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Music / Rain Dogs

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Rain Dogs is the ninth album by Tom Waits, released in 1985 through Island Records. Very much a continuation of the experimental 'junkyard band' style debuted on Swordfishtrombones, it's notable for its very organic sound, especially since a lot of artists at the time relied on synthesizers and drum machines. Waits makes use of a lot of exotic or old-fashioned instruments and street sounds. The album is best remembered for the fan favorites "Singapore", "Jockey Full Of Bourbon" and the Covered Up "Downtown Train".

"Rain Dogs" also marked the debut of Marc Ribot, an American composer and guitarist who would work together with Waits again on Franks Wild Years (1987), Big Time (1988), Mule Variations (1999), Real Gone (2004), Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (2006) and Bad As Me (2011).


Side One

  1. "Singapore" (2:46)
  2. "Clap Hands" (3:47)
  3. "Cemetery Polka" (1:51)
  4. "Jockey Full of Bourbon" (2:45)
  5. "Tango Till They're Sore" (2:49)
  6. "Big Black Mariah" (2:44)
  7. "Diamonds & Gold" (2:31)
  8. "Hang Down Your Head" (2:32)
  9. "Time" (3:55)

Side Two

  1. "Rain Dogs" (2:56)
  2. "Midtown" (1:00)
  3. "9th & Hennepin" (1:58)
  4. "Gun Street Girl" (4:37)
  5. "Union Square" (2:24)
  6. "Blind Love" (4:18)
  7. "Walking Spanish" (3:05)
  8. "Downtown Train" (3:53)
  9. "Bride of Rain Dog" (1:07)
  10. "Anywhere I Lay My Head" (2:48)

Downtown Tropes

  • The Alcoholic: "Jockey Full of Bourbon".
    And I've been drinking from a broken cup
    Two pairs of pants and a mother vest
    I'm full of bourbon: I can't stand up
  • Alliterative Name and Alliterative Title: "Big Black Mariah", "Gun Girl".
  • Break Up Song: "Hang Down Your Head".
    You have found another, oh baby, I must go away
  • Careful with That Axe: Waits's closing scream during the title track.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: "Singapore".
    We're all mad as hatters here
  • Continuity Nod:
    • "Rain Dogs" is the second part of a trilogy about Frank O' Brien, which started with Swordfishtrombones (1983) and concludes with Franks Wild Years (1987).
    • There are two tracks on this album referring to the album title, one being "Rain Dogs" and the other "Bride Of Rain Dog".
    • "Jockey Full Of Bourbon" also mentions the "downtown train" that will reappear in "Downtown Train".
  • Creepy Uncle: "Cemetery Polka" is about a whole bunch of 'em.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: "Rain Dogs" has a black-and-white cover.
  • Dirty Old Man: "Cemetery Polka":
    Uncle Violet flew as a pilot
    He said there ain't no pretty girls in France
    Now he runs a tidy little bookie joint
    They say he never keeps it in his pants
  • Face on the Cover: Averted. Although you'd be forgiven for thinking it's Tom, it's not.
  • Gender-Blender Name: One of the uncles the singer of "Cemetery Polka" has is named Violet, a name usually given to women.
  • Handicapped Badass: "Singapore":
    The captain is an one-armed dwarf
    He's throwing dice along the wharf
    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
  • Instrumental: "Midtown" and "Bride Of Rain Dog".
  • Intercourse with You: This one lyric from "Singapore":
    Let marrow bone and cleaver choose
    While making feet for children's shoes
  • List Song: "Cemetery Polka" lists the bizarre activities of all his "uncles".
  • Location Song: "Singapore", which a pirate shanty about sailing to this location. Historically Singapore was also known for being a pirate's nest.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Midtown", just one minute long.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Jockey Full Of Bourbon" isn't mentioned in its lyrics.
  • One-Woman Song: "Big Black Mariah" and "Gun Street Girl".
  • One-Word Title: "Singapore", "Time", and "Midtown".
  • The Power of Love: "Blind Love", where Waits claims he'll find his lost loved one by using blind love.
    The only way to find you is if I close my eyes
    I'll find you with my blind love, the only kind of love is stone blind love
  • The Scrooge: "Cemetery Polka":
    Uncle Biltmore and Uncle William made a million during World War II
    But they're tightwads and they're cheapskates
    And they'll never give a dime to you
  • Shout-Out:
    • The look of the album cover is a shout-out to the typography of the cover of Elvis Presley.
    • "Clap Hands" contains the lyric "They all went to Heaven in a little rowboat," which previously appeared in Shirley Ellis's "The Clapping Song". Thom Yorke, a huge Waits fan, would again recycle the lyric for "Pyramid Song" on Radiohead's Amnesiac.
  • The Smurfette Principle: "Cemetery Polka" mentions multiple uncles, but only one aunt, Auntie Mame.
  • Special Guest: Keith Richards provided guitar and backing vocals to the songs "Big Black Mariah", "Union Square", and "Blind Love". A year later Waits would return the favor by singing background vocals on The Rolling Stones album Dirty Work (1986).
  • Stock Sound Effects: "Singapore" ends with the sound of rainy storm weather.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: "Singapore", where Waits describes those who will "[...] sail to Singapore", while using a lot of imagery right from a pirate story.
  • Talky Bookends: The music video for "Downtown Train" starts with two old people discussing how "Every time there's a full moon he comes out and sings. It drives me crazy!"
  • Title Track: "Rain Dogs".
  • Train Song:
    • "Downtown Train".
      The downtown trains are full
      With all those Brooklyn girls
      They try so hard to break out of their little worlds
    • "Blind Love".
      Well, I'm at the station, and I can't get on the train
    • "9th Hennepin" also mentions a train in the final verse:
      And I've seen it all through the yellow windows of the evening train
  • Wholesome Cross Dresser: "Union Square":
    The guy in the dress is a beauty
    Go all the way and I swear you never can tell