Ninth And Hennepin

Album: Rain Dogs (1985)


  • In a 1985 interview with Spin magazine, Tom states that the imagery found in this song is drawn mostly from his observations of New York, though the actual named location - Ninth Street and Hennepin Avenue - is in Minneapolis. The location "Ninth and Hennepin" understandably stuck with Waits because he was in an all-night donut shop when he was caught in the middle of a pimp war that involved live ammunition firing into his booth. Tom alludes to this with the line, "All the donuts have names like prostitutes."
  • In support of the album's lyrical themes, "Ninth and Hennepin" is presented as a place of transition, not a home or a destination of any kind. The lyric says of the song's characters: "They all started out with bad directions." The broken umbrellas symbolize failed attempts at shelter by the corner's inhabitants.
  • More symbols of travel and rootlessness found in this lyric: the smell of diesel, horses, the evening train, being lost.
  • The line, "Till you're full of rag water and bitters and blue ruin," is referenced in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Will - Happy Valley, UT

Comments: 13

  • John B, St. Paul, Minneapolis In The 60s from Newport, South WalesMuch of the imagery could be applied to Hennepin Ave downtown Minneapolis in general, especially in the 60s and early 70s. A real picturesque sleaze pit. The mention of the Southern Pacific however is way off base. It's the Northern Pacific that used to run into the Great Northern depot 9 blocks away on Hennepin. You wouldn't have to go far to hear the clang and thunder of the trains before it was demolished in the 80s. Love the song anyway.
  • Jeff from Lacey, WashingtonIn the film "Big Time," Waits recites this song live while holding a flaming umbrella. Literally, he is holding an umbrella that's on fire.
  • Sara from Los Angeles, CaIt's definitely Minneapolis. There's train tracks running a block from the intersection of Ninth and Hennepin. Southern Pacific trains run all over the country.
  • Quentin from Beaverton, Or"With the clang and the thunder of the Southern Pacific going by" is likely a train.
  • Joe from Da Chi, IlRonald Reagan's boyhood home is at 9th and Hennepin in Dixon. He also mentions "Dutch"in the song. That's one hell of a coincidence, don't you think?
  • Brandon from San Francisco, CaWhile 9th & Hennepin is in Minneapolis, Waits himself says that the imagery in Rain Dogs is taken almost entirely from New York. The song (poem, really) "9th & Hennepin" is taken from an experience where he was observing people while sitting in a doughnut shop (there are lots of those on 9th Ave in NYC). His sentiments are here:
  • Greg from Los Angeles, CaI believe you guys about where Ninth & Hennepin is, but what the heck is the Southern Pacific doing in Minneapolis? Artistic license, no doubt. (If you are curious and want to look elsewhere, there is also a Ninth and Hennepin in Dixon, Illinois, but it does not look like the locale of Tom Waits song --- it's in the middle of a middle class neighborhood.)
  • Marie from Williamsburg, MiThe line, "No one ever brings anything small in to a bar around here," is from the movie Harvey (James Stewart and the immaginary rabbit).
  • Dimsum from Washington, Dc9th and Hennapin is where the Fairmont Hotel in Minneapolis used to be located

    there is a photo of it at

    after you see it the song makes more sence
  • Eph from Minneapolis, MnThis song is about 9th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis, MN. Contrary to what Craig from Madison stated, there is only one real 9th and Hennepin. He is technically correct that there is also a SE 9th st and Hennepin (which is actually north of S 9th and Hennepin) the location of what is this song is about.

    As to being able to stand on 33rd and 33rd a little hint, one is an avenue and the other is a street. When you live on 33rd and 45th. You are saying that I live on 33rd street and 45th avenue. Always in that order. The same goes for 33rd and 33rd.
  • Craig from Madison, WiDue to the immensely illogical city planning of Minneapolis, MN (where this song is set), there are two 9th and Hennapins. It is also possible to stand on the corner of 33rd and 33rd.
  • Craig from Madison, WiAlso in Eternal Sunshine, the Rain Dogs cd is shown in the montage of gifts and memories of Clementine.
  • Ashley from Charleston, WvOne Tom Waits song? Out of 32 years of recordings?? Come on Songfacts!!!
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