"TWO AGAINST NATURE"
"What A Shame About Me"
"Two Against Nature"
"Jack of Speed"
"West of Hollywood"
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, "Steely Dan Words + Music" (copyright 2000 Giant Records):
WB: We had been talking about the idea of doing this for a while. We had written songs together a couple of different times since "Gaucho." There was a time in the middle eighties when we got together and wrote some tunes. And then we worked on at least one tune for Donald's record. So we had in the back of our minds the idea that we had some songs and some ideas for a a new album, and I guess after the last tour in '96 we decided, well, Let's go and do it, if we're going to do it, and that's when we started.
DF: I think there was a couple songs that may date back, what, into the eighties?
WB: Yeah, definitely into the middle eighties.
DF: At least the germinal ideas of them, but those were probably as I remember rewritten extensively, and most of the songs were written in the '90's.
WB: It's always been our habit in writing to look at pieces that we've had laying around for years, or to rewrite songs that we've perhaps finished and decided weren't that good, but all of the lyrics and all of the finished song structures, melodies and so on, are really new.
DF: I think when we get together, we just end up with a certain style, you know, which hopefully has evolved over the years. I don't think we were really remembering what we used to do in the seventies or eighties, really, it was just a matter of collecting some fragments that we had worked on either alone or together and seeing if we could come up with some interesting music that was interesting enough so that we would actually want to make records out of the material.
WB: I think we actually started recording in November of '97.
DF: I mean, you know there was times in between when we went back to write some more or took off, but...
WB: Remember we took that weekend off...
DF: Yeah, that weekend... We went down to Tijuana...
WB: It was a long weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
DF: Yeah, this material is all pretty new, you know as I say some of the things may be based on ideas from many years ago that we had on tape, which is usually a cassette in a boom box, you know, old work tapes that we sort of collate once in a while. It's a renewable process, because obviously some things don't work out the way you want, so you end up with these fragments, which then can be later used for something else if they come along. For instance, if you're writing a song and a chord progression will lead to a spot where you say, "You know, this sounds familiar," and it'll turn out to be similar to a chord progression from some fragment that we never used, and we say, "You know, this effect might sound good here," you know, so we'll use that, and we'll just pick those things out. You end up sewing everything together in a way, and I think most things are so much more random than they seem, and then when you put them together hopefully they won't seem random.
WB: Yeah, it's true. It's surprising when you're writing stuff how many different ways a thing could work and still sound right. A lot of times we'll sit there and we're trying to figure out which is best. They all sound pretty good.
DF: What it is, is you'll be writing something and realize the section you're about to write you've already written for a song that never matured.
DF: For instance, this one song, "West of Hollywood," has a chorus which we started playing something and it reminded us of a chorus of a sort of reggae song we wrote in the eighties, and so we dug it up and we adapted it, you know, but we had to change a few things, but essentially we were able to use that idea fifteen years later.
WB: We're very economical.
WB: We like to use old little bits, scraps of things that we find.
Unfortunately, BTB has taken down his fine 2vN exegesis page. You can still hunt for Huysmans' A Rebours (Against Nature), which the Dan say inspired the album's title, and needless to say some of the content of this and I'll bet other of their works. To come: the rest of BTB's meritorious comments.
David Menconi, Raleigh News and Observer (7/21/00): "It's the idea that everyone is fighting nature and the aging process," Fagen says of the album title. "It's kind of an axiom that when you get to be our age, you can't have a rock 'n' roll band anymore. So we're fighting nature in that sense. There's also the idea of art vs. nature. Sometimes I think artists don't do well in nature, and they have to invent their own reality."
Paul Zollo, cdnow interview, somewhere near century's end ("Steely Dan Continues The Battle"):
CDNOW: Two Against Nature is an intriguing title, and the title cut of the album.
Donald Fagen: We made it the title cut because we thought it was descriptive of our condition at the present time, because when you start to get older, you really are fighting nature all the time. And musically you're fighting nature, trying to organize atoms of sound. There are a lot of interpretations. But you're trying to manipulate or overcome obstacles in nature. Of course, if you take the long view, what we do is part of nature because everything is. But as far as a subjective view -- you are really fighting nature …
Walter Becker: …Your own internal economy of time, energy, money, ideas, patience …
Fagen: Trying to balance your musical life with other parts of your life. It's essentially a classic struggle....
[CDNOW] On this new album, as in much of your past songs, the meaning of the some of the songs is very clear, while others are quite cryptic. Is it important for the meaning of a song to be clear?
Becker: I think, depending on what the song is and what it's about, it's more or less important that it have a very comprehensible narrative. And I think for example, a song like "What a Shame About Me" on the new record, I can't imagine anyone having any trouble knowing what that's about. Whereas a song like "Two Against Nature," people ask us about quite a bit and sort of wonder about it. And particularly foreign people who are sort of confused about what might
be meant by the idea of "Two Against Nature." Or a song like "Gaslighting Abbie," if you don't know about the movie Gaslight and that expression, you're screwed, right? You have no idea what that's about. And yet if you do know that, then I think you can make sense out it.
[CDNOW] Your use of the language and specific details, even when the meaning is not obvious, such as "now you're the wonderwaif of Gramercy [Park]" from "Janie Runaway" are so great.
Becker: [Laughs] We certainly were pleased with that. Donald and I probably sat there for two hours trying to come up with that line. We had all different parts of the city. We had … Let me look at my file here. We write the lyrics with me typing words on the computer, and I end up keeping a lot of the stuff we don't use. It just gets sort of dragged and dropped down at the end of the file. Let's see what I have -- It says, "Another year of dog patch would have done you in." [Laughs] Let's see: "My waif queen," "my waif supreme," "waif mistress," "the baroness of my Wall Street loft," "now you're the princess of Van Damme Street," "Lispenard Street," "Irving Place," "Waverly Place." We had the titles "Dixie Runaway," "Susie Runaway," "Polly Runaway," "Molly Runaway," "Annie Runaway...."
[CDNOW] "Jack of Speed" is one of the new songs that has a classic Steely Dan sound and groove. Is that title an idiom you created?
Fagen: Yeah, that one represents the personification of a kind of demonic obsession.
Becker: We just felt that "Good King Psilocybin" was too hard to sing [laughs]. So we decided to go with "Jack of Speed."
Hutch (GB, 2/3/00): [from an article by Vic Garbarini in Guitar World] "... the good news is that the new record is an almost seamless continuation of the Steely Dan sound last heard on 1980's Gaoucho. Creepy characters and dark doings still haunt the band's gorgeous musical landscapes. But a sense of compassion has also surfaced amid the cynicisim".
Heidi hole (GB, 2/5/00): "Steely Dan Releasing New Album" (by Kevin O'Hare, Newhouse wire, describing the VH1Storytellers taping): It was insightful and at times quite amusing to see Becker and Fagen deal with the format of "Storytellers." the popular VH1 program includes not only performance, but a lenghty question and answer sessionwith audience members, focusing on the music and how the songs were written. Thats something Becker and Fagen have rarely, if ever, done is such a public setting, and at times they seemed to struggle with it.
Asked if any of their songs were autobiographical Becker quickly said "No,'' and drew laughs. But Fagen said that the writing process is based upon "partially your experiences, partially observations and partially dreams.'' They seemed taken aback by one audience member who said she was troubled by the lecherous relative detailed in "Cousin Dupree.'' Becker said the song was a joke take on "an original southern theme.'' Fagen modified that to say it was "a rural narrative.'' He then stressed that if listeners pay close attention, they'll realize that Cousin Dupree's advances are ultimately rejected. As for their music's staying power, Fagen and Becker seemed rather amazed. "We just wrote songs to amuse ourselves,'' Fagen said. "We never thought we'd be standing here 30 years later.'"
Andy (GB, 2/11/00): From Walter's thank yous in the Kamakiriad liner notes:
The producer wishes to thank Elinor, Kawai and Sayan for
their patience and support. Likewise Wolf Chuckie,
Wolf Nancy, Mr. Bonhommie, *Spider King Demon*, Donald,
Bambi, Fluffy, Legba, Baron Samedi. Mahalo to Lisa,
gracias to Bobbi. Hubba-hubba to Helen, George and
the whole crew over at *Steamer Heaven*.
Any of those references sound familiar? (If you don't get it take a listen to "Two Against Nature" and "What a Shame About Me").
Wayne Robins (LA Times, 2/17/00): Like many Steely Dan albums, there's a thematic consistency to "Two Against Nature," even if it is, as usual, a bit opaque.
"There wasn't actually any concept, but I think it's sort of like some of the other Steely Dan records, which were written in the same time period and we were thinking about certain things," says Fagen, 52. "Whatever was in our minds at the time. But there was a commonality of themes: Loss. Decay. Potential rejuvenation. . . ."
"However brief, however impermanent," adds Becker, 50.
amazon.com (Interview, 2/00): Amazon.com: The title Two Against Nature implies both conspiracy and conflict.
Becker: For our personal situation, we felt that we were collaborating to keep the bubble of artistic concern that we live in inflated and thus spare ourselves the necessity of dealing with the mundane world, where all sorts of natural processes like aging, death, and decay are going on.
Fagen: As you get older, nature impinges on your play/free area. You have to be aggressive in defending it. I think you have to broaden the spectrum of the things you think are funny as you get older. Like, say, death. You have to take a different attitude about it.
arteest (Digest, 3/1/00): i was curious if anyone else noticed a thread running through some of the new tunes? yeah, they're all wonderful but that ain't what i'm talkin' about... There's a lot of what one might call... occult... in there. i'm a graphic artist and i frequently refer to SD lyrics for imagery inspiration, (that's what the songs are like to me, by the way; paintings...) but i never noticed a bent for the horror-sort-of (almost gothic?)stuff.
here are just a few:
gaslighting abbie: aside from purposely driving someone insane, how about: "we'll do a fright night, with blood and everything..."
shame: "and you're talking to a ghost..."
2vN: The Whole Thing!
almost gothic: "she's pure science with a splash of black cat..." "this dark place is so thrilling and new, it's kind of like the opposite of an aerial view..."
negative girl: "her skin-like milk, it's like she's never seen the sun, some hearts to crunch, is more like her idea of fun..." "her reptile brain, locked down and ready in combat mode..."
oh, lighten up, jes' havin' some fun...cripes....
wait just a minute! what about the cover from AIA?? now that's really scary...
Dr. Otto Kernberg (GB, 3/5/00): You see, my dear colleagues, Negative Girl and West of Hollywood need to be seen as part of a greater whole. Reminds
me of many a Borderline or NPD I've worked with...
Bogus Spam Address (newsgroup, 3/2/00): I had made a cassette tape off of the Real Audio tracks of 2VN and while I loved getting the sense of the music I'm probably the last one to realize how much RA leaves out compared to the CD which I got yesterday. It was fun for me to finally read the lyrics to see how badly I was off. . .
1) In spite of the fact that I had access to the title, I could have sworn that the backup singers in Jack of Speed were singing "Check out Steve" (which I think sounds hipper)
2) It wasn't Aunt Bay's couch Dupris was falling off of, it was Aunt Fay's
3) My most disappointing gaffe was West Hollywood where the line goes "It started out good, then it got much better" I swear the RA version is "It started out good, then it got less better." The latter for me exemplifies the wordplay and irony I like about S Dan. Too bad they didn't write it that way. . .
My favorite lyric is What a Shame about Me, a great story song. First off, it's an unlikely phrase one would use, but it sets off the meaning of the song perfectly. I only wish they'd been less subtle in using the line "and make believe we're back in our own school" and made a more specific reference to the fact that she wanted to nail him.
My favorite song is West of Hollywood for both melody and lyric plus a killer sax solo. I enjoyed the gist of half the lyrics I did pick up and wasn't disappointed when I read the rest. You gotta give 'em credit for not only writing the line "riding the crest of a wave breaking just west of hollywood" but having it in meter and actually being able to sing the whole thing without screwing it up (say it fast 3 times. . .)
Dr. Kernberg again (GB, 3/11/00): The reason women have trouble understanding the depths of men's feelings, is, among other things, that they place too much credence in the so-called differences between genders. Neither you, nor your gb colleagues should be so quick to jump to the conclusion that the relationships suggested in Negative Girl and South of Westwood are"dysfunctional" in the common sense of the term. Depth, and thereby, inspiration, REQUIRES a degree of "dysfuction," and THAT, m'dear is why celebration (albeit passive, sentimental and at times maudlin), rather than despondency is the primary spirit of these songs, including ESPECIALLY TAN, and indeed the whole album.
Clas (GB, 3/14/00): I have analysed all lyrics on Two Against Nature! Here you have the songinterpretentations:
The songs are about;
1. Gaslighting Abby - a flying saucer and collective unconsciousness
2. What a Shame About Me - a flying saucer and collective unconsciousness
3. Two Against Nature - a flying saucer and collective unconsciousness
4. Janie Runaway - a flying sausager and collective unconsciousness
5. Almost Gothic - a flying saucer and collective unconsciousness
6. Jack of Speed - a flying saucer and collective unconsciousness
7. Cousin Dupree - The Knoxville Intercourse
8. Negative Girl - a flying saucer and collective unconsciousness
9. West of Hollywood - a flying saucer and collective unconsciousness
Dr. Mu (GB, 3/28/00): Hey, Have you all tried starting tvN with the title track??? Man, it's cool. Those Latin rhythms and staccato burts of the sax and the slow key chord change followed by the might bass line and Walter's threatening guitar - a great way to state they're BACK!!!. Follow the title track with What a Shame About Me THEN Gaslighting Abbie. The story now begins with the demons descending upon our hero-loser. While in a fit of self-pity he attempts to ward off an old flame...he get laid anyway - then bumps off the old lady. With renewed energy and the Life Insurance check, he buys the Red Blazer and find that lust is a game for three. They tie him up in a dungeon and get him hooked on the hard stuff. After a few nowhere gigs, he hits on a voloptuous cousin. Programmed by her putdowns he finds he's becomes involved in sensuous but empty relationships with uptown model after uptown model. He makes one last stand out West, runs out of gas and begins to tell his tale on the couch...Finnegan begin again...
Rick Baird (Digest, 3/31/00): I was listening to some old Zappa cds when I came across this: The second cut of the second disc on "You can't do that on stage anymore - Vol. 2 - The Helsinki Concert" (an entire concert taped from a small club in Helsinki, Finland circa 1974) is a song called, of all things, "Dupree's Paradise". It's a 24 minute jazz-acid rock fusion/ weird stuff/mostly instrumental jam with some dialog in the beginning about George Duke punishing himself with finger cymbals, Suzy Quatro (Leather Tuscedaro from Happy Days) music and Suzy Cohen (?) stealing towels from the Helsinki Hilton. Stuck in the middle, (about 4:30) Frank suddenly sings “Rikki don’t lose that number … you don’t want to lose that number Rikki”. Interesting coincidence eh?
Lastly, has anyone noticed a certain duality to the lyrics on 2vN? Several phrases or words not commonly seen in song lyrics are used twice on the album, in somewhat the same context. For example:
I'm in the amen corner now (ag)
I tell myself that it's over and done, amen (ng)
Gonna go bang-zoom to the moon on things unknown (2vn)
She's zooming on a couch somewhere (ng)
First she's all buzz then she's noise-free (ag)
A goof - a buzz, If that is what it was (ng)
Anybody else from our old crew (wasam)
Spider queen demon and that whole crew (2vn)
Missy's kitty turn inside out she say (2vn)
The city - the cleanest kitten in the city (ag)
It's a luscious invention for three (ga)
Exhausting and luscious (ng)
And make believe we're back at our old school (wasam)
She's old school then she's like young (ag)
Western science she strictly rinkydink (2vn)
She's pure science with a splash of black cat (ag)
I’m not really attaching any special significance to this, But I thought it was interesting.
See the Introductory Notes for "11 Tracks of Whack" for similar comments. I noticed this about Mr. Becker's lyrics too.
Lynn Ross (Digest, 3/31/00): In reference to the guy who posted the question about whether there are real Steamer Heavens around, I'd say there are not, at least I've not seen any. But that doesn't stop the furtile imaginations of our dynamic duo. If you'll recall, the Kamakiri is a "steam-powered 10", suggesting
that there would be (in the D+W universe) dealerships and repair shops that sold and serviced Kamakiris. I suppose then, that Steamer Heaven would be one of those repair emporiums. If Alan owns a chain of these shops, he's probably rolling in snow, far from the world we know, somewhere up on Mizar 5. Just a guess.
Daily Steve (4/13/00): I just want to say how excellent it is, to be in NYC, from NYC, tired of NYC, and to hear all these subtly subversive references to the Big Apple. Do you know HOW refreshing it is to blast the title track into my own ears as I run, underground, to and from the #1 train and the Grand Central/Times Square Shuttle during rush hour twice daily? Now THAT's too against nature.
grateful purple (GB, 4/24/00): By the way, isn't Amen Corner one of the difficult spots at Augusta? And isn't that a bunker on the cover photo of TvN?
soout (GB, 4/25/00): ~amen corner: the 10th, 11th & 12th holes at the majestic augusta national in GA. (especially on sunday afternoon; the final round of the master's) that's were champions are made so-to-speak. it's the part of the course and the tournament where the extreme pressure and competition seperate the "chosen" from the also-rans. quite ironic given D&W's past emotional tribulations.
Daddy G (GB, 4/25/00): Steven is right on about the Amen Corner. I would just add that "Amen Corner" could also be a metaphor for the concept of being in a situation where there is no turning back. "Amen" literally means "so be it," and the dictionary definition of the Amen Corner is a "conspicuous corner in a church occupied by fervent worshippers." I guess it doesn't matter whether you're at Augusta National or in a church -- if you're in the Amen Corner, you're pretty much committed.
Aja (GB, 5/11/00): Has anyone noticed how pathetic the men are on 2vN? I hear the CD and want to have a self-esteem raising session for them, they're so jerked around by their women and life in general. Negative Girl is almost emotionally abusive, yet the narrator keeps coming back for more (though he vows it's really over this time). The narrator in WASAM doesn't have the energy or desire for a reminiscent romp with a gorgeous ex-flame, he's so defeated by life. WOH, they're both at the bottom of the emotional well, but it seems to pain Kid Clean especially. Cousin Dupree? Enough said. AG-he knows she lies to him but he stays hypnotized.
NotMyNancy (GB, 5/11/00): In Don&Walt's lyrics, bad guys get sympathy and innocents/victims get scrutiny. But we still know who's bad and who's innocent. That's one more reason that the Dan is so great.
Dr. Mu (GB, 5/17/00): Trying Clas' lyric filter
Gaslighting Abbie: Guy gets laid - kills wife
What a Shame About Me: Guy doesn't get laid - just a shadow of the man that he once new back at his old school
Two Against Nature: Guy wants to get laid - wants his semi-mojo back
Janie Runaway: Guy gets laid - waits for the raid
Almost Gothic: Guy gets laid - wonders why they don't go out during the day
Cousin Dupree: Guy doesn't get laid - never got to school
Negative Girl: Guy gets laid - wonders why Porcaro always got the bubbly ones
West of Hollywood: Guy gets laid - just a shadow of the man that he once knew
the insider (GB, 5/18/00): song interpretations.....etc
Gaslighting Abbey-from the old Charles Boyer flick 'Gaslight' (with a little 'Manchurian Candidate') thrown in [ see below]
Two Against Nature-two 'doctors' escape from looney bin
Negative Girl-junkie chick breaks heart
West of Hollywood- musician heads west, girlfriend od's ("...almost got there...), one of the saddest 'Dan songs....maybe you can guess who wrote it....
