You must log in or register to comment.

Jackattack736 t1_j1ooiow wrote

Fun fact-this was the first song ever converted into an MP3 file!


OhioDuran t1_j1otheo wrote

Not the DNA version, the original acapella. The human voice is more noticeably "weird" after compression so it was used as a yardstick.


Fluffy_Little_Fox t1_j1oq3rv wrote

Not just that --- the guy trying to fine tune the Mp3 format had to listen to it a 1000 times.


Suzanne Vega's catchy tune has made her "Mother of the MP3" -- though it took a while. Vega wrote "Tom's Diner" as an a cappella song way back in 1982. By 1984 it has been released on an obscure folk compilation, and didn't appear on Vega's studio albums until 1987's Solitude Standing. In 1990, the song was remixed by The DNA Disciples, adding a danceable beat and instrumentation -- this version hit the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #5 in the US.

So what does this have to do with MP3? Well, after its release in 1987 audiophiles began using Vega's a cappella track to test speaker systems for clarity. It was considered a good, warm recording of a human voice -- something that could reveal flaws in an audio setup. Working at the Fraunhofer Society in Germany in the 90's, audio engineer Karl-Heinz Brandenburg was hard at work developing the MP3 audio compression scheme.

Brandenburg used Vega's a cappella version of "Tom's Diner" to tune the compression system, playing the track before and after compression was applied to tell whether MP3 sounded good enough. He figured Vega's song would be a tough track to compress (as it was already favored by audiophiles), and would be a good test for whether MP3 was really listenable. Although many audiophiles ended up hating MP3, Brandenburg seems to have done pretty well for himself -- MP3 became an incredibly popular technology.

On the choice of "Tom's Diner," Brandenburg recalled: "I was ready to fine-tune my compression algorithm...somewhere down the corridor, a radio was playing 'Tom's Diner.' I was electrified. I knew it would be nearly impossible to compress this warm a cappella voice."


MeBroken t1_j1pdxip wrote

In an audio physics course we got to use this song while we learned how to create sound effects and apply them to the song through programming and math. Needless to say we all became mad having to listen to the song on repeat but adjusted with different effects. Here we are years later and if someone in class starts to sing "I'm sitting in the morning..." the whole class joins in with, "at the diner on the corner" haha.


Fluffy_Little_Fox t1_j1pujwi wrote



I am sitting on the sofa.

There's a TV in the corner.

I am watching Major Nelson.

He is played by Larry Hagman.

And he found a little bottle.

And then out popped Barbara Eden.

She couldn't show her belly button.

All she did was blink.



Duh-Dut -- Duh-Dah.

Dut-Dut, D'Dut Dat.


Dut-Dut, D'Dut Dat.


Dut-Dut, D'Dut Dat. Dat.

D'Duh-Dut-Dut -- Dat.



Tony Nelson works at NASA.

With suspicious Dr. Bellows.

And there's also Roger Healy.

Who would become Howard Borden.

And Jeannie always means well.

But they get in wacky trouble.

She folds her arms and blinks her eyes.

It's kind of like Bewitched.



Duh-Dut -- Duh-Dah.

Dut-Dut, D'Dut Dat.


Dut-Dut, D'Dut Dat.


Dut-Dut, D'Dut Dat. Dat.

D'Duh-Dut-Dut -- Dat.


votequimby2016 t1_j1qbft8 wrote

This is on a compilation called Tom's Album which Suzanne produced. A bunch of different versions and covers of the tune. Came out in 1991 on A&M.


weluckyfew t1_j1q37w8 wrote

That made me so very happy - thank you for sharing. And special respect for them making this a full 2:20 song.


unassumingdink t1_j1pjj2m wrote

As somebody who listened to FM radio in the late '80s, I think I have him beat.


Fluffy_Little_Fox t1_j1pv19r wrote

Bing. Bing. Dah-Bing Bong.

Bing. Bing. Bing. - Bong.

Bing. Bing. Dah-Bing Bong.

Binga-Dinga Bing-Bong.




SCWthrowaway1095 t1_j1pi1oo wrote

It’s a great song for testing.

One of the things that makes the MP3 format good at compression is its ability to dynamically shift data between time and frequency. It can decide on the fly, at any given point in time, whether it wants to give more emphasis to percussion and transients or whether it wants to give more data to whistles and tones.

Tom’s Diner was probably chosen because it contains a good blended mix of sharp transients and long tones.


Fluffy_Little_Fox t1_j1pva40 wrote

But is that in the case of VARIABLE Bit-Rate, or CONSTANT Bit-Rate???


