The Wire Theme: Way Down in the Hole

For those of you like the me of a few months ago who haven’t seen The Wire, each series has its own version of the Tom Waits song Way Down in the Hole.

Season 1: Blind Boys of Alabama

The first series’ theme was performed by The Blind Boys of Alabama. The album that this song comes from, Spirit of the Century, is absolutely fantastic. The highlight is the blues on the oud number Soldier.

Blind Boys of Alabama – Way Down in the Hole (Chords)

I’ve written up the chords as they appear in the theme tune, but there’s nothing in the full song that isn’t in this version.

At the end of each line there’s little little lick.

With this at the end of the verse.

Wire Ukulele Tab

Season 2: Tom Waits

The original Tom Waits version is one fret higher than the BBoA at Bm.

Season 3: The Neville Brothers

The Neville Brothers’ version is in the key of Am – which makes it the most suitable for the ukulele. My favourite way of playing the song is to use the key of Am and the bass lead in from this version and combine it with the lead parts from the Blind Boys’ version to get this:

Season 4: DoMaJe (Baltimore Boys Choir)

Back to the BBoA key of Bbm. I have to say, this is my least favourite version by a long way. For the fuzzy solo, bust out the Bb minor pentatonic scale.

Season 5: Steve Earle

As well as providing the theme for the final season and appearing in the show, Steve Earle’s Feel Alright was used for the end of season 2 montage (listen here if you don’t want any spoilers). It’s a great song. I was going to write it up for the uke, but it’s one of those rare songs that sounds better on the guitar.

Earle’s version of Way Down in the Hole is in Gm.

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21 Comments

  1. LonnaB July 7th, 2008 1:36 am

    Steve Earl is something else.

  2. Woodshed July 7th, 2008 11:03 pm

    He really is. Have you heard the album he did with the Del McCoury Band?

  3. LonnaB July 8th, 2008 12:41 pm

    Yes I have. Great album.

  4. zym July 9th, 2008 3:49 pm

    excellent!

    which season are you up to now?

  5. Woodshed July 9th, 2008 11:45 pm

    I’ve just started on series 5. I miss the Barksdale gang. I thought series 2 and 4 were nowhere near as good as 1 and 3.

  6. rico knight July 10th, 2008 6:07 pm

    Waits is the man. And The Wire is ace.
    Thanks so much for this Woodshed.
    Any chance of any more Waits’ chords please?

  7. Woodshed July 10th, 2008 9:47 pm

    It’s a possibility, I’ll add it to the list.

  8. Murray July 10th, 2008 10:14 pm

    Wow! Now, I’ve followed this site for a long long time in silence, but now that you’ve combined two of the best things I’ve ever encountered I have to say thank you. Thank you!!

    That’s me sorted for:
    – the next couple of days
    – future live gigs
    – ever.

  9. zymeck July 11th, 2008 2:29 pm

    I know what you mean about 2,(and 1 & 3) but i think 4 was my favourite series

  10. Ed Hausmann January 22nd, 2009 8:38 pm

    As a long-time jazz listener, I told my son that I didn’t think the Way Down in a Hole theme was a truly a real authentic jazz blues. Something is different, though (as a non-munician) I can’t say. It’s similar, but not exactly a blues.

    But my son figures his poor old daddy is dead wrong — that The Wire theme most certainly is b.ues. (The Wikipedia says the aong is based on a blend of blues and gospel –which I can agree with)

  11. Laura June 29th, 2009 6:40 pm

    The version by DoMaJe – who plays guitar? I think they sound like Santana – I’ve been searching the “net” and so far no luck with the musicians on this version.

  12. Ian July 24th, 2009 12:49 pm

    As the video example you use for this is now broken…. would be delighted if you used our version (we used the tab to produce it)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yra31O9WKzY

    xXx

  13. Woodshed July 24th, 2009 7:49 pm

    Ian: Oh, go on then.

  14. will August 3rd, 2010 1:21 am

    Hey you two, that was sensational.

  15. Jolie March 2nd, 2011 3:47 am

    Having just discovered The Wire and Ukulele at the same time, (and fallen madly in love with both) I feel like I’ve found my home on this website.

    You’re my people. :)

    _Jolie

  16. Laura March 2nd, 2011 3:48 pm

    Jolie,

    Welcome to the club. Greatest show on TV (so far) Justified is fairly decent on FX. Omar rules. The end of season 5 will make you want to cry. go Bubbles. Love Stringer Bell (Idris Elba), see him in Rocknrolla.

  17. Woodshed March 6th, 2011 11:08 am

    Jolie: Good to have you aboard!

    Laura: It is/was really excellent.

  18. Joe June 5th, 2011 11:42 pm

    I disagree completely. I think the season four version is best by a considerable margin. Season five song is awful, matching the quality of that season

  19. Woodshed June 6th, 2011 8:17 am

    Joe: It was an excellent season. Still not so keen on the theme tune version.

  20. Jacob September 25th, 2011 7:03 pm

    If you’re still out there Ed – maybe it sounds odd to you because it’s a 16 bar not a 12 bar blues

  21. Ryan March 21st, 2012 1:51 pm

    I am not so smart when it comes to whats what on the fret board, can you tell me what chords are in the song for the Neville Bros verion, and Tom Waits version? I know Neville Bro are in Am, but I don’t know what to do with that info. Waits is one fret higher in Bm, but again, clueless. Thanks anyone for the help! “Ain’t no murder, I shot Mike-Mike in his hind parts is all.”

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