New York folk poet Suzanne Vega added a little textured gloss to her sound and drew on a mix of old and new songs for her triumphant sophomore album. ‘Solitude Standing’ was produced by Lenny Kaye and Steve Addabbo at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock and RPM Sound Studios in New York City. Vega recalls: “I think Steve and Lenny, who did both ‘Suzanne Vega’ and ‘Solitude Standing’ together, were inexperienced. We were all sort of hashing it out in the studio, so when I listen to those records, even though they were the most successful ones, I’m not always that happy with how they all came out.” In any case, the pop production did make her more accessible and launched her into the public eye. ‘Solitude Standing’ was a worldwide hit, going to number eleven in the US, eight in Switzerland, seven in Australia, six in Germany, two in the UK, and number one in New Zealand. The album was nominated for three Grammys including Record of the Year and went platinum in the US and the UK.
"Tom's Diner" was written 1981 while Vega was eating at Tom's Restaurant on the corner of Broadway and 112th Street in New York City, which is the same restaurant depicted as Monk’s Café in ‘Seinfeld’. The acappella album version was a top thirty hit in Ireland.
The song became a hit in 1990 when British production duo DNA remixed it with a beat. Rather than sue, Vega and A&M decided to release it as a single. It became a worldwide smash going to number five in the US, number two in the UK, and topped the charts in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
"Luka" was written in 1984 and became an unlikely hit around the world, going to number three on the US pop chart. “It was a big surprise to write a song like 'Luka' that became so popular in part because it was written from the perspective of a boy being abused by his parents... Maybe at that moment it touched a nerve in society that the other songs didn’t, at least not in such a widespread way. I got a lot of letters from people in child abuse agencies complaining to me about “Luka,” saying that I’d written it “incorrectly” and that the correct thing to do is empower the child rather than make him feel bad. I didn’t follow that way of thinking about the issue. Because they made me so angry, I kept those letters for a while before throwing them away. My correspondents wanted me for a cause and felt I hadn’t expressed myself according to their rules.”
"Solitude Standing" was co-written by Vega, Michael Visceglia, Anton Sanko, Marc Shulman, Stephen Ferrera.
“Solitude stands in the doorway
And I'm struck once again by her black silhouette
By her long cool stare and her silence
I suddenly remember each time we've met
And she turns to me with her hand extended
Her palm is split with a flower with a flame
And she says ‘I've come to set a twisted thing straight’
And she says ‘I've come to lighten this dark heart’
And she takes my wrist, I feel her imprint of fear
And I say ‘I've never thought of finding you here’”
"Calypso" was written in 1978. “It was my first year in college and I was taking this Humanities course, and one of the first things we had to read was Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ and I remember being struck by the whole situation. I had a boyfriend at the time that would call me ‘Circe’ as a nickname to annoy me, and it did annoy me. And I don’t feel I’m like Circe, I’m not turning anybody into swine. If I’m like any goddess around here, I suppose I’m more like Calypso, because he was always leaving. So that’s what goaded me into writing the song.”
Vega co-wrote ‘Language’ with Visceglia.
Written in 1978, “‘Gypsy’ was a sincere love song to a man that I was involved with. I still feel myself to be the narrator of that song.”
All songs written by Suzanne Vega in 1986–87 except as noted
"Tom's Diner" – 2:09 (written 1981)
"Luka" – 3:52 (written 1984)
"Ironbound/Fancy Poultry" (Vega, Anton Sanko) – 6:19
"In the Eye" (Vega, Marc Shulman) – 4:16
"Night Vision" (Vega, Sanko) – 2:47
"Solitude Standing" (Vega, Visceglia, Sanko, Shulman, Stephen Ferrera) – 4:49
"Calypso" – 4:14 (written 1978)
"Language" (Vega, Visceglia) – 3:57
"Gypsy" – 4:04 (written 1978) Produced by Steve Addabbo, Lenny Kaye and Mitch Easter
"Wooden Horse (Caspar Hauser’s Song)" (Vega, Visceglia, Sanko, Shulman, Ferrera) – 5:13
"Tom's Diner (Reprise)" – 2:40