SCWthrowaway1095 t1_j1pylx0 wrote



Fluffy_Little_Fox t1_j1q1m79 wrote

Is VBR ~superior~ to CBR???

Have I been going about this all wrong the whole time????

I always thought a Constant Bitrate was more consistent.

Also, how do you feel about ATRAC?


SCWthrowaway1095 t1_j1q21mf wrote

Just use Opus. It’s superior to everything else.


Fluffy_Little_Fox t1_j1q2pkf wrote

Thanks for the suggestion.


Fluffy_Little_Fox t1_j1q37f5 wrote


Fluffy_Little_Fox t1_j1q451x wrote

Forbidden Audio Witchcraft.


SCWthrowaway1095 t1_j1q5dda wrote

Yeah, Opus has a lot of neat little tricks under the hood that make it really good at sound compression, for both music and human voice. And it’s also open source! Youtube, Discord and Whatsapp all use it as their primary audio codec as far as I know, with youtube using it as part of the .ogg container.


3f2rf3rfrf23r t1_j1qzwky wrote

This is an interesting philosophical question for software development and composition. When does something start existing?

There were many songs tested first according to the lead dev in the early days. When mp3 starts existing though is unclear. Tom's Diner was used as the baseline and sanity check throughout testing. That part is true.


datx_goh t1_j1osf3k wrote

Same diner that was portrayed as Monk’s in Seinfeld.


Trumbot t1_j1oxa24 wrote

Almost right across the street from my old elementary school. You can also hear in the song that Vega mentions hearing the bells of the nearby cathedral of St. John the Divine.


nova_savage t1_j1ofvo3 wrote

Completely agree, and in case you haven't read about the way this incredible song influenced how most music is heard nowadays, here ya go!


CamLwalk t1_j1oy03g wrote

Suzanne has a lot of great songs. Marlene On The Wall, Solitude Standing, Queen and the Soldier (my fav). Wonderfully talented song writer.


Almostasleeprightnow t1_j1p3az7 wrote

Also Gypsy, blood Makes Noise, Caramel, in Liverpool, 99.9f° ...

I forgot how much I love her. Thanks for this thread tonight!


MoronTheBall t1_j1p8u3v wrote

Saw her perform live in a smallish venue many years ago right after Solitude Standing's release and it was epic. The acapella Tom's Diner and Calypso were highlights, but the entire performance was top notch.


lesliethefatloser t1_j1q6xwe wrote

I saw her live in October of this year. I have been in love with her music since i was 12. After 31 years of loving her music, seeing her perform in person was just divine. She played all my favorites. Hearing Gypsy life will be burned in me forever.


zamonto t1_j1py7oy wrote

How can u forget about Luka. That song hits hard once you listen to the lyrics


mayonaka_00 t1_j1pmqya wrote

Her debut album is amazing, I really like Undertow.


bathroomkindle t1_j1ok6ku wrote


External_Star3376 t1_j1pghan wrote

What a great story and a nice and sweet clip. The subtitles are dutch if you were wondering.

This clip was made for a program called 'top 2000 a gogo'. The Top 2000 is an annual Dutch marathon radio programme, that plays the 2,000 songs voted most popular of all time. The show runs 24 hours a day, starting Christmas and ending on New Year's Eve.The show is hosted by the Dutch national radio station NPO Radio 2. It's the most popular radio program of all year and with many people a tradition to listen to and vote for.


mooninuranus t1_j1s6c3v wrote

Fun fact - assuming the lowest ranked song gets one vote, the next lowest gets two, etc you need over 20m votes to rank two thousand songs (sum of natural numbers).


External_Star3376 t1_j1udpf4 wrote

Each person that votes, can vote for a top 35 (used to be 10 I think). It's always a mixture of international and dutch songs and Queen with Bohemian Rapsody is almost every year on first place (it transcends generations now, and because young people heard it on new years eve just before 12 o'clock they vote for it nowadays again as well, as a sort of tradition/nostalgia).


mooninuranus t1_j1ugqye wrote

Yeah, I read up on how the voting works.

Love the idea of it tbh.


IntellegentIdiot t1_j1pf2mk wrote

Was going to post this. Top2000agogo and Vice make some really interesting documentaries on pop music. Loved Vices The Story Of Teenage Dirtbag, it still baffles me that song was sabotaged in the US


ron_swansons_meat t1_j1ppp1b wrote

I love those docs. Watch the one they did on the Thong Song. Sure it's a song I never cared about, but it has a really entertaining story behind it. I have skipped the teenage dirtbag one because i hate that song so much. I should watch it.