Roger Catlin, Hartford Courant (7/25/00) (quoted on HoustonChronicle.com) (Thanx, JW): Although the band toured in the 1990s, Steely Dan is presenting its first new songs in two decades, songs that fans have found have a direct connection with their classics.
"One of the interesting things to me -- which I picked up from people writing on the Internet -- is in what sense the characters on the new album seem to represent the same characters we've already written about (but) grown older," Becker said. [ see some of these comments about Steely character continuity below.... ]
Robert Wilonsky, Dallas Observer (7/27/00) [a very funny inter/review] (Thanx, ever-vigilant BigFan): "Our songwriting is always a balancing act: Songs can't be too funny, they can't be too obscene, they can't be too nasty, they can't be too pretentious," Becker says. "We have to sort of try and juggle the different elements that we're using in the songs, and I think we've learned how to do that over the years so that the songs will sort of work on a bunch of different levels at once. You can listen to them one way and hear one thing, and you can listen to them one way and hear something different." If you know what this means, send your essay to The What The Hell Is Walter Becker Talking About Contest? c/o Dallas Observer, 2130 Commerce St., Dallas, TX 75201. Winners will receive a copy of Becker's novel Expressions to Avoid During a Recording Session, which includes such chapters as "My Spirit's Already Sore from the Last Thirty Takes," "My Girlfriend Sings Great Background Vocals," and "Play Something Paul Would Tell Linda to Play.")
YGK (GB, 3/12/02): 1) Who is Dr. Warren Kruger and why is he mentioned?
Dr. Warren Kruger is a deranged 'social scientist' a la Timothy Leary who has an office on the Upper East Side.....
2) What is "The Tyranny of the Disallowed"?
The Quiet Rage of those who feel 'on the outside'
3) What is "The Rebus Affair"?
It was a an affair which developed during desegregation.....
4) What is "Hooterie"?
A gathering of freaky, wonderfully whacked, Dan heads.....also known on as Danfest
5) Where is Port Blanc?
Next to Port Chenin
Clean Willy (7/21/02): I don't know if anyone else felt this way, but TvN has been very difficult for me to get into. This is not incredibly uncommon for the Dan, or anything. Every time I purchased one of the seven albums, I would pop it in, listen for a run threw and think, "what happened? What is this?" Then I would listen a few more times, and the music began to clear up, the lyrics began to
solidify into thoughts, concepts and imagery. After a week I would inevitably be hooked, unable to listen to anything else. After every Dan purchase, all other music would be ruined for a good month.
With TvN, it seems different. There are songs that I have been able to get into, but on a whole I haven't felt that spark. I began to think that maybe this album was meant as a retrospective. The two of the album title are nessecarily Becker and Fagen (though it would be crazy to denounce them from the title altogether) but any two long time friends. The premise of the album seems to be this: What happens when the two coolest people in the world get old? The quick response is, they don't take it sitting down, they go against nature. They fight the good fight. TvN is about looking back at the attitude that defined you and working to make sure that it still means something to you.
Am I the only person to think that it's hysterical that the Coke in "Negative Girl" is actually and can of coca-cola?
When I look at Donald Fagen with his short white hair and clear rimmed glasses with blue lenses, I don't feel that the coolness he exudes is reliant upon history. They are just cool dudes and they are still oh so cool.
With that mindset, I'm becoming more comfortable with the album, but I still feel like I'm being played a little. This album would mean nothing to me if it weren't preceded by the brillance of the seven prior albums. TvN requires a knowledge of the Dan, it plays off the things we know about them. Just look at how many comments on this site discuss TvN characters as extentions of others (Cousin Dupree and Mr. LaPage or Franny and Peg).
These songs are filled with name dropping, only instead of people's names, it's places. NYU, Hollywood, Dean and Deluca, Gramercy Park are all places they TALK about going to, but never seem to. Consider the number of named characters in this album as compared to others. Abbey, Franny, Bobby Dakine, Barry Missy, Madame Erzule, T-Bone Angie, Brother Lou Garue, Jerry Garry. Those are all just from the first three tracks.
"She said, 'Talk to me, do you ever see anyone from our old crew?'" The album is filled with people and memories the title two talk about but don't know what to do with.
To me, our duo in TvN are sitting on a park bench in Central Park watching the girls go by on rollarskates (which makes it into the liner photos).One says to the other, "Let's go to Dean and Deluca." The other agrees, but neither gets up to go. Instead they just sit talking about
everything they've done and trying to find creative novelties in the world around them. If Steely Dan releases another album, I have a feeling that it won't have this tone. I think they needed to get 20 years of ruminating out of their system. Bizarre when you think of all the refernces to being too old
that appear in "Gaucho."
Listen to the music of TvN. This is the only Dan album that I find sonically unidentifiable. With the exception of one or two tracks, I don't think I name any of the songs on here if the words were removed. Compare that to the classic opening of "Reelin' Through the Years" or "Josie." Compare it
to the choruses on "My Old School" or "Hey Nineteen." The songs on TvN almost have a Hip-Hop quality to them. Listen to "Almost Gothic" or the title track with their 10+ instrumentalists and hear the way the same complex hooks and riffs appear to be repeated throughout each song. The beauty of the chaotism ties in with the idea that this album is a theraputic mission. "You, my fans" Fagen seems to say, "I need you to get this off my chest. I just need to put it all out their. So bear with me."
Throughout the whole album, the Dan tries to sound up-beat, talking about how great the days are. We still get around, we still drive with the top down and the radio up. Look at this perverted character trying to sleep with his cousin. This couple is trying to kill his wife. It's like clown make-up, our heros feel that if they let the image fall then we as fans will say "You lied!" or "You fakers!"
By the end, the whole experience culminates on "West of Hollywood" where Fagen sings "Look into my eyes, can you see the core is frozen?" then the kicker "You can't ask me to access the dreams I don't have now."
He drops the guard, the previous eight tracks of Steely Dan making "Steely Dan music." Then he surveys the scene and we as fans and followers say "You guys could never do wrong, we've loved you for years and that's not going to stop. We all dry our tears laugh and decide to go get a beer. On the
walk to the bar the Dan says "Don't you love Port Blanc when Hooterie is over? When the girls are easy and the crowds are gone." Just you and me, "a weekend of bliss. Then the rainy season."
"That's okay guys," we say, "your music is a two-way street. And this journey was as special as anything else we could have dreamed up in the last twenty years."
When I think about it like that, TvN is an incredible sad and sobbering album, but it is definitely a lot easier to swallow and it makes me feel rewarded to have spent all this time following the band with my eyes and ears.
For a fascinating e-commentary on "2vN" and Danness in general, go to "Post and Riposte" in "Hear My Ax Declaim."
For a fascinating (some may say annoying and completely wrong-headed) review of "2vN" by Nick Hornby, the author of High Fidelity, check out "Reeling In The Years: The Return of Steely Dan," The New Yorker, 3/27/00, pp. 137-139.
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, "Steely Dan Words + Music" (copyright 2000, Giant Records):
DF: "Gaslighting," actually, its origin was from the classic film "Gaslight," and to gaslight is what Charles Boyer did to, who was it? Ingrid Bergman or someone...
DF: He tried to convince her that she was insane by moving things around in the house and...
WB: ...constantly turning the lights lower and lower, you know...
DF: ... it's about a guy who along with his secret lover is essentially trying to get rid of his wife or drive her insane...
WB: ... that's right, yes, that's right...
DF: ...they steal her clothes, and they get 15 watt lightbulbs and put them in place of the usual lightbulbs so it looks really dark in the house. It's very menacing.
WB: Yeah, it was sort of meant to be harmonically the effect of a knife up between the ribs there.
DF: It's sort of like the aural equivalent of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Oh (GB, 2/6/00): I know an old guy with an evil stepdaughter. Whenever the old man does his laundry, the stepdaughter steals a sock from the dryer and hides it in a bag she keeps in the back of her closet. The old man howls in frustration every time. "I must be going crazy!" he yells.
He's not crazy, of course. He's simply a victim of "gaslighting."
The term comes from this 1944 movie ["Gaslight"], a dark tale of elaborate deception and psychological manipulation, directed by George Cukor. Charles Boyer, starring as Ingrid Bergman's cold-blooded husband, concocts a cruel and elaborate scheme to convince his new wife that she's going out of her mind. (The name of the movie comes from the way the husband secretly plays with the gaslights every evening, leading the wife to believe she is delusional.) Boyer's plans are threatened however, by a Scotland Yard officer (played by Joseph Cotton) who takes a special interest in the nubile young Bergman. GASLIGHT won Ingrid Bergman her first Oscar, and introduced a new word into our lexicon. Special bonus: Angela Lansbury as a hot-to-trot house nurse.
-- Mark Frauenfelder
rubybaby (GB, 2/11/00): yep, gaslighting is about driving someone crazy. But that part about her missing skirt showing up on ms "cara mia" is brilliant. Trust me, I know.
Tim K. (incognito, Digest, 2/13-14/00): Cara Mia was a song by Jay & the Americans. Isn't it mentioned in Gaslighting Abbie?... as in "bad thru and thru..."
Wonder Waif (GB, 2/15/00): How about this for an interpretastion: the solitaire they are referring to in GA is the solitaire game on your computer! That makes it kind of fit in to the Guestbook/Internet flaming interpretation, no?
Schwinn (GB, 3/2/00): "Gaslighting" means the equivalent of "slipping someone a mickey". This has nothing to do with the Disney empire though I do know that a dose of Deludin will make you feel "goofy".
Matt (3/7/00): One plush summer you come to me ripe and ready
And bad through and through
With that deep mystical soul synergy pumping steady
Between me and you
Lovin' all the beautiful work we've done, cara mia
And it's barely July
If we keep on boppin' until Labor Day
Li'l miz Abbie - bye bye
The speaker meets a new woman in the first four lines ("cara mia" = my dear). There's one problem: the speaker is with Abbie. Being "bad through and through", the new woman helps him get rid of Abbie. They've been "gaslighting" Abbie, or driving her insane to get her out of the picture. The plan's going well, and soon enough Abbie will be clinically insane.
What will it be - some soothing herb tea?
That might be just the thing
Let's say we spike it with Deludin
Or else - maybe tonight a hand of solitaire
The two spike Abbie's tea with deludin (notice the similarity to the word delusion), making her think she's having some sort of nervous breakdown. the solitaire thing could be that cards are missing, or it could be what Abbie does to calm down.
Flame is the game
The game we call gaslighting Abbie
It's a luscious invention for three
One summer by the sea
There are three people involved; the speaker, the new chick, and Abbie. They are alone for the summer, so Abbie has only the two others as company.
With the long weekend that's comin' up fast
Let's get busy
There's just too much to do
That black mini looks just like the one She's been missin'
Feels good on you
They steal some of her things ("I was sure I'd left it here!") and then (I'm going out on a limb) the new girl wears Abbie's skirt (during sex?) in some sick game that arouses the speaker.
There's a few items we need in town - allez-vous girl
There's no time to waste
Such as fresh cable and fifteen watt bulbs
Couple dozen - it's a big old place
The two go to town. Summer continues as the speaker and new girl get dimmer lights to make Abbie think she's losing her vision (I believe this is what happens in the movie "Gaslighting"). The three are in a big, empty house for the summer (I think of "The Shinning").
Let's keep it light - we'll do a fright night
With blood and everything
Some punky laughter from the kitchen
And then - a nice relaxing hand of solitaire
They stage some sort of attack and make Abbie think she assaulted one of them. The "punky laughter" could have several different meanings. "Punky" can mean rotten, so perhaps it's the two evildoers plotting their bloody prank against Abbie. It could also just be them making Abbie think she's hearing things.
You can choose the music
I'll set up my gear
Later on we'll chill and watch the fireworks from here
Either they've reached the Fourth of July and they're celebrating their success making Abbie a nutcase, or it could be an allusion to the fourth of July, in that the "fireworks" are pranks they play on Abbie, or maybe the last few grains of sanity popping into nothingness.
How can you knock this mighty spitelock
Check out the work itself
A mix of elegance and function
That's right - a tweak or two and then she's out of here
The speaker alters items in the house so that Abbie is no longer able to use them (maybe she can't open a door or something). This could also be a reference to the movie (which I haven't seen). Regardless, the speaker is proud of his work, and says that with a few more modifications to her head they'll have to throw her in the booby hatch.
Hank Silvers (3/23/00): in "Tell Blondie..." Donald comes up with the word "spitework", then uses "spitewaves" in "Springtime." A few years later,
Walter calls the Internet "Spiteweb", and finally (or at least, lately), we find a mighty spitelock in "Gaslighting Abbie." In spite of everything, I'm starting to detect a pattern...
MOJO interview (10/95, sniffed out by the eidetic Hank Silvers ):
Becker: Some of Jay's [Black, of Jay and the Americans] friends were the same guys from Good Fellas - they were not all fictional characters. I think what his life was like - he was married to the niece of one of the guys, which I think was a survival move: he was levering himself up into a position where he could be forgiven some debts. We would see them once in a while around the office. Some guys would come in and say, 'Hey Jay! Whyn't you get these guys to take a fuckin' haircut?' Or they'd come backstage after show and say, 'Hey Jay, your voice sounded beautiful, but that drum, that fuckin' drum's givin' me a headache! Can you tell 'em to turn down that fuckin' drum?!'
Fagen: See, now you can't help talking about this stuff, it's like you're in a groove...
Becker: I know. I'm programmed. It's like The Manchurian Candidate. In fact, I'm thinking of going over to Elsa Lanchester's house after the interview!
Fagen: How about a game of solitaire to pass the time?
Becker: Good idea! I'm thinking of catching the Senator's speech later, down at the Press Club. Wanna come with me? You can carry some of my stuff. See, I've identified with my captors now - I'm thinking of going into journalism.
wormtom (GB, 3/28/00): the read I get is that the couple are a bunch of voyeurs who woo another women out to the vacation cottage and have their way with her. Not sure whether he or she is doing the wooing, but they go from a brainless let's watch a gore flick (bored in paradise) to stiffing her drinks to make her more accessible. date rate game for three only two know they are really playing
Re: solitaire: You must watch, or watch again, "The Manchurian Candidate," a 1962 film which starred Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra as returned Korean War vets. They and their platoon were captured and brainwashed by the Russians and Chinese, and Harvey was turned into a killing machine programmed to slip into assassin mode when someone suggested he play "a nice relaxing hand of solitaire." When he'd hit the queen of diamonds, he was suggestible to the most horrific of orders. One look at Harvey turning over imaginary cards in the presence of larger-than-life posters of Heroes of the People will give you a frisson you'll always feel when you hear this song. Those who lived through the Cold War will squirm familiarly at the references to brainwashing, the caricatures of Communists, and the existential tint to every scene. The movie also skewered McCarthyism brilliantly, used imagery shocking for the period, and costarred Angela Lansbury as Harvey's dragon-lady mother (the queen of diamonds). Funny coincidence; she was also the tarty maid in "Gaslight."
Midnite Cruiser (GB, 4/5/00): WOW! Just finished watching The Manchurian Candidate on AMC and that was an awesome movie! Lots of cool twists and turns, some I saw coming and some blindsided me. Didn't realize there were so many Dan references there though. Besides what's already been discussed regarding TvN, I learned that Raymond's [Laurence Harvey's] girlfriend/wife was named "Josie" and that the the first joke Raymond made, while still in his costume, was that he looked like "Gaucho" Marx! Maybe Donald and Walter have been long time fans of this film and we just didn't know it?
Dr. Mu (GB, 4/5/00): How about that Frankenheimer teleplay-like directing full of angles and chopped frames in black and white ZombieVision? Wasn't there a line about a cool, dark place? - like the one Raymond perched up in with non-aerial view (a slit) at the end with about a 15 Watt bulb for illumination. Josie was a knockout - a little solitaire, a tweak or two and she's outta here. Good catch on the Gaucho Marx line also...Whoa, did Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra have more sweat on their upper lips than Nixon at the '60 debates?
Aaron (GB, 7/26/00): RE: Gaslighting Abbie, some of Fagen's thoughts
"And the couple in 'Gaslighting Abbie' who are trying to dispose of the wife in the triangle," continues Fagen, "even though they seem to be some kind of psychopaths, they're also very cheerful in the way they're going about their business."
It's funny how easily I overlooked this tune the first 3 or 4 times I heard it. I guess that's the difference between listening and hearing. When I finally got it I had to ask if this was a literal interpretation or some twisted metaphor. I guess I had it mostly right.
fezo (GB, 5/2/01): in my mind, it's always been more of an ode celebrating the creative process; be it song writing, drafting a tax plan to help ones' rich buddies in the oil industry, or getting rid of a pesky spouse. the narrator is simply proud of the scheme ("lovin' all the beautiful work we've done", "check out the work itself") and as such i think the whole song is more pleasantly interpreted as one championing the pride of authorship.
Blaise (GB, 5/2/01): And literally at times "you can choose the music, I'll set up my gear...", yes. Definitely an appreciation of the work itself while in progress("A tweak or two...") mixing up with the evil plan theme. It's telling of their perfectionist perspective in artistry and the fun they have in the process, yes.
Blaise encore (5/3/02): In Gaslight [the movie], I forgot to say... that I think the song Gaslighting would fit at that moment when Charles Boyer, the wicked piano player is contemplating what Angela Landsbury, the maid, tells him about Bergmann not being the only one in the house. Like an invite to sordid things and there's this split second when he considers having her involved and the song then, the song would speak of this passing fantasy of his. It would be the soundtrack to it and make a lot of sense. That hit me on second view of this particular scene.
There's also an old lady who prides herself in being known as "Bloodlusting Betsy", who loves a good murder mystery. And that was another possible hint in the song.
Hey, content is content, right? lol
"What A Shame About Me"
Barney Hoskyns, author of the splendid rock history Waiting for the Sun (buy & read!), interviewed Messrs. Fagen & Becker in The Guardian (1/14/00): " 'I guess in my mind the lower Broadway of What a Shame About Me was the lower Broadway of about 1966 rather than of today,' says Fagen, who recalls selling college textbooks on lower Broadway's timeless Strand bookstore."
WASAM (GB, 2/8/00): ...the pity fuck scenario at the end.
Tapeworm (Newsgroup, 2/11/00): I was especially taken by "What A Shame About Me." Upon the 2nd or 3rd listen in as many days, it hit me: The characters seemed familiar.
I first put together that Franny, back from Hollywood, her films and shows and CD's may have had a stage name: Peg.
I always interpreted the song Peg to be a story of "I knew her back when." The words seem to me to be a guy either writing a letter trying in vain to get in
touch with Peg, or Our Hero simply watching Peg on TV as she makes her way along the Academy Awards runway. He smiles at the TV, alone in his room, remembering what it was like when they were dating. Now, here it is the late 1970's and Peg has become a star. Our Hero is still just a regular guy who knew her back in the day, but now can't get the time of day from her.
