Rain Dogs is an album released in 1985, containing 19 tracks. According to Tom Waits, the album is about all the people that have lost all and now have no sense of direction. They are lost not in the sense in which one loses his keys, but in a metaphorical sense – they do not belong in the society.
The title refers to the actual dogs that have lost their way back home when rain started and washed away all the scents that guided them.
Romeo is Bleeding is a 1978 song written by Tom Waits and released on the album Blue Valentine. As always, the singer/writer drew heavily from his past experiences when writing his songs. This is also the case of Romeo is Bleeding.
One night, when Tom was with then girlfriend Rickie Lee Jones, he picked up some Mexican gang members in his car. When asked where the hospital is, Tom turned his head and so a young kid bleeding in the back seat. After arriving at the hospital, Waits wrote the son. Rickie Lee Jones was featured on the album cover.
Tom Traubert’s Blues was released in 1976 on album Small Change. According to Tom Waits, the son’s title is a reference to a friend of a friend that has died in prison. The singer also said that he wrote the song after drinking a pint of whisky and throwing up (after a meeting with Skid Row).
Also, this song has the chorus inspired by Australia’s Waltzing Matilda. However, given its origins, the Matilda reference is actually a reference to the vicious circle of alcoholism.
What’s He Building appeared on Mule Variations in 1999 and it is supposed to be a metaphor about living with nosy neighbors. As Tom Waits says, it is also about seeing the world through a keyhole (which means that the song is, somewhat, written from a false perspective) and not trusting anything that you see (possibly because you have a distorted perspective).
Going Out West appeared one the album Bone Machine in 1992 and, as the name suggests, it is a story about breaking the frontier (obviously, all of this is a metaphor, since the character in the song is not the most pleasant man that tries to win over Hollywood).