IntellegentIdiot t1_j1qslrv wrote

I love Teenage Dirtbag and it was a huge hit at the time. Part of the documentary is about the "big in Japan" situation they found themselves in and part of it is how they made the song. I think I'd say it was great even if I didn't love the song. Honestly think it's the best one they've done. Also loved the Vanessa Carlton one, especially the producer that finally made the song work.

As for Top2000, I really liked the Plastic Bertrand one. I had no idea that it the person we thought was Betrand was just lip syncing.


mezaway t1_j1ohw0v wrote

The original version of the song is just her singing. I love both though!


Glossy_oongi t1_j1ordge wrote

I love how so many songs have the singer as one of the main characters, but this just has the singer seeing all the other main characters in other stories going about their day.


endoffays t1_j1p8w5q wrote

I always feel like this when I travel, I guess because, at least for the past 15 years or so, travelled alone to join up with old friends. As such, they usually have points where they have obligations (family, work, errands, chores) and I end up exploring cities on my own and one of my favorite things to do is walk around an entire city and while taking rests, people watching!


Glossy_oongi t1_j1pff6n wrote

Yessss this song is actually the reason I started actively people watching! And it’s a great song for when ur traveling imo.


Livid-Ad4102 t1_j1ok15a wrote


treeillusion OP t1_j1onmc3 wrote

Yes, I love that cover! Its one of the covers i perfer!


PrivateIsotope t1_j1p43tz wrote

I was looking for this. The Cover of Covers.

After watching this, when my wife would come home, I'd shout,



Mayaaster t1_j1ortjh wrote

If you want to go from complete vibes to heartbreaking pain listen to Luka by her. The lyric choice make it a thousand times worst as you realize she is using simple words and rationale as a child would


endoffays t1_j1p8yrc wrote

all her work from that era paint such a picture of late 80's early 90's NYC. Glad I was able to visit then..


OpeExclamation t1_j1og5yr wrote

That beat was the foundation for a bunch of big hit songs in the early 90s. Still sounds just as good today.


damnwhale t1_j1p0dlc wrote

I had Toms Diner stuck in my head for the majority of my teen years. Moments of peace and silence constantly invaded by that terrible chorus from Suzanne Vega. It took me years of growth and therapy to finally move on.

Seriously, the song is great… Maybe a little too great. In fact, I never wanna hear it again. You will feel the same way when that chorus inevitably goes on repeat in the silent jukebox in your brain.


Taskebab t1_j1opauy wrote

Giorgio Moroder's cover is probably Britney's best performance years


girlfriendclothes t1_j1r44yd wrote

Saw this post and immediately thought of this version. Such a good cover


gNomad88 t1_j1p80op wrote

Yeah I was gonna say why is OP talking about any other version aside from Moroders


JamesEllerbeck t1_j1op8y9 wrote

The original is one of my favorite pieces of songwriting ever. It's such a mood.


sharksnut t1_j1orabv wrote

I'll never understand why they cut off the last few lines of lyric, though. They give needed context to the whole song.


Lostmox t1_j1pftpq wrote

Because they didn't fit the beat and tone of the rest of the song.


Liv-Julia t1_j1oyx58 wrote

Caramel is also a fabulous song.


pembroke529 t1_j1pzmir wrote

I came here to say this as well. Great song. Wonderful bass riff (I'm a bassist).

Her voice is perfect. I get a French jazz vibe listening to it.


[deleted] t1_j1pdmsx wrote



brain_is_nominal t1_j1pho3b wrote

I love how she's so 'casually' confident about her voice and music.

Wonderful voice, with very conversational style. I could listen to her 'talk' all day long.


maximumhippo t1_j1onfr5 wrote

Gets sampled and remixed every couple of years, too. A few people have tried to cover it properly, even fewer have been successful.


StewVicious07 t1_j1osqyn wrote

Giant Rooks cover that trended on social media was pretty good this year


mccannr1 t1_j1oxvso wrote

Woah. First I've heard this. I always appreciate when someone takes a big swing with a cover and theirs mostly really works. And, in particular,the guy that comes in singing the 2nd verse has an incredible voice. Very cool


rbhindepmo t1_j1p0fmd wrote

Gotta love a story where copyright infringement works out for the best once the artist gets the label to buy the remix because she likes it.