Fast forward to 1999. Like Faye Dunaway, once a hot commodity and now in three short scenes in the Thomas Crown Affair, Peg may no longer have her name in lights above her pin shot. She wants to reconnect with her old friends, her true friends, perhaps a little sorry that she got so taken with herself when fame hit.
Does anyone else think that characters in Steely Dan songs may be somewhat serialized across the years? Any possibility that What a Shame's Barry the Software King and Bobby the Bunsen Prize winner were the boys upstairs, smokin' with Our Hero back in My Old School? Could Franny be the one who put Our Hero on the Wolverine up to Annandale?
Hank Silvers (2/17/00): Here's one thing I like right now: in What a Shame, Donald sings about the Jane Street sunrise, and the music changes to a lighter, even happy tone for a few bars...puts me in mind of the scene in Casablanca when Bogart is remembering the happy times in Paris with Ilse...then the lead guitar begins throwing some negative notes in, and eventually the whole song returns to the present day.
Also, What a Shame reminds me of Ray Charles after the final chorus, when the bare-midriff section is laying down "Shame" and we can just see Donald in
shades bobbing back and forth like the man himself...
fezo (2/17/00): "this is lower Broadway/ and you're talking to a ghost"
God, I love that line. Have you ever read Doctorow's "Waterworks"? The quote at the end of the WASAM really conjures up the central theme of that book for me. In the novel, a newspapers editor seeks to discover the fate of one of his stringers in late 19th Century New York City. Turns out the young man has been creeped into seclusion by two spottings of his long dead father on the streets of Manhattan. Once in a carriage, and once just walking on the street. Wonderful imagery.
Wayne Robins (LA Times, 2/27/00): "I think it should have been called 'What a Shame About Us,' kind of a generational thing," Fagen offers. "It's about expectations."
"Let's face it," Becker adds, "us '60s folks had pretty high expectations. It's not hard to imagine being disappointed in the end."
There are also titillating touchstones to Steely Dan's past. In "What a Shame About Me," an old college girlfriend, now a movie star, shows up and suggests getting it on for old times' sake, making believe they're "back in our old school"--a fan-friendly reference to their 1973 track "My Old School."
Becker: "It's sort of an attempt to be somewhat self-referential."
Fagen: "We're just trying to connect, you know. . . ."
Becker: "And trying to acknowledge our own position in all this."
Seth Markow (GB, 3/1/00): re: Bobby Dakine
"Da kine" is Hawaii pidgin for "whatchamacallit" or "what's-his-name."
JWMalibu (GB, 3/31/00): Yes, 'da kine can be used as a catch-all phrase, but more than not (it's a worldwide surfer's term), it's an adjective for high-quality...as in, "these buds (pot) are 'da kine", or, in its truncated form, "yeah bra', the waves today were 'kine"...
Greg Anderson (newsgroup, 3/5/00): What A Shame and the title track have quickly become my two favorite songs on 2vN. Maybe it's because I am married to an author, but I find the lyric absolutely heartbreaking. Here is this guy who probably had some early success and was supposed to be "the next big thing," but now has completely given up on himself ("you're looking at a ghost"). Everyone in his old crew has hit it big, while he's stocking cutouts at a music store in the Village. His failure has probably even led to impotence -- hence his refusal to go back to his old flame's hotel room and disappoint her.
It's a classic tale, and all artists know someone like this -- hit it big right out of the box, couldn't handle the sudden fame and fortune, threw it all away on
Lost Weekends, never caught lightning in a bottle again. Heartbreaking.
Did anyone else notice that the story is basically lifted from Harry Chapin's "Taxi," updated for the new millennium? Except in this case, the girl really is
successful, and the guy doesn't take her up on her offer to relive their glory days.
sooutrageous (GB, 3/13/00): I don't want to micro-criticize but what's up with Donald using the "like" totally street-hip word "like" twice on the disk. It's almost as if he's trying to come off as conversationally flippant on "What a Shame about me" when he says "But like this is lower broadway and you're talking to a ghost", but instead he just comes off as trite. When he "like" uses the word again in "Almost Gothic" (first she's old school; then she's like young", he's trying to come off as fauningly reflective but once again simply sounds like another X-Gen writer trying to catch the crest of the Tarrantinoesque-Zeitgeist wave breaking just West of Hollywood.
Mike (Digest, 3/27/00): Just FYI the term "Da Kine" is also Hawaiian slang for "The Kind", and is frequently used to describe a certain breed of 'illegal Hawaiian smokable substance' - from what I'm told there is no better 'stuff' than 'Da Kine'. I can't tell you how I know this....
Chris Lonn (Digest, 3/29/00): The info on Robert DaKine in interesting. If DaKine has some drug connotation (big surprise) then the lyrics for "Shame" make more sense. Perhaps Bobby DaKine winning the BUNSEN prize refers to a Bunsen Burner. That is to say, Bobby is using a Bunsen Burner to make dope. The next line -- that he is coming out with something new -- may mean that good ole Bobby is brewing up a new concoction to sell on the street. Maybe Bobby ought to meet Mr. Owlsey from Kid C.
Steve Polevoi (Digest, 3/30/00): Ask anybody from Hawaii -- DaKine is used as a "catch-all" phrase when you don't know the name of a person, place or thing. Sort of like when you're trying to describe someone's name that you've forgotten, old "Whatshisname." DaKine is used the same way, but not
limited to a person's name. It makes total sense in the context of the song as Frannie is relating to "our old crew" and can't really remember Bobby's last name.
You know that great guitarist that played on "Black Cow," Larry DaKine?
Lolita (Digest, 4/2/00): The Strand is a famous discount bookstore in NYC on 12th Street and Broadway. It is huge; many publishers send the review copies there and most of the books are almost 50% off. I think cutouts are these marked down books. That's where the line comes from 'this is lower Broadway and you're talking to a ghost'. NYU is located in that neighborhood, so when he refers to the two of them being classmates at NYU, it shows that he hasn't come very far because he never left the neighborhood after graduation.
Michelle Soto (Digest, 4/3/00): cutouts are what they used to call overprinted albums way back in the olden days when i worked in record stores. they had the upper corner of the cover cut, hence "cut out".
i'm in publishing now and our version of the cutout is called a remainder. the line in this song made me laugh because it brought together my past and
present. yesterday's cutouts = today's remainders.
sooutrageous (GB, 5/15/00): [Is] steely dan Lyricism is a bastion of reflection and reverie on secure, well-grounded relationships?
listen to brooklyn, dr. wu, everyone's gone to the movies, black cow, peg, everything you did, gaucho, the goodbye look, on the dunes, janie runaway, cousin dupree, west of hollywood.
contrarily, the entirety of their work addresses askewed relationships of some sort. i honestly can't think of more than a scant few tunes that speak to the promise, the redemption of love. even these raise suspicion! (Almost Gothic, Aja)
perhaps none of us really knows what the fuck a 'healthy relationship' is.
it's clear from the lyric that the 'Shadow Man' from steely an isn't holding out hope for a healthy relationship any longer. his ideals are blown away. His dreams which were so much a part of his life, have began to give way to bleary resignation. maybe bad love is better than no love; he opines. we've all been faced with that question. loneliness is a tough act to swallow.only someone aquainted with grief could be the poignantly honest bookclerk in what a shame about me.
Candelightly (GB, 5/15/00): who started the healthy relationship kick?
these guys are (big R) totally smitten and intoxicated with the scent of a woman.
There are as many valid interpretations of their take of woman's give as there are tasters.
Aja (GB, 5/15/00): D&W seem to use their female characters (on 2vN, anyway) to illustrate the emotional states of the men. You deliberately don't know much about the women because it would be a distraction from the story the song is telling. We don't know a whole heck of a lot about Janie because the song is about the disillusionment the narrator has found with middle age, and how he's revitalized by an underaged runaway in a pathetic way (taking her to Binky's place for a threesome, as if that will change anything about his dreary life in the long run). We don't know anything about the woman plotting against Abbie except that she's as amoral as the narrator, wearing Abbie's clothes while planning to get rid of her. The women on 2vN are almost used as different hues in each song, painting the overall picture D&W have created.
wormtom (GB, 5/18/00): the What A Shame About Me last verse is simple he thinks he is totally losing it and washed up she doesn't see it, and sees the old him with potential in tact and no focus on his negativity she wants an afternoon of rekindling and he is so down on himself that he can't even follow through on a simple request
Mr. LaPage (GB, 5/18/00): RE: SHAME-They do speak to Shame being an urban tragedy about resignation and the realization that there's a point in life when introspection brings us to enlightenment that what we are today is all we're ever going to be. Sort of like; we ARE what we're going to be when we grow up. Needless to say, it's not always a pleasant epiphany.
I personally equate the man in Shame to the sadly-resigned dreamer in CBAT's 'Brooklyn.' They were both so full of promise. They were indeed 'charmers', exuding brut and charisma et.al. They both realize that the reality of their day-to-day brown-shoe existence is so much different than what they had dreamed, had hoped for.
You can picture "Brooklyn's" lonely front-stoop dweller as a young man. So full of promise, handsome, cocky, unbowed by life.
'He's a real charmer', the girls in the neighborhood can be overheard saying, while sharing a black cow over at the sweetshop.
He marries one of these beautifully wistfull girls from the block. He promises her the world. His promises have gone unfulfilled. She's disenchanted, world-weary. Her beauty's fading, yet she's still so in love wth him.(His lady's aching to bring her body down.She daily preaches on where she wants to be) He's disillusioned; still dreams of a better life. Even fantasises that his wife is someone wonderous, an exotic woman(an evening with a movie queen). His most poignant dream is the wish to recapture his lost hope, his youth, his promise of tomorrow. The heart-rending line 'the whole of time we gain or lose and power enough to choose," is the heart and soul of this song and pretty much encapsulates the spirit and soul of the 'Steely Dan Everyman' throughout the works that followed.(Brooklyn is probably our introduction to this character)
The clerk in Shame is simply the sad dreamer from "Brooklyn" who has crosses the river with a milion other computers each morning to 'do his 9-5' and head on back home to his wife and family and the chilling realization that 'maybe...just maybe...this is it.'
For the things this Steelyman has sacrificed, lost or gambled away in his life, "Brooklyn" indeed owes this charmer so very, very, much. He'll take the debt to his grave.
Hank Silvers (GB, 5/18/00): One quibble to the otherwise spot-on What A Shame analysis: The guy in Shame wasn't so much lazy as merely stranded between the Green Acres of good intentions and the Twilight Zone of zero self-control. Yes, seems we've heard this one before.
CHI-RIVAL (GB, 5/18/00): How many of us have become all that we aspired to be? If any of you have attended your class reunion(s) there is a underlying pressure to be successful to your peers.
This guy in shame graduated from a class of superstars so the pressure was even greater. He probably never expected to see Frannie walking through the door so he was immediately humbled by that meeting. She also started bragging about herself.
What I thought was very interesting and also showed how D&W's Story telling skills are excellent. Despite the narrators constant be littling of himself Frannie stil remembers how great he was and still liked him for him.
Yet he still couldn't bring himself to go for the gusto.
I tell you what, if I went to school with Jennifer Lopez and she saw me working at McDonalds and asked me to grab a cab to my hotel so we could make believe were back in our old school.
I would say lets grab a limo, so we can get started on the way.
Mr. LaPage (GB, 5/18/00): Chi~ sort of like we're a harsher judge of ourselves than others are. We find it hardest to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings.
SHAME- Franny's into her own trip. She's not assuming anything about her old college flame. He's still got that glow. She still sees the man she once shared so much with back in the day. She's certainly not being judgmental. After all, she doesn't make the proposition for the afternoon tryst until AFTER he's bared his soul about rehab, giving up on the novel and his resignation that the present pretty much holds the key to his future. He has already cast judgment on himself. He's found himself wanting. In actuality it may not be too late for him. He's still surrounded by literature and culture in one of the grooviest bookstores in the city. He's faring well with the rehab(so far). He hasn't ACTUALLY quit writing his novel. He's still plugging away. Still dreaming. Still plodding along.
I'm may be wrong about his ultimate fate. He hasn't resigned from life. At least, not yet. Perhaps Franny's visit will serve as a catalyst for him. Perhaps he'll recommitt himself to the completion of his novel. He was obviosly very talented. She remembered him that way. Other's have told her about his great potential.(Somebody told me in the early eighties, you're gonna be the next big thing. *High praise indeed for any NYU alum.) If he gets his demons under control, recommitts to success and begins to dream again, perhaps this 'ghost' can find new life.
"I'm worrying about the future now but maybe this is it.' Well......in his case, with alittle determination:maybe NOT.
What A Shame if he gives up!
CHI (GB, 5/18/00): La Page, You know how D&W leave their characters.
High and dry.....
I think our boy in shame will always be a slave to his own shortcomings. I agree with you about Frannie seeing the old him.
But often times our vision of ourselves is just like hindsight.
We have grown up hearing that most stories have a happy ending. But we also know that those are fairy tales....
In real life they oftentimes don't end happy and in The land of Dan... They never end happy.
"See the glory(then the backup singers sound exhalted)
"Of the royal Scam.(contradiction. twist of words Smile hiding a frown) you get the picture...
Skip Waring (Digest, 5/27/00): The guy is a writer and a doper, self-deprecating, always sorry for himself, with suicidal tendencies, but a great writer. He was always that way, even when he and Franny were an item at NYU. In fact, his artistic self-loathing was a turn-on to her - - that, and the fact that she was insecure and liked drugs too.
She climbed the ladder of success in Hollywood based more on the fact that she's gorgeous and willing, less on talent. She knows that he sees through her, and she still likes to get high, so an afternoon with him in a hotel room is a chance for her to let her defenses down.
He's reluctant, morbid, and defeatist, so he says no to her advance at the Strand. But when she licks her lips at him in that special way he gives in, as he's always done with her in the past. Of course, she's holding some dope at that very moment, and they go to the hotel to use, then engage in sexual escapades for hours.
He's off the wagon again, and has probably lost his his job in the bargain. Yeah...that's it. He's lost his job and crawls back to his hovel, goes back to writing and lives off ATD: Aid to the Totally Disabled.
She goes back to her life the next day, and he...What?...I don't know! Just make it up!
He probably finishes the book in spite of/because of his red pain and becomes a huge literary hit, his personal sufferings and weaknesses only adding to his dark artistic persona.
Not My Nancy (GB, 8/29/00): Just read a comment on Ole's Fever Dreams from Hank Silvers noticing that "Steamer Heaven" is both in the liner notes for 11TOW and in the lyrics of Wet Side Story.
It being the Nance's job to serve as resident low-hanging fruit-plucker, I remark that Alan owns a chain of Steamer Heavens.
What in the hell is a Steamer Heaven? Some Maui take-out joint? An Annandale-on-Hudson beanery?
Ed Beaty (GB, 8/30/00): Back east, Clams are referred to as Steamers...
So the reference Steamer Heaven is .....for CLAMS...
rumblestrip (GB, 8/30/00, with recipe hints): You're right & I'm glad somebody brought that up! In fact they sell certain kinds of clams expressly for that purpose. They are easy to cook although it is imperative that you wash them thoroughly and check that they are alive first. They are SOOO good. I must point out that 'Down the Cape' they pronounce it 'stee-mahs'!
Steamer heaven is (GB, 8/30/00): A brothel in New Orleans?
A simple hot-dog joint?
A place you end up in if you haven't been really good or really bad?
Clas (GB, 8/30/00): Tina Turner sang the song "Stevie Winwood", which rhymes with steamy window. What you get when you make love in a small room with only one window is a "steamy window".
So, Steamer Heaven is the room you're making love in. You're making love, you sweat, and you're hopefully in heaven.
Blaise (GB, 11/20/00): What's the Steamer Heaven intrigue that a few songs refer to lately?
Alan owns a chain of them. The lovely Janine worked at one before it went up in flames. There's Aunt Faye and Dupree and some kids... It's less a subtext than a storyline unfolding on the side, at the margin. It spills into the lyrics sometimes.
Hank Silvers (Digest, 2/20/01): I've seen this question asked in various regions of Dandom, but haven't yet seen it answered. After DF sings "tell the truth" at the end of What A Shame About Me, he mutters another line. What's he saying?
Well, I used GoldWave to try to separate the vocal from those few seconds of music, and although it wasn't perfect, it sounds to me like he sings "I'd prefer not to."
On the 2vN DVD version of WASAM, DF sings it twice, and it's a little clearer on the second one.
I believe I've heard that line "tell the truth" in R&B songs; then "I'd prefer not to" just twists the prior line in a Steely way. That narrator feels like a schmendrick (or is it schlmiel?) anyway.
For Hoskyns' great interview in its entirety, go here.
And don't forget his Waiting for the Sun: Strange Days, Weird Scenes, and The Sound of Los Angeles. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
"Two Against Nature"
David Menconi, Raleigh News and Observer (7/21/00): Oddly enough, the voodoo-suffused title track is the one song on the album that's least concerned with sexual matters.
"I wonder how we missed that," Fagen says drily. "If I'd known that, I would've put some in. But there's a lot of voodoo imagery in that particular song. We're kind of elevating ourselves to a heroic position. Our fans are being troubled with demons of aging, insanity; and we're offering up ourselves as someone who can deal with it -- kind of a 'Ghostbusters' theme, if you will, the idea that art can be curative. Listen to this, maybe it will cheer you up."
"Ghostbusters." Oh my. My fantasy lobe is overheating already.
Miz Ducky (GB, 2/5/00): Heh. The song "Two Against Nature" is in fact crammed chock-full of Voudou references. Madame Erzulie and Baron Samedi are just two of the loa that I count amongst the lyrics, along with other and stranger spirits, all despatched by our two valiant and enterprising hoodoos. Can the Guyz have been consulting with Dr. John, I wonder?
Diane (Newsgroup, 2/14/00): that lyric-fitting thing [as seen in "Surf And/ Or Die"] is something i also notice on the title track of 2vN. it's hard to do this well, and another time they did it very well was on 'reelin' in the years,' which seems even more lyric-packed when heard live. But on Two Against Nature, the lyrics just seem to spill over from one line into another in many places, making it very hard to follow without a lyric sheet.
Dr. Mu (GB, 2/28/00): Yeah, I like the notion of Walter and Donald as a couple of New Orleans witch doctors: "Yeah, we gwine beat that human nature right outta you...'Western Science she *still* strictly rinky dink'" at handling the demons, the doubts, the Id (not the Edd), the changing hormone pulses as the hypothalamus settles down for a long winter's nap and the limbic system goes for a walk - wait 'til the hippocampus starts to go! But, life is somethin' ya get over. Vitamin E + lipoic acid is the only safe way now to smooth out the bumps long term. It's a chronic irritation/inflammation thing. Titration of cytokine inhibitors, inducible nitric oxide synthase inhibitors and NF-kappaB inhibitors and ikappaB activators are still a ways off (damn, I come her to get away from this on occasion)...gotta stick to ratbone to sooth the gnarly downside 'til we know bettah.
Slint (3/1/00): Do you know what happens to me when I listen to the song "Two Against Nature"? I suddenly stop whatever I'm doing and within moments, the song has taken over my mind and body. I'm suddenly dancing like a wildman while deep dark subconscious thoughts ooze into my mind...hot sex...fast driving....many many evil thoughts....this doesn't stop until the song has faded to an end and I can think again. Within 30 seconds, I listen to it again and transform once more.
