drama to follow.
9 Dark And Dense
Lyricist Tom Waits is known for his intense lyrics. His style is called 'dark and dense', not surprising if one considers the lyrics of Way Down In The Hole. He is also the author of four musicals and he has acted in several movies. It appears he has a fascination with topics around good and evil, with one of his musicals entitled, The Black Rider. Waits is also an award winner, acknowledged for his musical prowess. In 2011, the talented musician was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
8 Themes Of Betrayal
The song Way Down In The Hole begins with the line, 'When you walk through the garden'. This might refer to the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the garden in which Jesus prayed through the night before his famous betrayal by Judas. The theme of the series deals with crime, betrayals and injustices, similar to the themes of Gethsemane. Churches often refer to the event of Jesus in Gethsemane as The Agony In The Garden of Gethsemane.
7 One Song, Many Versions
The Wire was divided into different seasons in the years that it was showcased, from 2002 to 2008. Interestingly, The Wire didn't use one version of the song for all of its seasons.
Each season used a different version of the song, utilizing the gifting of various artists: Blind Boys of Alabama, Tom Waits, The Neville Brothers, Steve Earle and DoMaJe. This variety added interest and intrigue for the season and each new recording set apart each season from the next.
6 An Evangelist Warns
The voice behind the song is supposedly a berserk evangelist trying to convert Frank in the singer's Frank's Wild Years album. Frank is a character caught by numerous besetting sins, including women, alcohol and drugs. The evangelist warns him about the devil using these temptations to hold him, and urges him to take the hand of Jesus as he walks through the garden. The idea of temptation and its consequences in the life of Frank is made clear, and attributed to the work of Satan.
5 Lyricist Gives Key
The one best able to comment on a song is the person who has written the song. While Tom Waits is a singer, he is also a lyricist. Waits gave the full meaning of the song in an interview with the New York Times in which he explained that a 'berserk evangelist' had accosted the sinful Frank, hoping to convict him of his sinful lifestyle, of drugs, woman and booze. He said the song had been written quickly, in the actual studio. This off-the-cuff song turned out to be a huge success, and its appearance on the crime drama series elevated its status to new levels.
4 Taking Center Stage
Way Down In The Hole introduces the series and interestingly, is one of the few musical pieces broadcast during episodes. It is flanked by The Fall (Blake Leyh), which is played during closing credits. Other than this, music is scarce in the show, giving Way Down In The Hole and The Fall prominent positions in the series' soundtrack. The songs set the mood for the series, and other than atmospheric sounds during the filming, it is pretty much the show's 'it' song.
3 Specific Recording
Different versions of the song were made for the show, depending on the season in question. Each set the mood for the episode which followed and having different variations allowed the seasons to be distinct from each other. The version for Season 4 was made by five Baltimore teenagers.
These, belonged to a group called DoMaJe and included Ivan Ashford, Markel Steele, Cameron Brown, Tariq Al-Sabir and Avery Bargasse. A lot of thought went into this recording and it was arranged and recorded specifically for The Wire. It also put DoMaJe on the map.
2 The Song Of A Legend
Heard of Woodstock? How about Waitstock? Tom Waits has had festivals held in his name - 13 to be exact. These have been held on a farm holding near New York. The first one was attended by just five people in 1991. Visitors to Waitstock have always enjoyed free entrance and there have always been some interesting additions to the show, including several black cats released during the song, 'Mystery Hour'. Somehow knowing all of this adds depth and perception to the opening song of The Wire.
1 It's Dry, But You Can Eat It
Tom Waits has one of the driest senses of humor out. Listening to the lyrics of The Wire theme song, viewers can sense the intensity of the person behind the lines. Still, the extent of Waits' eccentricity isn't quite evident. The quirky existentialist, who considers heaven and hell in many of his lyrics, as in the song in question, also likes quizzes, collecting useless facts and confesses to having a favorite sound: the sound of bacon frying in a pan.