IntellegentIdiot t1_j1pf6gm wrote

At the time the rules around sampling were very loose I believe


rbhindepmo t1_j1qgc7e wrote

Yeah, it was another 4 years until Gilbert O’Sullivan’s court case with Biz Markie was decided. So the rules were solidly in “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” territory back then


RubixsQube t1_j1otmb8 wrote

Did you know that the diner featured in this song is directly below the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, specifically the room where in 1967, at a lecture given by astronomer John Wheeler, someone coined the term “black holes”


highfriends t1_j1oz1y7 wrote

I just got into a hyperfixation with this songs recently. It give me all the dopamine. Do do do do do do doooo do do do do do do do do doooo


bushwickbaby t1_j1pv1pn wrote

The story of the song is not about a man and womn seeing each other after a long time, but simply about her observing the mundane going-ons at Tom’s Diner, which makes it extraordinary. Both the original version and the reimagined dance mix are incredible


SelectionNo3078 t1_j1oo7te wrote

Really excellent song and so different at the time it came out


summerinstereo t1_j1owuls wrote

Check out the album it's from, Solitude Standing.

IMO, Tom's Diner is the worst song on it. The albums fantastic.


RavingDragon22 t1_j1p1pth wrote

Fun story. I heard this song years ago and enjoyed it. One day it came on the radio and I turned it up to really enjoy it and my (at the time now ex) girlfriend was n the car with me. She processed to trash the song and tell me how terrible it is. So I downloaded it an put it on my iPod and would randomly play it just to push her buttons.

That was a life time ago. Now I’m married and have a daughter and one day a while back Tom’s Dinner was on the radio so I cranked it up and…. SHE LOVES IT. We listen to it together all the time. She doesn’t know the full story of why I love this song so much but I love that I get to share it with her.

Also my wife knows the story so it’s a family inside joke at this point.


brain_is_nominal t1_j1ph1zm wrote

I was worried that your story was going to have a less-than-good finale. "Huge red flag" and other quips that you see in every reddit thread.

But, alas, I was pleasantly surprised. It's nice when nice things happen to nice people.


Bolt-From-Blue t1_j1pml32 wrote

I cannot play that unless it’s followed by Beats International - Dub be good to be.


extacy1375 t1_j1oinpi wrote

I still remember that drum beat. I used to bang it with my fists on the desk at school. Next thing the whole class is doing it. Great memories.


cwatson214 t1_j1ow09t wrote

This song lives in my head rent free


mr10am t1_j1pakws wrote

This is why they chose to make this the first ever mp3


rocketmanx t1_j1pnzhs wrote

Suzanne Vega is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. I feel that she is criminally underrated by the general public.


Sachoazzdown t1_j1q3f1g wrote

I was in middle school. Very nostalgic for me. Along with PM Dawn.


Naive-Government8333 t1_j1q3ka2 wrote

I remember the video getting decent airplay in 1990. Yes, I’m that old. Please send Motrin.


stupidgregg t1_j1q8p9x wrote

Suzanne Vega put out a compilation called "Tom's Album." It has 13 covers of the song Tom's Dinner. It's worth checking out.


Dontron5 t1_j1qerxb wrote

The annen may kantereit version goes even harder somehow


DinnerDiva61 t1_j1qgufd wrote

Yes, it was a real diner. Great food. I was so upset when I heard they closed it. The song is excellent. Every once in awhile I hear it and sing it to myself. Suzanne is the Queen!


Mayaaster t1_j1ormxi wrote

Not sure if Alex Turner was influenced by this in early AM works


MrsFlameThrower t1_j1otuia wrote

Isn’t this song in the movie Untamed Heart?


daveescaped t1_j1p781m wrote

That song was ahead of its time I think. Today it would have been an even bigger hit.


Aeldergoth t1_j1p7la0 wrote

Agree. Filthy beat, ethereal voice. Way ahead of it’s time, and I remember it coming out.


PublicWeasels t1_j1plk46 wrote

Fun fact! Until this post I never gave the song much thought. However, I listened to the song and agree of its originality, and it is much better than I expected.


fieldri1 t1_j1pp3f2 wrote

In 1986 I had just started university and went with a new friend to see Suzanne Vega. The lights went down, she walked on to the stage, up to the mic and gave a perfect rendition of the original without the drum and bass bit. I have loved SV ever since. 😁


VestigialTales t1_j1pqjj2 wrote

In high school (late 90s), I did weekend overnights at a top 40s radio station. Everything was preselected for me to play, but I regularly replaced Eagle Eye Cherry or Natalie Imbruglia with Tom’s Diner! (We still manually used album cartridges even though the other stations in the building were automated.)