This song is another finely crafted Steely Dan masterpiece. It is an absolute KILLER tune. Lyrics are irrelevant in this song. It casts a magic eerie spell upon the listener. Don't drive a motor vehicle while listening to this song...
I'm still looking for the disclaimer in the liner notes...
Bill (Digest, 3/2/00): Excellent lyrics calling to mind a cross between Ghostbusters, The Exorcist and the X-Files (Wm Gibson connection??), but these poltergeist-hunters really love their gig! From the sax-squawks to the odd piano stabs to the percussion to DF's most "Countdown to Ecstacy"-style lead vocal in decades, this track is worth the 20 year wait in itself. (P.S. Lou Garou is a reference to the Louisiana werewolf legend Loup Garou).
Gyro Gearloose (GB, 3/3/00): Q: What in blue blazes is the title track all about?
WB: We made the unfortunate decision of choosing a name for the CD before we had a song. Before we knew it, boom,
a million inserts printed and no title track.
DF: And, I might add, the original art was in color but had to be scrapped due to this glaring omission.
WB: Yes, much like that pie-in-the-sky project with Dr. Krueger.
DF: Thanks for bringing that up, Mr. "I'm the lead guitarist".
Q: So you're implying that at least some of your cryptic allusions are really just emotional outbursts in reaction to severe
DF: It's all there in black and white, fella.
WB: You should have seen it in Krueger Color! Fantastic!
diane (newsgroup, 3/4/00): In the voodoo (or voudou or voudon or vodon whatever way you prefer to spell it) ti bon ange [French, "petit bon ange"]
is one- half of a person's soul. It's the half that travels during sleep and leaves the body when a person is possessed by a loa during a religious ritual. It is depicted as somewhat vulnerable, even though it's simultaneously a guardian, apparently of the body. It's believed that evil spirits can sometimes capture ti bon ange while she's out there traveling around.
When a person dies, ti bon ange leaves that body for good, joining the spirit world, and is never reincarnated or used by another person.
Steely Dan have used voodoo references in songs before--at least, they used 'zombie.' [ also see Andy's note above re: Mr. Becker's credits on "Kamakiriad"] I've always wondered how much they actually knew or related their ideas to true voodoo--the religion of voodoo--as opposed to New Orleans and other styles of voodoo, which owe more to a sideshow mentality than they do to the roots of this ancient African religion.
10cc also make reference to voodoo--Baron Samedi--on one of their albums from the Seventies... is it "How Dare You?" I have it around here someplace. And of course, there's Doctor John, a/k/a Mac Rebbenack, say na more, say na more... And I'm sure there are many, many other voodoo/occult references in rock and roll songs.
I'd say, though, that when Steely Dan make reference to something as arcane as the subconscious part of the soul (as in 2vN), it has more effect with me
than some toss-off attribution in some other average rock and roll tune.
That's part of what intrigues me about the title tune on 2vN, and sort of seems to extrapolate into the suite of songs on this album. Everything can be taken in part or as a whole. There may be messages there, and there may not be. But the images invite the poetically inclined (as well as the highly imaginative, which is what my mother always said I was, with great disdain, by the way) to take it all in and then run with it.
Donald and Walter seem reluctant to explain their lyrics. I think part of the reason for that is that these groups of words are not necessarily intended always to make sense. Many songs have the feel of a 'cut-up,' which is a form of writing conceived by Brion Gysin and perfected by William S. Burroughs, where
essentially, random groups of words are cut up and then pasted back together, creating entirely new thoughts. In one long-ago interview Donald mentioned
that if he got stuck for a line, he'd just ask Walter for something. In a more recent interview, the duo seemed to intimate that sometimes they put words together simply because they like the way they sound, and not to make sense.
Corvid (newsgroup, 2/29/00): "Two Against Nature" (the song) seems to be railing against the icky inevitability of "things unknown /unseen / undead" i.e. the
creepy-crawlies both literal and figurative that pervade our lives, no matter how hard we try to ignore them or make them go away. "Soak the timber with special spray / Nuke the itty bitty ones right where they lay / Whip the bastards while they still green / Take the firemop - sweep it kissing clean". Seems to me like Don & Walt will stick around and fight the good fight for a while longer. "Two against nature, love this gig / Pull up the weeds before they're too damn big". Kind of gives me hope for another album before too long.
diane (newsgroup, 2/29/00): I think trying to interpret it begins with committing to a point of view. One POV is gotten by seeing it as a rallying cry not to give up the good fight. Another one is to view it as a dark, nihilistic condemnation of society, vis-a-vis a protest song. Still another is some combination of both, and another could be that it's simply an abstract-expressionistic word painting.
... I feel D&W are making a sincere, human statement about the inhumanity of our world today. The numerous references to killing, destroying, etc., especially the "itty bitty ones," "maggoty ones before they hatch" "while they still green" and "weeds before they too damn big" seem to me to be metaphors for children--perhaps children with guns.
I don't mean to say they are advocating genocide of children, but rather, that they are POINTING OUT our own unacknowledged genocide of children (at least here in America, where a first- grader can take a gun to school and kill another, as happened again just today).
Taken further, treating timber with a "special spray" could be a call to reform. Timber IS treated with chemicals which are intended both to kill any invasive insects and their eggs (maggots) and to preserve the life of the wood itself. There's a metaphor phor ya.
... If you listen to this song with images of teenagers in long black dusters carrying automatic weapons, backlit, coming out of the fog (a cinematic cliche), you might hear the words entirely differently. If you try to listen to it and take the various occult references literally, you'll get all balled up. That's why I'm convinced the metaphors run deep in this one. It's also why I don't accept Donald and Walter's own explanations, in radio interviews, that this is some simple allegory about the two of them getting older, any more than I accept their explanation in the Aja documentary that "Black Cow" is merely a soft soda fountain drink. They are disengenuous about this stuff. I imagine that's because they really don't feel like explaining themselves too much, to interviewers or to anyone.
wonderwaif (GB, 3/6/00): I just think it's so funny that they managed to get in a line from Ralph Kramden of the Honeymooners into the song Two Against Nature "bang-zoom to the moon". All it's missing is Alice!
FazChanders (GB, 3/7/00): I think D&W are picking up on the recent medical news that soon we'll be able to fundamentally (genetically?) alter our bodies to defy the ageing process. Instead of growing old, and dying, we can choose to extend the lives of our bodies by hundreds of years. But, if you do this, you're living for living's sake. And if you're living for no reason other than to live forever, then maybe you too are just a zombie, walking, talking, shagging (Madame Erzulie) and so on. D&W are perhaps prophesising a world one day where all there'll be are zombies roaming the earth, living forever and ever. Terrifying, isn't it?
Daddy G (GB, 3/7/00): FazChanders: Your last post sent chills down my spine, especially the part about “D&W are picking up on the recent medical news
that soon we'll be able to fundamentally (genetically?) alter our bodies to defy the aging process.”
Meet if you will, Doctor Warren Kruger: http://www.fccc.edu/research/reports/current/kruger.reportframe.html [custodian's note: Much as I admire the crack team of Steely detectives, PLEASE don't pester the guy with email questions about whether the ref is to him. It has been done at least a few times, with the answer, "I don't know."]
The second sentence of the text says it all: “The focus of this laboratory's research is to identify and understand how alterations in DNA influence the formation of disease states.”
Mom-mee … Uncle Donny and Uncle Walty are scaring me again.
Hank Silvers (3/23/00): The way Donald's voice fades rapidly on the last "things unknown" of the first chorus of the title track. I can almost see him tossing his head back a la Ray Charles as he sings it...
M. LaPage (GB, 5/7/00): My take on the title track: the madame is not only a horny voodoo priestess but she's also............A MAN!(aggggggggggh!!)
Thus the 'call your Dr/shrink' lyric. The passage graphically describes what is probably one of the top 3 worst things that can befall an unsuspecting male-on-the-prowl: The Jaye Davidson thingy.
Fletch (from New Zealand) (GB, 5/7/00): Just talking to a friend last night, about cool words and meaning etc, and I brought up the word 'grok' from 2VN etc.
He reminded me that I had seen the word before when I was a kid.
You remember those british 2000 AD comics with Judge Dredd?
He used to use 'grok' as a swear word.....lol
Like of like saying, 'shit!', he'd say 'Grok!' when someone was blown away or whatever.
Evan (GB, 2/4/00): Some of the most beautiful love lyrics ever:
Who makes the traffic interesting?/ Who rescues a dreary Sunday? / Who makes me feel like painting again? / Honey,
it's you, Janie Runaway
Of course, the ironic twist is that the girl is probably underage (anyone see a theme on the album...) and the guy is really creepy (Who goes to Spain on her birthday? / Possibly you, Janie Runaway) How condescending!
jon (still @ his yellow stripe) (GB, 2/5/00): Janie Runaway--Opening suggests "Daddy..." is here and sure enough we find ourselves in NYC. D+W have the uncanny ability to screw you into a time and place, wherever and with whomever they please, and 45 seconds into it I'm soiling myself. This tune alone was worth waiting 19 years for.
kd (GB, 2/25/00): it's clear to me that Ms. Runaway is performing tasteless deeds on the narrator while he's stuck in traffic, thus making it interesting.
Hutch (GB, 2/25/00): I think the narrator in Janie Runaway has become jaded by simply living in the world and hitting that mid-life crisis. Believe me... it happens! His new found young lover has re-awakened his appreciation of the simplest things. She's let him rediscover the innocence and excitement of youth. She not only rescues a dreary Sunday but she rescues him from the dreariness of every day of the week. The dark cloud of unfulfilled dreams dissolves for a while to reveal the blue skies of creative possibilities he would have otherwise ignored. He's got money alright. They're going to Spain for her birthday. But money doesn't equate with happiness or contentment. It never has and it never will. They may not live out the rest of their lives together. Most likely they won't. He will always remember what she did for him though in the time they were together. And Janie will probably remain oblivious to it all.
Mitch (GB, 3/1/00): Janie`s new friend could well be Mr. La Page! (see Dr. Pretorius below--11/27/02)
Jive Miguel (GB, 3/1/00): Mitch / DJ, that's it, Mr. LaPage has resurfaced in Janie Runaway! His lucrative 8mm film business from the late '70's has afforded him a lush lifestyle and some very nice caprices ("I know you're used to 16 or more, sorry we've only got 8")! Maybe LaPage lived in Southern Florida in the seventies!?! Now he's the "Lucky Guy" of Gramercy Park!
Brent (Digest, 3/2/00): [reporting on the Rockline special] Walter characterized "Janie Runaway" as "an exuberant song, all about life."
Lolita (Digest, 3/2/00): Dean & Deluca is a gourmet grocery store in Soho NYC - the home of the $5 head of lettuce and $2 imported apple. The food is great, but definitely not for the plebian masses - you don't run there for a gallon of milk.
diane (newsgroup, 3/4/00): Janie is a runaway--probably lived in one of our classically American dysfunctional families--who probably had ideas of living the Big Life in the Big City. Once she arrives, she's plucked like a ripe plum by an opportunistic older man who offers her treats like she's never seen in Tampa--gourmet deli food, grown-up wine, the luxuries of a Gramercy Park townhouse, money--and he is a Svengali of sorts to her. He likes the little sex games--"You be the showgirl/I'll be Sinatra"--and sex is, in fact, his one and only interest when it comes to this gullible but nubile nymph. She's indebted to him, and he raises the stakes--"Who gets to spend her birthday in Spain/possibly you"-- to the point of blackmail, in exchange for Janie arranging a threesome with another of her nubile friends.
It's really as simple as that. The guy is just another sleazy archetype in the Steely Dan catalog.
Chris (newsgroup, 3/4/00): Maybe it's just me, but "Janie Runaway" sounds like a parody of several old TV themes, mostly notably the one from the Mary Tyler Moore show. ("Who can take a nothing day/And suddenly make it all seem worthwhile."), not to mention banal light rock songs like "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes." In the Dan's subversive take, "That Girl" becomes underage jailbait from Tampa.
I love that oh-so-subtle way that the adverb "_possibly_" abruptly enters the picture at the end. Yeah, she'll spend her birthday in Spain -- possibly -- if she
agrees to a threesome with the narrator and her best friend. Oh, yeah, she loves to try new things.
Hank Silvers (3/25/00): Just occurred to me...D+W cheat in that final chorus of Janie Runaway. The first two choruses, they rhyme something with "runaway" (fun day/Sunday) So what if that last chorus doesn't follow the same rule?
I mean, lines like "who makes me feel like painting/sailing" can almost make you believe there is honest affection between the singer and Janie. Then,
bored with jailbait, he reveals what he wants next, and Donald and Walter expose him for the creep he is in just a few lines. It's great storytelling. It just might not get them an "A" in a songwriting class, that's all...
Daddy G (GB, 4/21/00): That reminds me ... of another classic lyrical twist, when the boys say, "That black mini looks just like the one she's been missing, FEELS good on you." Anybody else would have said "LOOKS" good on you. That one tweak makes all the difference in the line, IMHO.
Daddy G (on a roll. GB, 4/26/00): The letter I just got from General Motors...
Dear Mr. Daddy G:
Thank you for your interest in our new line of Chevy Blazers for 2000. We feel confident that you will find the Blazer to be an elegant, yet rugged vehicle — perfect for all of your transportation needs. From the streets of Manhattan to the rugged terrain of Pennsylvania, Chevy Blazer is equipped with all the features you’ll need to take on whatever Mother Nature has to offer.
To address your specific questions:
1. Mirrors. Heated, adjustable outside mirrors and vanity mirrors on both the driver and passenger sides are standard equipment on Blazer LT and LS. However, at this time, there are no plans to offer optional, ceiling-mounted, hideaway mirrors on any of our models.
2. Rear seating. Chevy Blazer LS comes fully equipped with a rear split-folding bench that can accommodate your gear without requiring you to give up all of your rear seating space. Unfortunately, we cannot at this time accommodate your request for a built-in hot tub. Please refer to the Customization section of the enclosed brochure for recommendations and precautions.
3. Sound system. Our engineers have never heard of a vehicle equipped with 16 speakers. We realize that, at home, you’re used to 16 or more. Sorry, we only have eight. Chevy Blazer comes with an optional Bose eight-speaker AM/FM/Cassette/CD Player. Additionally, while you are most certainly welcome to test the low end of the system’s range before making your purchasing decision, we’re puzzled as you why you have specifically requested us to loop the first few bars of “Almost Gothic” by Steely Dan. We cannot guarantee that your local Chevy dealer will have a copy of the recording you requested, so you may wish to provide one of your own for the test.
4. Tinted windows. We appreciate your desire to reduce heat, glare, and fading problems in your new Chevy Blazer. Window tinting is available at a nominal charge. (Percentage of tint subject to applicable state and local laws.)
5. Entertainment center. Blazer LS comes with an optional VCR or DVD player, but not both. Yes, remote control is included and yes, the PAUSE button is fully functional.
6. Color. Due to unprecedented demand, Chevy Blazer is no longer available in red for this model year.
We hope your questions have been answered to your complete satisfaction, and wish you well in the purchase of your new vehicle.
Chevrolet Division, General Motors Incorporated
Big Red, the Blazer (GB, 4/30/00): Janie Runaway seems to have an interesting soft drug subtext if you consider that what "makes tonight a wonderful thing" can also "rescue a dreary sunday", make you feel like doing spontaneous fun stuff like sailing again or impersonnating Sinatra or even give you a case of the "munchies" ("Let's grab some take out from Dean and Deluca!"). Sounds like the workings of some fine Hawaiian Bud. You see Melanie is a friend of the weed and she's not afraid to try new things. But would that be a federal case? In fact, if you play the song backwards (which you can't, at least not until the vinyl is out) Janie Runaway becomes Mary Juana. No shit.
... "Who makes the traffic interesting?". Most people picture heavy petting while stuck in traffic. Right? Now let's consider that the narrator is alone with Da Kine Bud and just happens to be reflecting on such an obvious everyday thing as traffic while zoned out. In fact, shouldn't you worry, knowing the Dan,
that the song is too obvious? Here's another lead: the word "marijuana" was originally coined in spanish so it has its birthday in Spain. Naturally.
Gotta go. I'm starting to freak myself out with this thing.
Aja (GB, 5/10/00): My take on Janie is it's the narrator who's running away. I always saw Janie as some ordinary, simplistic girl (saying things like "today's a fun day") but she takes the narrator away from facing middle age and all he (feels he) hasn't accomplished in life. His heyday was 1959, but Janie's too young to see him as the rest of the world does, and that makes him feel like he did when he was younger (sailing again, etc.). His attraction for Janie is based on her youth and innocence, rather than her being some babe.
wormtom (GB, 5/11/00): who is the runaway in Janie Runaway?
a)is Janie a Runaway from a bad situation, her past?
b) is Janie the person the protagonist would like to run away with?
c)or does Janie runaway with her feelings?
here's my bit on Janie Runaway
I choose a) and b) with the emphasis squarely (mostly) on b)
Janie is clearly the wonderful diversion for the narrating older man
Yes Janie left a past and her dad's actions (first verse). Did he go postal or simple try to buy his daughter's affections. I read a divorced set of parents into this, but the boys keep it nicely mysterious. Why? because you focus on her as the runaway but don't know exactly what she is running away from when the deeper meaning of the song is in the fact that Janie is the great escape, the adventure that allows her companion his flights of fancy and inspire him back to his loves (sailing, painting)
I've heard a huge sexual tinge inlayed in this song and I actually enjoy perceiving it with much less sex and much more flair. I don't see Janie as this underaged love toy but rather she is slightly younger, maybe mid twenties and has grown up in Florida in a state of relative sophistication, but nowhere near as cultured as a Gramercy Park lifestyle.
Janie is smart, alluring, sexy and has it all there mentally. Not just a pretty face and hot body. She enlivens her mate, she makes him challenge himself and she makes things fun. And we are not talking constant sex here, but rather really spicing up and engaging his life. A true equal companion.
The Sinatra scene to me is more a role play in their apartment than a sexual provoking.
Why must the "traffic interesting" line refer to sex? Yes she may be going down on him, but I like to read this differently. Sorry I see Janie as such an engaging conversationalist and fun to be with that her beau can't help but see even the most mundane things like driving in traffic as enlivened when he is with her. She is the escape that makes the weary aspects of his city life tolerable.
The song twists abruptly at the third verse where Janie's man can't be content simply with her alluring nature, but since she is so moving and seemingly consenting in so many ways, he must stretch his luck and suggest a menage de trois.
Notice - lets getaway (out of state), let's leave the city behind (run away with you), just you and me... and.... well why don't we throw your friend in for good measure. Who knows, maybe she has already suggested that she is a little more open minded than a straight monogamous relationship.
But he asks "would that be a federal case?" Am I offending you with my request? He then goes on to coerce her with the prospect of spending her birthday in Spain if she plays along with the threesome idea. SO is he a total creep or just thinking he can have his fantasy and eat it too (with no consequential strings attached). And yes it probably does hurt to ask, but he takes that chance
so there you have my take
Janie is luscious, Janie is fun,Janie is sophisticated
Janie is the one you want to run away with.
Just don't push your luck and ask for Melanie too, chump.
Edd (GB, 5/11/00):
>"would that be a federal case?"
"Does the Mann Act cover this situation?"
rubybaby (GB, 5/11/00): Janie Runaway makes me think of the movie, "9 1/2 Weeks."
The guy seems a lot like the Micky Rouke type. He will keep pushing the envelope to see how far he can get. It's all part of the game. And Janie's just like Kim Basinger's character, but younger. She keeps running away because deep down, she knows he'll never stop going for newer, more dangerous thrills. And she suspects he'll break her.
But he always finds her - he knows her all too well. That's scary in itself. But she just cannot resist both him and those lovely trips to Spain.
She's at a crossroads in the song: she could be strong and refuse, but I think she goes for it again...
Razor Boy (GB, 5/11/00): She is a young girl (under 18) who saw an opening to bail out from her 'desperate' home life and took it. She must have felt she
had to in order to evade the aftermath of her father's 'spree'. Running instead of accepting and dealing. The Bright Lights of the Big City being the first place she thinks of. Perhaps going there to begin a modeling/ACTING career which will allow her to run away even further from her 'dark' reality. Now, this is mostly all conjecture, because the song really seems to be about the narrator and how she makes him feel, 'I'll be Sinatra way back in '59'. I love Sinatra and he was the original 'Bad Boy of Rock' at that time. That's another thread for some other time. He is looking to relive the old days with his new found 'wonderwaif' (perhaps he is an agent/directer/photographer) knowing full well she will follow him for his promise of getting her 'in'. Her intelligence is pretty well hidden, it could go either way. She could be very smart and using him to get what she wants overlooking what it takes (the Sugar Shack, Melanie) as a means to get her end. On the other hand she could be naive and 'young and bubbly' thinking that he really 'wants' to have her around and teach her about life even though we all see that he is using her to get to his own ends, that is to be 'young at heart'. I am leaning toward the naive road myself because if things were really that bad back in Fl. to cause her to run, she would probably latch on to anything or anyone that offers her a happier more fulfilling life. I also think that the 'interesting traffic' is not due to the placement of her mouth rather what is coming out of it. She must feel the excitement of being 'free' and can't stop going on about everything she sees. There you have it.
Daddy G (GB, 5/18/00): I'm surprised nobody has pointed this out yet ... re; the line "Who makes me feel like sailing again?" We're not necessarily talking boats out on the lake here. It's a metaphor for ... um ... you know. You've heard the expression "the wind in your sails"? You know, when there's no wind, the sails are just hanging there limp. Not that I ever ... because I haven't ... uh, is it getting warm in here?
Mr. LaPage (GB, 5/18/00): RE: JANIE-In a recent interview Fagen & Becker mention sitting in a restaraunt and a bunch of Wall Street types are boisterously imbibing and sharing war-stories at the next table. They over-hear the perverse shit they're spewing and just want to jump out of their easy-chair and rip their faces off. (this is para-phrasing of course but it's very, very close to D&W's comments about the inspiration behind the protagonist in Janie)
CHI-RIVAL (GB, 5/18/00): We all know that often times D&W's characters in songs that we have all grown to know (and in some ways probably already know) are ongoing and interchangable. This is the beauty of being a Dan Fan. Its like the ultimate inside joke. Or it could be compared to that goofy Ray-Ban commercial where you see all these kids sitting on the stairs with their sunglasses on and the one idiot doesnt have his, and he explodes because the sun rises and they are all vampires! Just by pondering the lyrics of their songs we have enrolled in a private club Wink, Wink, nudge, nudge.
... I see the guy as our buddy in hey 19 and babylon sisters.
This brings about the question that was posed to Razor:
1) Is janie the runaway who runs away from any and all situations?
2) Is Janie the one that the narrator wants to Run away with.
I think It starts out as some abusive relationship in Tampa. "Before the crew put out the fires" did she burn something down? "When dad went on that spree" Did she burn dad down? Kinda aerosmithlike,(janie's got a gun) She may have bailed because she knew the law would be looking for her.
Even though it seems as though the narrator is using Janie she's the one who says today's a fun day. and how does a runaway from Tampa just happen to have a friend named melanie who's not afraid to try new things.
Altamira (GB, 11/17/00): I've been reading some books on Florida lately, and I've learned about the dry winters and wet summers. As I was listening to Janie Runaway this morning, I was wondering if the song might take place in the winter, when the dryness contributes to brush fires like those mentioned in the song. The story starting in the winter would be somewhat symbolic--Janie's and the narrator's lives improve as warmer weather and longer days arrive.
Cringemaker (9/28/01): Janie is running from not her father but her "daddy" as in "top." He is a Lawrence Singleton-type, a real evil incarnate. Singleton was convicted in California for raping and then hacking the arms from a 15-year-old runaway in the late 70's. After his release from prison, he relocated to Tampa, FL where he was last arrested for the brutal murder of a prostitute. Singleton tried to cover his crime by burning his home. Thus, the "fire, crew," etc. Nothing could get more "desperate and dark."
So, Ms. Janie, bless her heart, quickly relocates to NYC where she hooks up with "daddy" no. 2. No. 2 takes full advantage of exploiting and enjoying the pleasures so eagerly and readily provided by Ms. Runaway.
I pretty much agree with everyone until we get to "federal case." It is a federal offense for an adult to transport a minor across state lines for sexual purposes, or at least it used to be. So Mr. Wall Street is contemplating the risks he is willing to take to convey Janie & "Big Red" across state lines to Binky's Place. I propose there are multiple meanings here: 1, Mr. W. is planning to sexually transport Ms. Runaway via his very own "big red" as in "honey, let me introduce you to my red neck friend," (Jackson Browne, 1973;) and 2. Mr. W. is luring Ms. Runaway out of state to Binky's place for a menage a trois along with adventurous Melanie. Janie's reward for the escapade is her birthday in Spain, maybe.
Jill of Speed (10/24/01): "Janie Runaway" is not a love song. It's an exploitation song. The protagonist is just about the slimiest Dan character this side of LaPage! In his cynical, boring life, he needs a distraction --- and this poor young girl falls into his path. He feeds her. He flatters her. He makes her promises. But... underneath it all, it's just about sex. He knows he can't take her to Spain! heck he can't even take her to Pennsylvania, not legally anyway --- she's underage. This guy knows what he is doing is wrong, but he doesn't care. He's probably too much of a loser to attract a real, grown woman.
But, don't get me wrong --- I LOVE the song. The lyrics are perfect in getting the point across... when he says "Who has a friend, named Melanie?" it's like he's talking to a pet, not a person. It's such tasty lyrics, paired with the tasty music, just the usual Dan greatness.
Dr. Pretorius (11/27/02): Regarding Mitch's assertion that Mr. LaPage has resurfaced as Janie's perverse father figure, I think you're close. However, it's not LaPage, but one of the "kids" who got to watch the projection machine at such a tender age. It's a vicious cycle.
My 7 year old boy loves this song. He makes me play it over and over and over. Luckily, he has no clue how sardonically perverse and cleverly ironic the lyrics are. The chorus lyric is definitely funnier than anything Alan Sherman ever composed.
Yes the boys write about sex and drugs a lot. But, more interestingly than that, they write about losers, freaks, assassins, cons and rapists. Men and women with weaknesses, pathos, quirks, obsessions, fetishes, e.g. (FEZ). Thus, we enter the world of glorious asshole archetypes we all know and love somewhere in either the collective unconscious or the Custerdome. THAT's the story. Sex and drugs is no big deal. Consider the personalities through the years....
Minor Dude (10/2/03): This song seems to have been covered somewhat already but I'll add my twovcents here. It seems pretty clear that this is an exploitation song not a love song. The narrator is a sneaky, manipulative, cunning Heff type ("...or would that be a federal case?") who characterizes his "Lucky Thursday" as the day that Janie was (one assumes) molested by her father in a incestuous "spree" for the final time before she torches his home and promptly "hops a bus to NYC". She's clearly underage as has been adequately discussed ("wonder waif" "..or would that be a federal case". )
What is interesting about the song is how it subtly morphs from a silly love song to a creepy exploitation song. In the beginning, the narrator is giddy
and full of glee and wonderment. By the last verse, he has become bored and impatient with his plaything, Janie. His tone has shifted from gushing to
annoyed. He wants to work a new plaything--"Melanie" into 3 way action and uses a "birthday in Spain" as an inducement for a presumably reluctant
The height of songwriting craftsmanship here is that in the first verses "Janie Runaway" is the nickname of the girl in the song. We are slyly induced to think thinking that she is perhaps a model (Janie RUNWAY") who's name he just has to repeat over and over because he's so deeply in love with her. In the last verse, Walter and Donald, nature photographers, step into the scene. They have sympathy for the poor bunny rabbit that's about to be
devoured by the python. Donald (in his own voice) urges her to "...Janie, Run Away!". Note that for the in the rest of the song, Donald uses a breathy, whiny voice-- playing the part of the Heff. Notice though that when he says "Janie. Run Away!" he's singing in his own natural voice.
By the way, do you remember in high school and college all the beautiful, badassed streetwise girls (Josie) that we were in love with but who were way out of our league-- dating, gangsters and pro football players? At best we were the platonic pets that they would use for brotherly emotional support or in whose basement they would hide out until whatever mysterious dramatic episode they were then embroiled in blew over. Those damningly sharp girls who "knew how to hustle" and "had been telling you they were a genius since they were seventeen" and did all kinds of exotic things like "praying like a roman with her eyes on fire". The girls about whom we some day "Get the news" (jail, AIDS, tragic death under sleazy circumstances, lesbian porno films, call girls, streetwalker, working as a greeter at Target. Fucking Target! Last time I saw her she was dating a fucking Sheik from Saudi Arabia. She winked at me from this fucking 8 wheeled stretch limo. She's working at fucking Target!? )?
This song gives us a look at their "glamorous" lives from a different perspective. Wow.
Been thinking about the sugar shack (in "Janie"). Originally, "sugar shack" referred to those little houses they used (and still do)in Vermont, Michigan, etc. to reduce maple sap to maple syrup, that nectar of the gods. Then in 1963 Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs released this tune:
There's a crazy little shack beyond the tracks
And ev'rybody calls it the sugar shack
Well, it's just a coffeehouse and it's made out of wood
Expresso coffee tastes mighty good
That's not the reason why I've got to get back
To that sugar shack, whoa baby
To that sugar shack.
There's this cute little girlie, she's a'workin' there
A black leotard and her feet are bare
I'm gonna drink a lotta coffee, spend a little cash
Make that girl love me when I put on some trash
You can understand why I've got to get back
To that sugar shack, whoa baby
To that sugar shack, yeah honey
To that sugar shack, whoa yes
To that sugar shack.
Now that sugar shack queen is a'married to me, yeah yeah
We just sit around and dream of those old memories
Ah, but one of these days I'm gonna lay down tracks
In the direction of that sugar shack
Just me and her yes we're gonna go back
To that sugar shack,, whoa uh oh
To that sugar shack, yeah honey
To our sugar shack
Yeh, yeh, yeh, our sugar shack
It was an infectious little ditty just at the end of the beat era and right before the onset of the Beatles and hippiedom. Espresso was pretty exotic to AM radio listeners of the day, thus the explanatory modifier "coffee." This song always sent me into unattainable bohemian reveries--when I was 12, Kerouac and Ginsberg were not on my map yet, but I could intuit that cool, soft underbelly....
Given that Messrs. Fagen and Becker were in their early teens when it was released, my money is on this song as the ref for "Janie" rather than the traditional definition of sugar shack. Fits, no? Then again, who knows what went on in those cozy little sugar shacks while the sap was boiling down? Then yet again, they don't make maple syrup in Pennsylvania (do they, Hank?).
The sugar shack girl could be the prototype for any number of Steely females, except the guy settled down with her. And doesn't the sugar shack ring some bells with "Teahouse on the Tracks"? Maybe they reno'd and added on the club?
steviedan (GB, 11/5/03): ole, a couple of details about "sugar shack": a little bitty one would be that it was number one for FIVE WEEKS in '63. jimmy gilmer was an amarillo tx native. he and the fireballs followed "ss" shortly in early '64 with "daisy petal pickin'" which actually got to #15. i always dug "sugar shack" which, while almost sickeningly "cute", had a groovy beachy feel...
Rajah of Erase (11/6/03): Oleander - absolutely the sugar shack is from the tune. Hey there are soo many references to 60s songs and lore. The ones I liked from EMG were "Stone Soul Picnic" and "I peel out like the Flash." Top 40 and comic book references recall a happier time for most geezers around our age.
Doctor Mu (GB, 11/6/03): That's a cute coyness with a taste of sophistication...a device Steely Dan and Fagen have used well to bring up deep, dark subjects...stuff that elicits the mental double take...I think this approach is much better to stir the imagination and true enjoyment of an art from, even a pop one...in contrast with the visual and aural bludgeoning we receive today from Britney or the Iggles single in current pop music...and presents an even more stark, shadowy contrast than in the 70s...
The Sugar Snack song is sneaky in how it moves from it's the syrup!, no it's the girl!, no it's the time and place ya little Cringmemaker!...I only remember it from the oldy moldy goldy stations, but it has that kinda bouncy white R&B groove similar to Blues Beach (same kind of hook) or beaucoup of Dan tunes for that matter like Janie Runaway...
...Funny, you should mention that time, because Dan uses very little of the pop vernacular (except black R&B and funk from the 70s and electrified Bob Dylan) post Sugar Shack...they used everything Dobie Gillis would have listened to if he were brighter, and everything Fats Domino could play...
Minor Dude (11/17/03): I am of the opinion that the way to officially drive yourself crazy is looking for the SINGLE meaning of any SD reference (lyrical or musical).
They are too clever and seem to simply work too hard at showing a limited number of facets of every jewel.
This Sugar Shack discussion presents a perfect example. In addition to the forgoing discussion which seems perfectly reasonable, there is a restaurant, Anthony's Sugar Shack (Italian food. (voice) 814-368-7881) in Bedford PA. Seems worth crossing state lines for but where's the sex? In the Blazer possibly? On the other hand there's a Sugar Shack "gentleman's club" In Clarion County PA. From the article referenced below, it seems like just the sleazy, out-of-the-way cesspool to which our narrator would take his nubile nymph Janie.
But notice from the article that this Sugar Shack has only been open since Feb 14 2003! Could this be a Steely-inspired sexually oriented business?
Just when I think it's far fetched, I remember that I'm talking about a band named for a dildo in a sex novel. Probably the work of a sex-obsessed Steely fan who Started the business with the sole intent of giving tangible meaning to a SD reference.
Please forward my mail to Saint Elizabeth's Mental Hospital
"Jack Of Speed"
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, "Steely Dan Words + Music" (copyright 2000 Giant Records):
DF: "Jack Of Speed" is really just about when one member of a couple starts to lose it in some way; guess the most obvious question is like, you know, are you talking about actual speed, like the drug speed or something. It's really not that; it has to do with the kind of manic stages people get into for one reason or another, and it's a cautionary song. He's out there, you know. He's living too large.
WB: I think for the most part these are not particular people that we know. Rather than that, they're either sort of exaggerations of our own experiences or products of our own imaginations or fantasies or conjectures...
DF: Or, you know, based on people we know, maybe, but no one specific...
DF: ...maybe combinations of things you hear, or just trying to isolate some impulse that someone our age might have, not necessarily us, but someone like us.
Andy (GB, 1/1/00): I've been listening to this tune quite a bit lately, so I figured I try to explain its meaning (I could, of course, be completely wrong).
Briefly, the protagonist, Eldon, a teenager is a "good kid" who gets in with the wrong crowd (or guy, the Jack of Speed). His mother becomes concerned with her son's acquaintance(s) and tries to rescue him from the rebellious and sly Jack of Speed. The weird thing about this song is that we never find out how the story ends-- if Mom saves Eldon from the Jack of Speed. Here's a deeper analysis:
The first verse goes:
Eldon's rollin' now most every night
Skating backwards at the speed of light
Well he's changed, all in a thousand little ways
He's changed, whoa darlin', yes indeed
You know he's stuck all in the middle
He's hangin with the Jack of Speed
This is the narrator telling the mother how Eldon is hanging out with the "bad crowd," he's "rollin' every night," the diction suggests that Eldon is definitely hanging out with the cool folk.
The verse goes on to say "he's changed." That's pretty self-explanatory, but key to the story. Okay, now for the second verse:
Sheena's Party, babe, is a case in point
That bogus haircut just stunk out that joint
Well, he's gone, he may be sleeping in your bed
But he's gone, oh darlin' guaranteed, he may be
Laid out on the sofa, but he's smoking with
The Jack of Speed
The second verse actually precedes the first verse chronologically. It's the uncool Eldon. He shows up to the party with the "bogus haircut"...he's not cool. However, the next line tells us that "he's gone" -- the "uncool" Eldon is now cool, or at least trying to be.
Now the line that says "he may be sleeping in your bed" refers to Eldon's mother. Eldon's become so cool and so bad, that he's using his mother just so he can sleep in her bed (think of the macho-slick-rebel high school type). He's not his mother's little boy anymore; he's "smoking with the Jack of Speed."
Now for the bridge:
Yeah, I know that you're thinkin'
How it might be just fine
For one full blown tear across that thin white line
But will you be laughing when you're all alone
Lookin' down on the upside, locked out of the danger zone
This is his mother's point of view. The bridge is actually the mother thinking about or scolding Eldon; it's no longer the narrator speaking. She's telling him how the Jack of Speed is "using" him; that their companionship won't last-- he'll be "locked out of the danger zone."
The third verse:
Well, he can't hear you honey, that's okay
Throw your luggage in that Chevrolet
And you're right on, you run out on that lane stampede
Right on, oh angel, guaranteed
You got to get out little darlin', cause you're dancing with
The Jack of Speed
This narrator talking again. He's telling the mother to chase down Eldon, who by now has left home to run with the Jack of Speed. It's obvious that the narrator is talking to the mother now-- he's calling her "honey," "darling" and "angel."
That's the end of the story-- we never find out if the mother rescues Eldon from the Jack of Speed. A very interesting song.
F#maj9 (GB, 1/2/00): don't get mother in picture or that Eldon is necessarily a good guy [he's changed- but he's stuck in the middle... not down in the bottom yet. maybe he still has a sentient choice] The jack is not a person its a drug [and the monkey in our collective souls, i fear. not exactly a personification]. skating backwards at the speed of light. entendre-rich for amphetamines and also refers to the "self-aggrandized "fast-lane" E and his cronies are supposedly part of, the legend in your own mind factor, which is part of the tractor what pushes the factor- all perceived control, ability/capacity to "steer" is an illusion. the track only leads to one place. he may look crashed out but there's still a chorus of 10,000mgs of crank shouting hallelujah in his brain, give or take a few mgs. he's "smokin'", hot pants. make you want to dance... make you believe you as good as james brown [but everyone's haircut might, after all, be bogus. he's skating BACKWARDS. sorry. i shouted]. Eldon can't hear you, honey- he is crashed out but even if he were awake and listening he wouldn't hear. he hasn't hit rock bottom at which point wringing of hands, gnashing of teeth etc etc etc gets him to the precipice of either still not giving a fuck and celebrating slow-suicide in a romanticized spasm of self-hate top-o'-the-world ma, i'm going over [call me Deacon Blue?] ain't it great? or, "going in" [the first step is to admit you are powerless, which may or may not involve another eleven]. His stuck in the middle, there's still time [D.Blue wants to die behind the wheel- how romantically tragic, they'll remember my name; The Deacon is a self-deluded fraud, his plight is worth the sweat off the back of a midget ant. For Eldon, think train wreck ] Who get's the warning? Not mamma-san. Just some liddle birdy purty thang [the narrator would probably like to give her a ride, too. you can't trust anyone in a steely dan song, can you?] who can still save herself once she stops seeing E and his colleagues as cool; bogus all over us, baby. get out while you can still change lanes. drive your chevy to the levy, babe...
you can't steer a train.
sugar (GB, 2/6/00): I keep thinking of "Jack of Speed" as being sort of a musical version of the recent "Amercian Beauty" movie.