NurseScorpio_Gazer t1_j1pri6b wrote

I first heard this song when a relative of mine was playing it on their record player and the beat never left my head. Another relative of mine told me who the artist was and she’s never left my playlist! ✨✨❤️💜


Salt-Minute5898 t1_j1pse7i wrote

I love Iron Bound Section. She's a stunning writer


KnewTemptation t1_j1pt19o wrote

Thanks for reminding me of this one! Just have a listen, it brought a smile and a bunch of childhood memories!


postmodern_emo t1_j1ptg6b wrote

I used the song as a part of a test and the students enjoyed it quite a bit. It was fun. The descriptive storytelling is so good.


markko79 t1_j1py9mr wrote

I love it when she goes do-do all over my radio.


funhaus2000 t1_j1pyplx wrote

A beautiful song I never ever get tired of it the acapella version is just as beautiful if not mesmerizing.


bobledrew t1_j1q0rmu wrote

I was lucky enough to see her at a music conference where she was keynoting. I don’t remember much of the speech, but I do remember who doing this a capella. Spingles just thinking about it.


JadedMuse t1_j1q24jl wrote

Always liked Suzanne Vega. Her video for Blood Makes Noise used to play on MuchMusic all the time when I was young.


Worried_Astronaut_41 t1_j1q3tyw wrote

Wow brings back so many memories I'm so old used to have a friend named Tom at the time that song was out drove him crazy I miss all the memories that song brought back.


sbb7891 t1_j1q4gn0 wrote

My creative writing teacher in high school used this song as an example of good storytelling in class. Also Fast Car by Tracy Chapman.


buckrukus t1_j1qbsy7 wrote

I prefer Alice's Restaurant


kingedOne t1_j1qn7xw wrote

Yes this bought back some cool memories


digidiosyncrasy t1_j1quwas wrote

this needs its own Vice "The Story of" episode


azcherid t1_j1r0uq9 wrote

I feel like OP is trying to Baby Shark us with a 90s earworm. I haven’t re-listened to the song and I already can’t get it out of my head, lol


youareactuallygod t1_j1r55h7 wrote

Now it’s stuck in my head just from seeing the name


cjaxeve t1_j1r7k61 wrote

After the giant rooks one came out I lost who did this version! THANKYOU! It’s been months of me searching!


overbyte t1_j1ri2cr wrote

You’re not wrong


MurkDiesel t1_j1ri7u8 wrote

yep, it's 30 years old and will still sound dope in 30 years


ncc74656m t1_j1rupu2 wrote

Having been to Tom's once (save yourself the time, service is terrible and food is mediocre at best, and prices reflect their assumed popularity), and having lived in that neighborhood, it really does sum up that neighborhood well.

That said, yes, it's a fantastic song, and it's just got this quality to it that is beautiful.


mcbeef89 t1_j1rx1dk wrote

no-one has mentioned £10 To Get In by Shut Up & Dance, this makes me sad. 1989 UK rave classic


keebrev-t t1_j1rx4qm wrote

Have you heard the one from AnnenMayKantereit? Omg, that version is also very very good.


FightPhoe93 t1_j1s1m8x wrote

Fantastic song. I immediately think of Fall 1990 when I hear this song and think of the transition period I was going through going. Summer of 1990 was the worst summer of my life, fall 1990 was sort of a period of positive recovery as things were getting better for me in life after how rough the summer had been.

My honest opinion is the 1990-1992 period was a fantastic period for many types of music and Tom’s Diner was certainly one of the great songs of a terrific era for Pop, Rock, R & B, and Rap.


always-there t1_j1sd6wu wrote

Every time I get a random song stuck in my head and can't get rid of it, I just have to hum a new bars of Tom's Diner. The old song is gone and has been replaced with this one. I can then forget Tom's Diner and no more earworm.


carlylewithay t1_j1slxil wrote

The I dream of Jeanie version is best


HunkyMump t1_j1smghy wrote

I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure when Suzanne Vega team heard the unlicensed cut by DNA they were so impressed that instead of suing them for the song they just played them royalties or bought the rights or whatever it is they do to be fair.


lilac_candy t1_j1plpz3 wrote

The Giorgio Moroder/Britney Spears cover is excellent too


Plastic-Buddy-5931 t1_j1p5e58 wrote

Another song where I find that has an amazing quality in regards to a female voice is “1234” by feist I have both of these songs on a playlist called “sonically speaking, these fuck”


CutthroatGigarape t1_j1ovpnq wrote

For some reason I really dislike that song. The nonsensical lyrics, lack of rhyme and just general “I’m so quirky” vibe make it a difficult pill to swallow. Then maybe, just maybe, it’s because that back in the 90s it was waaaaay overplayed where I lived. On the radio, in school etc. so maybe I just associate it with this “mainstream overplayed hit” and can’t take it seriously.