DartWoman (Digest, 3/2/00): Here are a few thoughts as to what might be influencing Teddy in Jack Of Speed:
a) A chemical substance, probably of an illegal nature
b) A non-specified mental disturbance that would appear to be incurable
c) Brain-washing as a result of subliminal messages received by listening to Rush Limbaugh
Doug Morrison (Digest, 3/3/00): "Trading fours" is a jazz term for a back-and-forth between two or more musicians for four measures or bars, e.g., the tenor plays four bars, then the drums respond for four bars, then back to the tenor for four, and so on.
Roy.Scam (GB, 3/5/00): Having listened many times to both the old and new versions of this song, it is my humble opinion (and my humility is legendary), that all the changes are for the better. When I first heard the 2vN version , my reaction was to nickname it "Lack of Speed"; why would you want to put a 'Black Cow' tempo to a song about someone spinning out of control? especially, as someone here pointed out, when the word 'speed' is right there in the title. Now I think the tempo is perfect; it seems more dramatic and tragic to watch someone descend slowly while you stand by helpless. Teddy isn't just skittering away like a popped balloon, he's systematically and inevitably separating himself from everything he has (and is). -- A lot is written lately about the value of perfectionism in Becker and Fagen's work, and I don't buy all of it, but this song is a strong argument for obsessively tampering with something that was already great. The reworked bridge of Jack of Speed represents the absolute best of pop music; I'd have bought the CD if it had only this bridge on it. In fact, if I was forced to choose four lines to represent Steely Dan melodically and lyrically, these would be them (those? (it?)). -- Another magical aspect of this song is that I can relate completely with all three characters: the person slipping away, the person close to him watching it happen, and the not-as-close person issuing the warning. The narrator may be the most tragic, since he's apparently been through this scenario on one side or the other and now he's watching it happen again. -- Great lyrics, a horn/guitar mix that's precise and gorgeous, a classic Steely Dan quality guitar solo, and some of Fagen's most expressive vocal work ever. This has become one of Steely Dan's primo numbers. It was more than just nostalgia that made me say that my initial favorite on this CD was the only one I'd heard last century.
Kush (Digest, 3/7/00): Someone inquired about the phrase "movin' on metal" in Jack of Speed. I was thinking about this also. Maybe "metal" refers to the
implement (such as a razor) the subject uses to prepare his amphetamine of choice. Here D+W lay down a blissful level of abstraction through innuendo
(as usual). It's like, c'mon, we all know our hero isn't hooked on blow, he just prefers the aesthetic of mirrored coffee tables. Or maybe it's another musical metaphor (akin to "trading fours") for the sliding action of playing a guitar. What an awesome groove.
Norvis Pidner (3/6/00): "he can't hear you honey...move up to the light" bit is clearly a reference to near-death experiences (although in this case it's probably a death experience).
Bill by the Bay (Digest, 3/12/00): is Jack of Speed just so obviously about an amphetamine junkie, or what? I suppose that would make Jack the ups
themselves, a la Katy.
Chris (GB, 3/13/00): Someone thought trading fours was trading four letter words, and I dissagree. As mentioned, it is a musical term, when you trade four bars. When you are, you are in close communication with the other person, and often expand on their musical ideas. You have to play close attention what to they're playing. I think what W&B meant by trading fours is that he's spending a lot of time with the Jack Of Speed, paying close attention to his ways, and copying them, which is really what you do when you trade fours for real. Also mentioned that Jack Of Speed might be a prelude to Deacon Bluse...Teddy could be the sax player and the Jack Of Speed could be drums or whatever, and could be trading fours for real. Who knows?
Not My Nancy (GB, 3/26/00): I agree with the folks who said "trading fours" means trading four-bar solos. But I'll bet the four-letter word interpretation crossed D&W's minds and they liked it.
"Trading eights" has an internal consonance that would keep the line moving a little more. (I've got a lot of nerve, copy-editing Becker & Fagen, but this is all among friends.) I will grant that hearing Fagen sing "fours" gives the world a classic FagenVowels(tm) moment--"tradin' FAHHWNS." Right there with "ain't nothin' in Chicago for a monkey woman to do -- AHH-EH-YAH-HAAAWWN."
Paul (5/5 & 8/00): This has become my favorite on TvN album as it is a great throwback to past SD grooves. I like to think of Jack of Speed (shadowy figure) similiar to Jack the Ripper (unknown/unsolved murderer) and Mack the Knife (immmortilised in song) as almost intangible beings that scare the shit out of you! The line "movin' on metal" and word "throttle" make me think of a motorbike?? Dont know why, Jack cruisin on a Harley with Teddy ridin pilion?!?!
I like the last verse as I think it is space cadet Teddy getting "his honey" to follow, and Jack is there to pounce and "Trade Fours" with her. This is another of
those "gothic" moments that keeps popping up throughout this CD....
My crazy beatnik, jazzy father reckons Jack of Speed is a train, movin on metal, metal tracks!!! Hey not bad!?!?!
Le Blazer Rouge (GB, 7/3/00): Ever notice that Jack Of Speed played backwards says "deeps fo kcaj"
Danophile Dave (8/2/00): If one examines the evidence carefully, the conclusion that Jack of Speed is about a guy the drug Ecstasy is unavoidable. Much by
conincidence, about a week after 2vN came out, I read an article in a mag about this drug which convinces me that Teddy is no ordinary tweeker. Here is the evidence:
1. Ecstacy is a powerful stimulant (i.e. "speed") with hallucinogenic properties (i.e. it puts you on a "trip"). The references in the song, including the title (which implies something other than just ordinary garden-variety methamphetamine "speed" since it is the "Jack" of speed) clearly point to the fact that Teddy is amped to the max. (eg. "Skatin' backward at the speed of light", "On the shriek express", etc.). However, the lyrics imply that he is also on some type of mind-bending
substance. For example, the fact that he's sittin' in the kitchen but steppin' out with the Jack of Speed infers that although he is physically present, his mind is somewhere else (i.e. he's trippin'). The fact that his new best friend is at the throttle more or less again implies that he's not in control of his mind and that he is on a trip. Thus it seems clear that the drug Teddy is on is both a stimulant and hallucogen.
2. The effect of using Ecstacy over time is to slowly destroy braincells, and to deplete the brain of serotonin - which leads to mood swings, depression, anxiety, etc. The article pointed out that it is sometimes hard to detect an Ecstacy user because the person can get high at night, but go to work the next day and appear to function normally, even though subtle changes will begin to appear over time. The references in the song to the fact that Teddy has changed in a thousand little ways, or that he walks through the old routines are consistent with the effects of the drug, which are not immediatly noticeable. Conversely, you can usually spot a meth user a mile away. For more info see website: clubdrugs.org
3. Probably the most convincing piece of evidence in the article was the fact that "rolling" has become druggie slang for "gettin high on Ecstacy". The article gave the example that if a person says "I'd rather be rollin' than gettin' durnk", what he is saying is that he would rather get high on Ecstacy than drink. Now back in my early days of modest drug experimentation, the term "rolling" was always associated with a pack of Zig-Zags. Apparently, the terms has a new street meening
among among the "club drug" crowd. Also, the fact that Teddy does his rolling "almost every night", again implies he is on Ecstacy, since it is a drug that is popular with the nightclub crowd. Ordinary speed freaks do not usually distinguish between night and day.
Now that the evidence is in, it is clear that the "Jack of Speed" that Teddy is hangin' tight with is Ecstacy. But the bottom lines is: So what! I could actually care less as to the meaning of any Steely Dan song, or whether there is any meaning at all. To paraphrase a famous politician, "It's the music, stupid!"
Jill O'Speed (10/26/01): This recording is exquisite. It could be half as good as it is and still be perfect.
As for the meaning of the lyrics --- well, have you ever been in a long relationship with someone who begins to slip away from reality? While there are clearly drug references in the song, the sentiment can also be applied more generally to a variety of afflictions, including addiction, obsession, fanaticism, depression, and wanton narcissism. Anyway, you might really love the individual. You should stick it out --- after all, love lasts forever, doesn't it? Well, yes and no. Once the person inside that you loved is gone, empty, void, vacant, beyond the point of no return let's say, you have to get out of the relationship, preferably quickly, or you'll be dragged down into the abyss right with them, competing with their affliction, and losing.
You could debate a long time about this line or that line and its exact meaning, but Steely Dan lyrics aren't meant to be taken 100% literally. You have to use your intellect, and emotional sense, and look "into" them. That's what makes them so compelling.
Tomorrow's Girl (GB, 2/15/00): From the fearless, satirical snarl of Bodhisattva and Show Biz Kids to the pussy-whipped whimper of Almost Gothic. The domestimasculation is now complete. My work here is done.
Slint (3/2/00): In response to your comment, "Tommorrow's Girl"; Two extremely talented songwriters decide to get passionate and write an eloquently soothing and gorgeous song...and the batteries in your dildo decide to die...
People with your mentality always seem to have "bad timing" in their lives...
Edd Cote (GB, 3/2/00): Little Eva hit it big with Goffin/King's "Locomotion". I'm thinking the Bleeker St Brat might be a young Bob Dylan. Now you can get a hip/not-hip dichotomy going, possibly alluded to in the preceeding line...
Geena (GB, 3/2/00): Little Eva was Carole King's babysitter, so I'm thinking the brat could be Neil Sedaka rather than Dylan, since both Carole and Neil worked so close together, you know they were one big happy family! But then I could be wrong.
DartWoman (Digest, 3/5/00): I see the singer as being somewhat of an "innocent", based on the way Donald sings the lyrics. A possibly strange pairing, but that's love.
The lyrics in the latter part of the song are what I really find off the wall. Can any of us actually picture Don/Walt spelling love L-U-V? Probably with little hearts drawn around it, right? The line about hearing her rap--while I've heard and understand the phrase (no problem with that)--sung in this innocent voice . . .
Okay, I have to get it out--I get this visual of the singer, okay? It builds until I hear the line "Unless I'm totally wrong . . ." and then it comes into focus. The picture I have is of a young Jerry Lewis, okay? I know, I've lost it.
I'm going back to the home now . . .
RowJamie (Digest, 3/5/00): the song is about a woman, but could she be a symbol for our 2 favorite guys?? The song sounds like it is from the POV of a
danfan who has been waiting (and waiting) for a new album and now finally got it - "she's way gone then she comes back", ""She's all business and she's
ready to play" "when she speaks its like the slickest song I ever heard" "then she hits me with the cryptic stuff" and my favorite "she's old school then she's like young"
RBBaird (Digest, 3/11/00): While I think the dominatrix bent is probably the right one, it is a little wierd - "way gone", "then she cools down", "then she's noise free" - all ways of describing dead folks.
and what about "she's almost gothic in a natural way" = "She looks so natural"?
chris (Digest, 3/11/00): I second the motion. It looks like Almost Gothic is going to be the one on TvN that everyone tries to figure out. So far, we've heard the S&M theory, the heroin theory, and the Night of the Living Dead theory, among others.
... The protagonist of this story is yet another somewhat older guy, "slumming" with a young girl (Who'd have thought? In a Steely Dan song?!). There are too many references in the lyrics to ignore, not the least of which is the title, if you pursue the Goth Girl theory.
This guy is so taken with the young thing that he doesn't care if her looks are "so severe." He knows that the "wise child walks right out of here", but he's so smitten that he asks us for leniency: "I'm on fire, so cut me some slack." Then the entire second verse confirms that -- he's fallen for this girl, even to the point of loving her babbling. "Pure science with a splash of black cat"? C'mon, folks, GothGirls are notorious for latching onto all sorts of pseudo-mystical nonsense.
And then there's the bridge: "This dark place so thrilling and new... kind of like the opposite of an aerial view." Our hero is *definitely* slumming! He's looking at life from the bottom here, hanging out with the marginal people for a change, like our old friend Deacon Blues. Donald and Walter, two fairly normal guys, have always had a fixation with the fringes of society, as does the man in the story.
The clincher for me is the "Little Eva meets the Bleecker Street brat" line. As anyone who's spent any time in Greenwich Village knows, Bleecker Street is a hangout for all sorts of young bohemian types, Goths included. It's one of the areas in the Village for the tattoo and pierce crowd. Our older man sees in his young paramour some Little Eva (a pop culture figure from his own youth) mixed in with the "Bleecker Street brats" he's seen over the years -- only this time, he's drawn in by it for some reason, enough to overcome his common sense and send him down what we all know is probably a dead-end street.
Earl Fox (Digest, 3/12/00): I am not sure what type of "fetish" they are describing overall in the song, but I have a strong feeling that the song has to do with just the complete difference in the way she is perceived in real life, and the way that she acts when in an intimate situation. Probably a dominatrix type of
relationship, where she's a very shy, sensitive person in real life, then a real bitch in the bedroom.
And opposite of an aerial view...bondage could be perceived as the man laying in bed looking up. And "This dark place so thrilling and new"...possibly his first encounter with her...sounds almost like a sexual reference to me. Or, it could just be his first s/m encounter.
YGK (GB, 3/20/00): AG could be a romantic and nuanced description about a house cat.... The song does have fantastic moments/lyrics describing common feline behaviour.
aja (GB, 3/20/00): "She's all buzz, then she's noise free"-sounds like a purring cat to me.
Brain Dead Dawn (GB, 3/21/00): Interesting comments on Almost Gothic. It does carry with it a certain feline stealth.
I find the song quite similar to Billy Joel's Always A Woman. Of course, not in a musical sense. But rather they seem to be thematically parallel. Both extol the marvelous dual nature of women, and do so in a way that illustrates the yin/yang of girly mystique. They allow the listener to grasp the inherent dichotomy and leave with a feeling of sentimental acceptance.
elrod (3/21/00): In the song "Almost Gothic", the first thing that comes into my mind is the image of a young "Goth". But this is not a particularly attractive
thing; but, ALMOST Gothic... The young woman described is reminisent of a Goth, but comes by this look " ...in a natural way." The character that I see is Daria-like. She is severe, smooth, cool; the ultimate Steely Dan woman. The religious imagery is strong: ".. working on Gospel time..." "This house of desire is built foursquare." "I'm in the amen corner now... ". The woman who is here, gone, and returns: and the wordplay to bring this picture alive; "First she's all buzz, and then she's noise free." This song in paticular left me "sizzling like an isotope."
just a purrrl (GB, 3/21/00): almost gothic = adventures in menopause. A love song.
Steely Girl (GB, 3/21/00): The woman... has some type of bi-polar disorder. That is why she needs to see her Dr. uptown. Could this be the same Dr. Warren Krueger that makes an appearance in WOH?
Almost Gothic is about a professional lady who works in an (GB, 3/22/00): S&M dungeon and the narrator is one of her clients.
JW Malibu (GB, 3/22/00): "Almost Gothic" is about a dominatrix.
Paige (Digest, 4/5/00): I too, think that Almost Gothic is a classic. It is clearly one of the better tracks on the CD. It is also one of the more difficult to
interpret. Once again, I don't claim to have the definitive view, perhaps only Donald and Walter have that. Yet, in some cases, I'm not even sure that they know the direction of full meaning of their own work. Perhaps that is a part of the mysteryŠthese great mental puzzles that have as many meanings as those who would attempt to interpreting them.
I'm afraid that I am one of those that believes that "Almost Gothic" is a song about a young man visiting a house of S&M. Having said that, I think that there is some validity in those who believe that it deals with death. I'm just not a full subscriber to this. There are too many references that point away from this.
This is a beautiful song. However, I am firm believer that SD has this creative tendency to draw you in with beautiful music, which often masks a darker side. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to this (non) band. I am basically a person who enjoys darker and sometimes depressing themes. I enjoy movies like "Taxi Driver," "A Clockwork Orange," and "One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest." It is for this reason that I find SD appealing.
Anyway, back to "Almost Gothic."
"I'm working on gospel time these days"
(Sex as a religion)
"The sloe-eyed creature in the reckless room.."
(Reckless - without limits, anything goes)
"She's so severeŠ"
(severe - extreme)
"A wise child walks right out of here"
(Those who have self-control and can turn from temptation)
"I'm so excited, I can barely copeŠ"
(Doing what is perceived as wrong or perverted is excitingŠa turn on)
"Cut me some slackŠ"
(I'm not sure what to expect, so be gentle)
In all of the choruses refer to a person who lives essentially two lives. As often is the case, many who participate in alternate lifestyles, lead very normal and/or mundane lives. You would never guess that the "normal" appearing person next to you may be involved in a wide variety of sexual deviations.
"This house of desire is built foursquare"
(House of desire is self-explanatory)
"Šthe cleanest kitten in the city"
(This obviously refers to the female anatomy in light of AIDS)
"When she speaks it's like the slickest songŠ"
"I'm hanging on her every word"
(He voice is siren-like and he must obey her every word)
"As if I'm not blazed enough"
(blazed - skin is on fire)
"She hits me with the cryptic stuff"
(Cryptic here might refer to "primitive" - a new level)
"That's her style, to jerk me around"
(Not only her style, but her job, to abuse)
"This dark place is so thrilling and new"
(Our friend is excited, yet scared)
"Šopposite of an aerial view"
(Laying on the bed)
"Unless I'm totally wrong"
"I hear her rap and brother it's strong"
(Rap - as in hitting)
"I'm pretty sure that what she is telling me is mostly lies"
(It is her job to create a wold that is no real)
"Šstand there hypnotized"
(At her total control...as a part of the game)
"Šhave to make it work somehow"
(Our friend must find a way to get through this)
"I'm in the amen corner now"
(Not sure - perhaps praying for his survival)
"It's called love, I spell L-U-V"
(Rationalizing the situation and the relationshipŠit's a minor form of "love")
Okay, so I got a little carried away. But, this is my interpretation of the song and is not unlike SD in the least (as long as Walter is involved in the lyrics).
Mtroy (Digest, 4/6/00): Another possible interpretation of Almost Gothic - it's the boys' homage to their muse! Not a sexy, dark, subversive interpretation, but...
muse; noun -
1 capitalized : any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences
2 : a source of inspiration; especially : a guiding genius
Mr. LaPage (GB, 4/17/00): -Now....., does anyone care to hear my theory on Almost Gothic?
It's about this "house of ill-repute (desire)" in the town of "foursquare" New York, circa, 1965.
Paige (Digest, 5/8/00): Okay, so I've received my share of e-mail regarding my post of several weeks ago. I offered the idea that "Almost Gothic" was a story about our young hero entering an S&M or Dominatrix salon. Well, I don't want to give the impression that it was a lot of e-mail. I received tenŠeight of which disagreed with my interpretation of this great song. Most felt that it was a true love (LUV) song, which is to be taken simply for what it is. (Let's give credit where it is due, one of the chaps that agreed with me was the original poster who first proclaimed this interpretation.)
I admit itŠI tend to read more into Steely Dan lyrics than I should. It's great (intellectual) fun. Actually, I don't disagree with those that think that it is a simple love song. Even with my "dark" interpretation, it is STILL a LUV song. However, who can deny the words themselves? Why would Walt and Don choose such verses as "a splash of black cat" - (cat-of-nine tails), "Šhouse of desire is built foursquare" - (dungeon?), "I hear her rap and brother, it's strong?" For a "simple love song" it sure has a lot of strange connotations. Is there a reason for this? Is it such a far stretch to consider that they went beyond the "simple love song" to throw in a double interpretation? Isn't it just like them to introduce this kind of angle? Or are we to simply ignore the ironyŠI think not.
For all of you that are closet Existentialists, you understand the absurdity of life and that the Dan have captured it in all its irony and wonderful misery.
Gary (Digest, 5/9/00): I was at first very skeptical of the S&M/dominatrix theme of Almost Gothic when it was first proposed here, instead believing this to be a truly beautiful love song. Now, I'm a believer. The references are too numerous and clear to be coincidental. I'd start citing lies, but I'd have to quote
about half the song. It's *both* a love song a l-u-v song! B&F have done it again.
Clas (GB, 5/9/00): I now know what gothic architecture is, thanks to the lyrics in "Almost Gothic". The girl is a complex nature, so is the architecture, listen:
"The Cathedral in Reims.
Here the Gothic cathedral facade was brought to perfection. It is both broken up into a myriad of sculptures, niches, windows and decorative details and at the same time held together by a firm and logical composition."
(from Swedish Nationalencyclopedia)
And the girl is ALMOST Gothic.
Are you with me guys?
Negative Girl (GB, 6/1/00): maybe she IS a hooker. The guy sees her in a 'house of desire' - but is it necessarily a brothel? or is it just his favourite haunt and she goes there a lot too, (and likes expensive gin) Maybe she's got money and she plays hot and cold with him. Lots of christian references, but hey: perhaps "Gothic" means that she buys her clothes at "Religious Sex" down on St. Mark's street? ha!
wormtom (GB, 6/1/00): yes is he really in a brothel
well that all business then ready to play line
had me toying with the prostitute
the sloe eyed creature line is when he first gets to observe her and doesn't yet know her
I took her to be a sophisticated gal forced to hit the streets in early 60's new york ala 63 ish
he may perhaps be running into her in a coffee shop, knows he should stay away from her charms but soon falls for her beauty, wit and innocence in a torn and ragged city street scene
does she have to be a hooker, no
perhaps a gal he keeps seeing in a cafe
"gospel time" meaning wow, she's there again, man am I lucky
don't know, but he is smitten and enjoys her darker side
remember much like Charlie Parker in his day
this is not the moral norm and he risks being totally ostracized for his actions which only spurs him on more
F#maj (GB, 6/1/00): the protagonist is on the edge of an edge he's never edged up to before [so thrilling and new] so why isn't he more edgy? too busy sizzling to care- or, perhaps because he feels safe and relaxed about it... he's cool enough to joke about it "kind of like the opposite of an aerial view" gives me the image of a six inch spiked heel [in basic black] poised thirteen inches above the hardwood floor...underwhich he eyes the spectacle with delight.
[aside: that line is as sterling as "i jumped out of my easy chair/it was not my own!", architected to tacitly conjur a much stronger image which is the real thrust of (in the case of wanting to hear everything you did) his shocked appall... worse than finding a condom wrapper in the garbage which was not his brand. ouch. i mean OUCH. whew. the sub-sole-ar view our almost gothic 'hero' sings so sweetly of is equally [and oppositely] funny semantic fun]
is she a pro? maybe that is why he can croon without impugn...
a victimless crime? i mean he volunteers to be the victim as though he were in an amusement park and is tall enough to go on this ride. sure she wants him to feel safe [s&m within the parameters of "healthy behavior" stems from trust... you wouldn't let just anyone tie your hands to the bed posts [which may also be part of the "four square" architecture of this house of desire- i see BIG fucking bed posts... four of them?] unless you get off on the chance they might actually suddenly shout "action" as the snuff-flick begins. oy gevalt, no. this roller coaster ride will thrill and stimulate but the ride will end as you pull up and step out on the platform. nyuk nyuk. sorry. i was thinking about where she got those shoes. where was i?
suree, she wants him to be safe so he'll buy more tickets and ride again. why scare off a customer? but the darkness may very well be there- powerful, reeking with potential to seek and destroy-but with such low probability- i mean people *have* been hurt, even killed dead when disaster strikes at the amusement park. but the probability is so low you don't consider it. so this all leading to the point regarding your "let me justify it, i am in love with her" interp...
he spells L-U-V! this i take as crucial to his take on the whole thing. there is no indication that he wants to save and rescue [and ruin all his good clean fun?]. He sings to celbrate this healthy indulgence!!! He croons a hip-o-gothic oath: first, do no harm? She's *almost* gothic [the rest is an act? the roller coaster will not jump the track] and he likes it like that. It's somewhere beyond pretend but still several clicks shy of actual factual austerity. He *knows* he's not gonna get the spike in the eye or he'd be singing a different song altogether. The song has a rhapsodic hook!!! there's no sturm und/ur drang static at all! he has no other agenda and is satisfied with everything the way it is. HURT ME! Lie to me! Make me grovel and do things! No one needs to be saved if no one is doing anything wrong, so, is this fucking great or what?!
Interesting- there is no mention of explicit sex, is there?
It is said that rape is a crime of violence [as opposed to the other]. I'm not saying I buy this, but allow that it is about other pathologically compelling things. oy, some more.
I don't really want to say likewise here but will for the sake of brevity [!]; likewise, our hero's vicitim-esque participation is just as much, if not more, or perhaps entirely, about getting jerked around on the ride... process oriented rather than goal (climax) oriented. He may not even be allowed to touch her, according to her rules! Is it all sight and sound? Olfaction? [God, he just loves the smell of sweaty leather after a long day at the office?] how come he never mentions or alludes to any physical contact with her at all! hurt me. lie to me. what do you think, i'm having such a great time. oh.
wormtom (he's smokin', baby) (GB, 6/1/00): I like your foursquare analog to the bedposts and a captive audient
and what is the opposite of an ariel view flying over and free
but to be on one's back and totally submissive
yes the rope game works and all too well
so mr clean enjoys his adventures in voyeurism
with the most scrupcious of working girls (cleanest kitten)
yes he probably isn't able to touch her
and this may be part of his tearing concious to not give to temptation, "still I remain tied to the mast" indeed
and this leads one to his "sizzling like an isotope"
she probably prolongs this each time to intense levels
only to back off ala...
"she's all buzz then she cools down"
and leaves him in that almost euphoric state
I like the spin
can I borrow the rope girl for a ron day voo with opp of air i elle too?
Roy.Scam (GB, 6/7/00): One more song-analysis-rebuttal: I opine that Almost Gothic is NOT about leather clad sado masichists and Negative Girl is NOT a chemical. The songs work too well on the obvious level. Why would they write a neurotic song about a trivial subject and hide it within a good song about a meaningful subject?
B (GB, 6/20/00): Consider this:
Rose Darling: "Although I could be wrong"
Almost Gothic: "Unless I'm totally wrong"
The more things change...
princess of cairo (Digest, 6/27/00): i'll make a farout guess that this song is about dorothy love coates, a gospel singer, who is most popular, in my house, anyway, for her song, "city built foursquare."
this would explain all the religous references; it would also explain the lines, "this house of desire is built foursquare," "first she's all feel then she cools down (style of singing)," "it's called love - i spell l-u-v," and the anti-religion line, "i'm pretty sure that what she's telling me is mostly lies."
unfortunately, i couldn't find much other than amazon.com pages on dorothy love coates, but, i think it's an educated guess, anyway...
Vancouver Murph (7/23/00): I thought Almost Gothic was basically about (pardon crudity) eating pussy - my 1st time in NYC 20 yrs ago, a friend
pointed out a girl he knew: "She's got the cleanest kitten in the East Village." "Huh?" " 'Cause that pussy gets licked all the time, man.". The dominatrix/falling in love w/a hooker interpretation is better than mine, but "What is this warm dark place, so thrilling & new/It's kind of like the opposite of an aerial view" made me conclude it's at least partly about cunnilingus.
DanaG (Digest, 8/27/00): Honest to gawd, I don't usually get fixated on SD lyrics. I figure they mean what I think they mean (although I may be just too lazy to look beyond my own worldview!).
Anyway, there's a lyric on 2vN that's giving me headaches. What I'm talking about are these lines from "Almost Gothic":
This dark place so thrilling and new
It's kind of like the opposite of an aerial view
The problem is that I live in the SF Bay Area, and, like everyone living here, I spend much time driving over bridges & on freeways. But it's definitely fun to drive with the stereo cranked up high & the sunroof open. Of course, 2vN is in heavy rotation on my stereo, so I have many chances to hear "Almost Gothic" while I'm driving in my car...with the sunroof open...and clouds above occasionally catching my eye.
So, what I wanna know is....is this inside-the-car-looking-up... "kind of like the opposite of an aerial view"???
Fred (un fr`ere d'ame, 9/15/00): I have some comments about "almost gothic". Will you pardon my english...
Though I never really got into the S&M interpretation (to me, AG is about Don & Walt as Steely Dan, they just describe their music & style in a very brilliant way), here's something more. The S&M could be here, though, brought by "Little Eva". You may know the Gerry Goffin & Carole King classic "He hit me (it felt like a kiss)", produced by Phil Spector and sunbg by The Crystals. For this song(sadomasochism in disguise), the authors were inpired by a confidence from their then baby-sitter, Little Eva, who complained about her boyfriend beating/hitting her...
The story is quite well-known among Brill Building fans so I wonder...
Schwinn (5/10/01): This song is about Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.
Liu Chang (her brother) (10/23/01): The Bleecker Street Brat, IMO, is 'Suzuki Beane,' an 11 year old beatnik in the book of the same name. She's a dark-haired, dark-eyed pale girl who defies her pinko parents to 'elope' with a square boy in her class. It could be!
Clean Willy (4/14/03): "Almost Gothic" is the space between the truth and lies. Among the other definitions mentioned, gothic is a grotesque and mysterious style of FICTION. So what the hell is almost gothic? Is it some area just on the
bubble of the imaginated realm. Understood enough not to be myseterious, true enough not to be fiction?
Look at the beginning of each of the three verses:
1) I'm working on gospel time these days - gospel is an ultimate truth, a universal agreement of occurances.
2) This house of desire is built foursquare - another meaning of foresquare is "firm, unwavering conviction" or a believed truth, though not neccesarily a real truth.
3) I'm pretty sure that what she's telling me is mostly lies - this is the understanding of being lied to.
When you're in love, it's often hard to see what's really happening. Even when you realize you've been duped, something keeps bringing you back. The chorus keeps screaming the dichotomies: First she's THIS, then she's all
THAT. Just like the way an aerael view let's you see everything with a God-like omnisicence, the opposite is a dysfunctional relationship: a complete veil. In the end, you have to make it work somehow. It's called Love.
In the June 15, 1998 New Yorker an article appeared which I think may have served as an ingredient in the stew which is "Almost Gothic." Titled "Nurse Wolf," it is a profile of a professional, high-end dominatrix by Paul Theroux (an unlikely pairing, that, from the get-go), with suggestive photos by Helmut Newton. Theroux candidly describes her practice through conversation and observation, and this woman is gregarious and blunt. Many phrases in the song ("kind of like the opposite of an aerial view," "she's all business then she's ready to play," "I'm so excited I can barely cope," "I'm hanging on her every word," "that's her style, to jerk me around," "she's pure science with a splash of black cat"--I could go on, as Paige did above) can be construed, as many have noted, as either direct or subtle references to Nurse Wolf or to a similar practitioner of the dark. The article details some of the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of her methods, which the song so suggestively sketches. Check it out and see what you think.
Oh, and by the way, those who remember the 2vN rebus contest might recognize this:
--it's the cover of Little Eva's "Back On Track," from 1989, which apparently is unavailable these days.
Earl (Blue Book, 1/8/02): I believe that the "amen corner" line in the song "Almost Gothic" has a dual reference to both religious settings as well as Augusta National. Amen corner is a famous stretch of holes at Augusta (10-12), where the Masters tourney is played. You can't win the tournament at those holes, but you sure can lose it there. "I'll just have to make it work somehow, I'm in the amen corner now" could definitely mean he's in a situation where he's gotta find a way just to get through his dilemma (wait out the storm), and not try to bite off more than he can chew. On 10-12 at Augusta, you take your pars and get out. If you get greedy on Sunday, you will probably end up out of contention.
Dr. Pretorius (11/24/02): The narrator in this song is quintessentially square as well as naive and innocent. Like the lyric that constantly negates itself with absurd contrasts, so too is there an absurd contrast between the narrator and the young woman's personalities and professions. I believe the narrator is a priest who is fascinated by this psychotic woman who is screwing with his mind - the only screwing this innocent man will experience. Their meetings take place on his turf - a church, ironically, the "house of desire"; they might even move to the confessional for extra kinky conversation. Ultimately, the lyric, the relationship, and the situation are implausible mysteries - just like Catholicism.
"Nurse Wolf," by Paul Theroux, The New Yorker, June 15, 1998, pp. 50-63.
Jeffrey B. (Digest, 1/10/00): The lyrics are cute. Cute? Yeah. Like that part about "saying 'ouch!'" - how many of us actually do that? Our friend Dupree reminds me of the narrator of Jim Croche's "Workin' at the Carwash Blues" - flopped out, trying to convince the world that he's a genius.
The way he so casually merges the innocent "Well we used to play (doctor?) when we were three" to a full-blown lust for his Aunt's daughter. We've seen lots of these semi-incestuous relationships before in the music (Babylon Sisters, Everyone's Gone, etc), but this is the first time we see the actual "move" in progress. Seems just a bit seedier...
The blame apparently doesn't solely fall on Dupree, though. From the description, Janine does her own to encourage him. Hitting on her boyfriend in front of D is really uncalled for. Not to mention that Dupree doesn't understand the subtlety of her put down (or is body-slam more like it?). The comment about the dreary soul and mind of applesauce would turn most guys off, but our hero deluxe asks the question of the century. Makes you think that it's a miracle if he scores at all, period.
Schwinn (GB, 1/14/00): I think we can safely add "incest" to the diet of the world's wiliest coyotes... Skate A Little Lower Now....
Scott Mainella (Digest, 1/28/00): Great playful lyrics, Donald talking about singing in a voice he never knew he had.
Nyarlathotep (Newsgroup, 1/30/00): Does anyone catch the Nabokov/Lolita allusion?
Some discussion on the meaning and etymology of "skeevy":
Lexicon Lenny (GB, 2/9/00): Huh? Did someone say "skeegy"? What the fuck is that? The correct term, whether the dilduo knows it or not, is a derivative of "schifo," which connotes shame, mortification and cooties. Donald seems to want to say "schifie," or the 'hood's more common variant, phonetically "skeevie." This term is an appropriate if rather unlikely adjective to use in West Kentuckasee to describe the protagonist's "look."
diane (newsgroup, 3/1/00): I think it's a combination of the words sleazy, creepy, smarmy, needy and conceited.
David Spiro (newsgroup, 3/1/00): Skeevy? Oh very much an NYC word. Grew up with using that word in the Bronx allot. Skeevy I guess could be best translated as slimy, or someone who you just don't want to touch. Think of someone infected with lice, and you've got skeevy.
Chris Lumb (newsgroup, 3/2/00): If it's a noun, then to Australians, it's an item of clothing.
Jigme Dorje (newsgroup, 3/4/00): ... sleasy, nasty, gross, greasy, slimey, funky, underhanded, trashy...
Fearless (newsgroup, 3/4/00): From the DAN themselves: skeevy is a NY word meaning slimy, scuzzy, etc.
jon (polishing his yellow stripe @ newsgroup, 3/4/00): We used to pronounce it shkeevy. And it also acted as a verb as in: "That guy really shkeeves me."
Here's a great example of "skeevy" usage, thanx to the inimitable Hank Silvers, from Alison Bechdel's comic strip, "Dykes To Watch Out For," which is excellent. Seek it out.
jive miguel (GB, 3/21/00): I just finished listening to "This All Too Mobile Home", which should have found its honourable way onto the Countdown Album, and a revelation just struck me...
The narrator in the song is Cousin Dupree...seriously!
On the new one Cuz tells us that he's "spent a lot of time in a Rock 'n Ska band", or "hauling boss crude in those big rigs"...but how do we know that this is true???...he could easily be lying to us...what if he was just as morally bankrupt way back when???...what if it was he who was chasing "a girl" in his "All too mobile home"???
And what if his "girl" was actually another cousin, or perhaps a "busty aunt"???
Dragon (GB, 4/7/00): Anyone else notice this similarity?
oo ah oo ee how about a kiss for your cousin Dupree
oo ah oo ee I told the witch doctor I was in love with you...
cara mia (GB, 4/13/00): Of course there's more buzz about Janine. She's a woman who is in charge of her life and most likely her orgasms with choice men. Why would we want to identify with poor Janie, another tragic victim of abuse/neglect, doomed to the cycle of being targeted by opportunistic lecherers and worse. I hope Janie DOES get to Spain for her birthday. I hope she hides out in the Caves of Altamira, gets strong, and learns to deflect and defend against those DanMen/BeDamnedMen.
***Maybe Janine is the survivor Janie all grown up***
Yeah, I like my theory an' I'm stickin' to it!
jive miguel (GB. 4/14/00): I watched the Donald Fagen/Warren Bernhart jazz piano instruction video, AGAIN, last night...and while it was spilling
through the credits, I was intrigued to find a "Thank You" section...
In it, the producers wished to thank...
>Libby Titus (Donald's wife)
>Craig Fruin (SD's promoter/agent)
>Robbie Dupree (perhaps his cousin...hmm!)
I kid you not...for those of you who have the video, fast forward to the end credits and see for yourselves!
John (Digest, 5/12/00): I was listening to 2vN again after a bit of a break, and this time noticed that "Cousin Dupree" is NOT "a song about incest" -- as some posts have stated.
My dictionary defines incest as "sexual relations between persons so closely related that their marriage is illegal or forbidden by custom." The only
reference to any kind of sexual activities is his cousin pins her date up against the wall (within Dupree's line of sight, apparently, I might mention).
Yes, Dupree "propositions" his cousin, and she quite clearly and (I am convinced) quite successfully spurns him.
It would be a very different song, with an altogether different impact (and meaning), if it really were "about incest."
My 2-cents worth...
Jason (Digest, 5/16/00): Re: Why Cousin Dupree is NOT about incest
Yes. I think the interesting thing about this song is that it is not really incest. It's sort of on the line. I'm sure many people have experienced an attraction to a cousin at one time or another (uh, no admissions here though). But, of course, because he/she is a "relation" it would be completely forbidden. Dupree seems like a sleazy character and that adds to the sense of amorality--although I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe because he just seems to be laying around, maybe because he acts on his attraction, maybe because the 'cuz has a pretty cutting rebuke, or maybe because he seems like a fool.
Surely they could have been far cruder (ala "Everyones gone"), but chose for a more ambiguous circumstance.
David O (Digest, 5/16/00): I've read it a number of times, but I still can't tell if John Lukes' post, "Why Cousin Dupree is NOT about incest," is a put-on. The song is easily the most straightforward, literal tune on 2vN, and yet Mr. Lukes evidently finds it necessary to correct some misperceptions he believes have taken hold in the fandom. He points out that because Dupree and his cousin do not actually engage in any sexual activity, the song is not about incest. What
a revelation: The song is actually about incestuous yearnings. I'm sure the rest of the fandom is grateful to Mr. Lukes for identifying this startling distinction.
He also offers his observation that Dupree's cousin "quite clearly and (I am convinced) quite successfully spurns" his proposition. Another epiphany.
Geez, did anyone else detect this?
If anyone has wondered what exactly a fever dream is, here is a quintessential example from the incomparable Hoops!:
Hoops! (Digest, 5/16/00): They don't know how to love him
So here I am waiting in a reception area and I thought I would put my indulgent notes into my laptop.
Every now and then, certain non-Dan Fans erroneously call Steely Dan the "drug and sex" band. And now they get all in bunch about "Cousin Dupree" being a song about incest. We all know that D + W are mocking the loser protagonists in their song. Yet folks who know little about Steely Dan, find songs like "Cousin Dupree" to be disturbing.
This all reminds me of when Randy Newman parodied prejudice with his song "Short People" and then short people everywhere got incensed and offended. This was topped by the mayor of L.A. and middle America honoring Newman and his song, "I Love L.A." as if it were a complement of the city when actually, it was a searing satire of the city and its lifestyle.
But all this hub-bub on US Television about the CBS mini-series "Jesus" (just in time for sweeps, with the word "jesus" in a lovely lip-stick -like-written type-face) reminded me: "I Don't Know How to Love Him."
Suddenly, I am transported back to circa 1969/1970 and I am in Catechism at St. Francis Borgia with Sisters George, Ann, Jenny and, Dominic-ko-nic-ko-nic, this one hip sister with a guitar (she *was* cool! Can I say I had a crush?). And every year during Holy Week, they'd play the original London cast album of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Jesus Christ Superstar." Father Stokes would saunter in as we wrecked this beautiful pristine, unscratched Hi-Fi Stereo LP of JC Superstar on a $29.95 Saphire-needle mono record player:
"Hello Sisters, what are we doing today."
"We're listening to our 'Jesus Christ Superstar'."
"That's great Sisters, just great! Happy Easter."
"You too, Father."
So one year, during this annual Holy Week ritual, it hit me.
I kind of inquire to one of the sisters, "Sister, what in the world is Mary Magdalene singing about in "I Don't Know How to Love Him"? Does she want Jesus for a boyfriend or to marry him?" Kids say the darndest things and I was no exception.
Sister gets all red and pissed, "How dare you..." and all that...I'm sure you can imagine.
To hopefully state this as a neutral observer (I'm not trying to bash nor defend a religion), I don't think these clergy realized that Tim Rice's lyrics were probably controversial by THEIR standards. They probably just thought it was a musical literally about the week leading up to Good Friday and that was a good thing for the kids to hear; maybe it would be a way of keeping up with the far-out and groovy kids.
But I don't think these Sisters actually comprehended all of Rice's implications when he wrote lines like, "I don't know how to love him/I don't know why he moves me/he's just a man/.../and I've had so many men before/...yet if he said he loved me, etc." Or another Rice lyric, with "apostles" singing like stoners, "Always hoped that I'd be an apostle/knew that I would make it if I tried/Then when we retire we can write Gospels/So they'll all talk about us when we die...what's that in the bread/it's gone to my head."
Sister--Whadda heck does THAT mean? What IF he said he loved HER and what IS that in the bread? Indeed, what HAS gone to their head? Whaddadey mean by THAT?!
From the Sisters' vantage, I wonder if they ever pondered why the musical doesn't even seem to cover Easter.
Well, you know, if you pay attention to Tim Rice's lyrics, you know he probably WAS suggesting that Tim Rice's Mary Magdalene kinda had this thing--not for her Cousin Dupree--but for (smack my forehead) Jesus Christ! Methinks Cousin Dupree is lightweight by comparison in many religious value systems. And unlike "Cuz," I don't think Rice's lyrics ever refute the story as "Cuz" does in the final verse. Seems JC Superstar is OK by at least some people (Example, a local Christian high school performed it recently), but I bet it would upset the same people for them to hear "Cousin Dupree" or to fully understand "JC Superstar."
My point is not really about religion, but that mainstream America collectively doesn't pay as much attention to lyrics as probably many of us Steely Dan fans here do. So when they hear a record is about "Jesus Christ," their reaction is "Jesus--good." "Cousin Dupree" wants to kiss his cousin? Baaadd." No thought about the context or details. Kinda like when I was growing up in another time and "pregnant" was a word not uttered on TV or said unless
Tangentially, in this strange train of thought, (have my rantings lost you yet?) I thought of Helen Reddy who also sang "I Don't Know How To Love Him", and, of course, "I am Woman." I won't dis the latter. In its own kitschy way, I seriously think it reached certain women and inspired them to rightfully stand up for themselves. I know, Helen's passe and clearly not in the same league as Steely Dan. But she was mainstream. And despite her generally bad choice of material, she is the epitome of a warbler, that is when she's not saving an airplane load of people or visiting Dr. Dick Van Dyke. Yet how come none of these same people didn't dis Helen for subsequently making three big hits about emotionally disturbed women: the gospel sing along "Delta Dawn," the ironically bouncy "(Leave Me Alone) Ruby Red Dress" and "Angie Baby." Why all the disturbed women, Helen? There goes middle America shopping to "Rose Darling" and 'Ruby Red Dress" on the store muzak. There's the marching band dancing to "Kid Charlemagne" on the "Today" show.
Gotta love it.
BTW: After listening to "Jesus Christ Superstar," I thought Jesus also sang "Smoke On The Water;" which I subsequently thought was about a bong, but then more recently discovered was not, and, in fact, Jesus was Ian Gillian. And Clapton was God. But I didn't think about it back then.
As I come back to reality, I realize the 100s are not as different as the 60s and 70s as I thought.
Bruuuuuce (Cameron) (Digest, 5/17/00): Something about this song was giving me that "Dejavu" sort of feeling, ever since I first heard it. I have finally made the connection. The opening line referring to him kicking around a lot since high school, is reminiscent of Paul Simons opening line of Kodachrome where he looks back on all that crap he learnt in high school. I have managed to borrow, I repeat, borrow, a Paul Simon CD and listened to Kodachrome again and that
opening line does sound sort of similar. (I am in no way indicating that it was copied but I guess with all the song writers out there, from time to time similar phrases do occur).
Earl (Digest, 5/17/00): I'm intrigued by the discussion regarding Cousin Dupree and how the status quo decides what's OK and what's not.
The funny thing is that D+W are not advocating incest at all. As a matter of fact, if anyone wanted to be upset about it, Southerners (or hillbillies in
general) should be offended to be labeled as incestuous people. D+W are obviously condemning the behavior...even showing how off-the-rocker this guy
is by him asking why she's turned off. They not only put the moniker of a pervert, but also the label of an idiot on this guy. In addition, the fact he gets off when he sees her getting it on with her boyfriend... that's just plain ole' perversion. "Heard myself sing in a voice I never knew I had before" is not what I envision when I think of a jealous admirer. He's just one sick pup that hasn't been laid in a long time.
So anyway, guess I got away from the point, which is that most of America, when hearing CD on the radio, would never get that deep into the song.
Instead, they'd hear the catchy "How about a kiss for your Cousin Dupree" and go "Ewww!" That's what D+W want. Instead, the song is a rather sad
portrayal of a horny insane hick.
As for America, Top 40 radio and playlists have turned FM radio into one big commercial. Record companies have figured out that they can sell one
topic...love. Every song you hear is about love, whether it's Britney, In Sync, Celine, Mariah, or Enrique. It's very difficult to name a song that's not about love that's broken the charts.
People don't wanna think...they just wanna be happy when they listen to music. That's why love songs sell. In contrast, I like Steely Dan mainly
because the songs have a peculiar way of conveying a feeling directly from the music, and that mood tends to mirror the song's theme. For instance, the rather simple tune to Cousin Dupree reflects a rather simple man. Jack of Speed has a rather skanky, dark tone to it which goes along nicely with the overall theme of drug abuse and sex. To be able to convey those feelings with music alone is amazing.
My point is, D+W are of a dying breed. Commercial radio has dictated that you can't break onto the scene, let alone succeed, without selling out. I just hope that Steely Dan's music will encourage a few youngsters in the coming years to decide that Jazz, Blues, and Rock 'N Roll work well together, and that music can encompass more feelings than just love.
Peg (really!) (GB, 7/22/00): ... has anyone else out there caught the relation between that grand standard called Oh Susanna! and Cousin Dupree? You know, it rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry in Oh Susanna -- and having a distinctly Southern name and song title, yet mentioning skis and a crackling fire? Both songs juxtapose opposites in order to make humor.
Jon (7/22/00): I wonder if anyone else has noticed Janine does not list "being my cousin" as one of the reasons she gives for being able to resist that "boyish charm"... apparently it is not the consanguinity that bothers her, either!
Steviedan (GB, 8/28/00): ... was listening to some cab calloway earlier and was giggling at the tune "What's Buzzin' Cousin" which is a sort of predecessor to "Cousin Dupree". then i thought of "Kissin' Cousins" by elvis and i realized. between that and jerry lee lewis... this incestous cousins thing is virtually it's own genre. anyone think of any others ?
The Late Budie Holie (1/12/03): I just scrolled your page for the first time in a while, and I noticed that nobody has seemed to share the "Cousin Dupree/Frank Zappa" urban legend yet. I'll check again to make sure I'm right, but in the mean time, here's my two cents.
In 1988, Frank Zappa has released a set of live albums called "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore." Volume 2 of this series is a concert that his band and him performed in Helsinki, Finland in 1974. During this concert, they performed a rousing rendition of "Dupree's Paradise" in which FZ sang, "Rickki dont lose that number/Don't you lose that number, Rickki." This could have inspired Don and Walt to retalliate with a song about a man lusting after his cousin.
Some time ago, I asked alt.fan.frank-zappa if there are any other Zappa connections in the song, and Marc Zeigenhagen made the following observations:
"Haulin' boss crude in the big rigs," and "string beans to Utah" from No Not Now
"Aunt Faye's couch," and the songs Sofa #1 and Sofa #2
"If you teach me how to do that dance," and the song Dancin' Fool
"Down-home family romance," and the song Harder than Your Husband?
That's all I got, really. This may be subject for further deliberation. I thank you for your time.
jon (GB, 2/5/00): Amazing! As soon as I heard DF sing, '...it's happening again...' I thought it's either the same girl or at least the same situation as we encountered in "Black Cow."
moray eel (GB, 2/29/00): I like the way Fagen's voice falls to the earth when he sings,
"In the summer
Clas (GB, 3/24/00): That dr Friend uptown She Has To See in "Negative Girl" wears a thread to John Lennons "Cold Turkey", dr Roberts, a celebrity doc, upper East, Manhattan. The Negative Girl is a Showbiz Queen.
Miz Ducky (GB, 3/24/00): Clas: like your theory about the "doctor friend uptown." I fear there's one problem, though--Fordham Road is up in the Bronx, north of Manhattan. That would still be referred to as "uptown" in NYC parlance ("uptown" and "downtown" are used there as directional terms, rather than specific locations). Our negative girl could have spaced out and overshot the stop on the subway, but somehow I doubt her drug-craving reptile brain wouldn't allow it.
My guess about Negative Girl's occupation is fashion model, based on the refs to "at the edge of the frame" and "spinning out of the frame" -- plus a play on "negative" itself.
Just a few weeks before 2vN came out, I saw a made-for-TV movie called "Gia," a based-on-a-true-story biopic about an ultra-negative-girl/junkie-girl high-fashion model (they use the term "chasing the dragon" in the movie as a matter of fact), who had the dubious distinction of being the first "famous" female to be public about the fact that she was dying of AIDS. (At least I think I'm remembering that last distinction right--ant any rate, after lots of wild-ass behavior she dies a messy death.) Astonishingly well-made for a made-for-cable-TV piece--it's available at video rental joints, if anyone's interested.
Clas (GB, 5/3/00): Hey, I got it!
Or let's say; I aint got it:
I re-watched de Niros "A Bronx Tale" the other night. De Niros character is driving that fucking bus down Fordham Road thru the whole movie. And I couldn't spot a doctor in sight.
So what does that tell us? She's going up Fordham Road "to see a doctor friend" and there are no doctors there! She's not telling the truth damn it!
Okay, she's ill, but what the hell, there are certain rules you have to live with uh?
squonk (GB, 5/3/00): Anyone noticed the similarities between the Negative Girl and the Almsost Gothic girl? Seems that the narrator of both songs may be the same person contemplating his relationship in different ways.
wormtom (GB, 5/15/00): So if Janie is Jailbait
where's the negative girl in age???
seems the dan protagonists can't handle someone their own age
(unless they are a hottie cousin)
notice the use of the word "couch" on TaN
featured in two songs NG and CD
kind of like the overuse of "float downstream" on the Beatles Revolver album
Hutch (GB, 5/15/00): How 'bout the use of the word "crew" on three songs in a row!
sooutrageous (GB, 5/15/00): and skeevier still; the over-use of the discriptives: 'delicious' and 'luscious' to describe women throughout the narrative. they employ these orally-fixated adjectives in the dialouge of gaslighting, shame and negative girl. i actually talked with aja about this awhile back. anyone else think this is especially creepy? any gb bar-trollers out there ever employ either of these words when approaching a member of the opposite sex? I think not. especially if in fact the person you're approaching DOES look luscious or delicious!
this is so in keeping with the middle-aged idiosyncratic perversions displayed by the whining steely dan protagonists in recent years. it's creepy, but o-so-subversively-entertaining!
nightcrawler (GB, 5/26/00): The 'negative nymph' is already living with some rich international business-type who's intermittently away leaving her to her feline-clever machinations. While he's away in San Franciso, London or Sao Paulo, she's vamping around town, blowing rock, partying till dawn, drinking Peppar Vodka Martinis, hanging with her jet-set crowd and fucking her way to the bigger-better-deal that constantly eludes her profoundly-shallow grasp.
The milky pallor of her skin is simply the result of her vampiric lifestyle which dictates that she sleep till sunset and rise to wander the city in unending revelry with her fellow denizens of the moon. A pathetic coven-of-the-night indeed.
According to literary lore, 3:00AM is 'the soul's midnight." During her endless "dark night of the soul" she seeks out unsuspecting hearts who are attracted by the allure of her beautifully lonely decadence. Our protagonist is simply a withering moth who's been caught in the 'heat of the cold white flame' emanating from her eyes....
.... The line about not calling her at home reveals so very much. This chick would never live with a female 'roomie.' She needs her femme'-fatale space. She's territorial and possessive with what she's amassed. She's the 'pearl of her quarters' so to speak. She's not sharing her catbox with another feline competitor. If by so small chance she DID live with a 'roommate'; she certainly doesn't strike me as a girl who'd give a fuck about what her housemate had to say. She strikes me as the type ever-so-ubiquitous type of self-assured New York City woman on the cusp of the millennium who hides behind a mask of faux-self-confidence and makes statement like, 'When i want your opinion,; i'll give it to you." When all the while, she needs a man to feel self-actualized. Thus the crying on the phone jag; 'I need you here.' Implying, that she's home all alone and needs comforting. She needs instant gratification and she needs it NOW! Nevermnd that once you arrive at her place, she's already left with a group of friends who drop by with reservations at Blathazar for drinks and french fries with gravy.
Bruce Cameron (Digest, 11/13/00): Negative girl, she's zooming on a couch somewhere. What is the american meaning of zooming. We have a thing happening at work at the moment, where if you are late for a meeting, you have to stand on a chair and spell the word zoom by motioning your bottom (bum,arse,butt,fanny or whatever you call it) in the shape of the letters. When i hear that line i am picturing a young woman doing the afore mentioned action, so was just wondering what it really meant.
Lisa G (Blue Book, 7/5/01): the references to "coke" and the "original classic thing" cannot be accidental.
"West of Hollywood"
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, "Steely Dan Words + Music" (copyright 2000, Giant Records):
DF: "West of Hollywood," we were trying to write a love story, really, but reducing it to the main points, almost telling it from a theoretical framework, like the outline someone would make for a screenplay or something.
WB: Yeah, and I think in a way, as far as the lyrics went, it was a stylistic exercise, trying to come up with a narrative mode that was different than what we usually do or what people usually do in songs.
DF: Although it is also, it occurs to me now, it was sort of like when someone's trying to tell you something about some extreme experience and being carried away, either a love affair or whatever, where there seems to be no language to communicate it to someone else, so we're trying to think what language would you use.
WB: Right. And the other thing is that you can imagine some sort of transforming experience that leaves you off in a place where you're no longer really able to offer a coherent account of how you got there, you know, and all you can sort of do is allude to various stations along the way that you stopped at, and it doesn't really make sense as an explanation.
DF: Yeah, it's like, it's a really incoherent person trying to tell a really serious story.
WB: Right, and in sort of typical postmodern fashion, the narrative mode or voice sort of overwhelmed the actual narration a little bit, so it becomes... sort of...
DF: The style almost takes over...
Hutch (GB, 2/11/00): Donald's voice is part of the music... it kind of wraps around the music and becomes another instrument in the arrangement. And he uses it to throw in little musical "jokes", if you will, like the way the vocal line goes (almost in falsetto) quickly up then down on the line "Riding the crest of a wave breaking just west of Hollywood". Makes you feel like you're going over that wave!
Tim K. (Digest, 2/13-14/00): Regarding West of Hollywood...there was a passage [in Reeling In The Years] describing that Becker and Fagen had a *long* drive from their apts. to their office in West Hollywood. This sounded similar to the lyrical refs in West of Hollywood.
Not My Nancy (GB, 3/2/00): An earlier poster thought of Glamour Profession, and the LA decadence theme that mused Gaucho certainly takes an unambiguous bow on this one (um...the TITLE?). I think it feels more like Babylon Sisters lyrically (musically, a little Your Gold Teeth II), though it's a more desperate cruise down Sunset to the sea, and with more of a romantic focus than Babylon. The relationship is the story, not the city.
Then, Dr. Warren Kruger. He is just the perfect anti-romantic romantic rival, Mr. Practical LA Urologist to appeal to Anne de Siecle's need for security and creature comfort in her old age.
The end is a half-hearted concession, an attempt to find inspiration in vapid partying. Still, I can't help hearing a more spiritual musical ending in the outro, and remembering that west of Hollywood is the East.
Corvid (newsgroup, 2/29/00: I'm not sure now if this is intended to be autobiographical, or a character reference within the context of the song, but it just nailed me during my first listen. Sort of like the boys know they're way past their prime, they've "Burned right through the summer / 'Till the axis of pain/pleasure sheared the arc of desire" and now they're into their "rainy season". I guess I'm assuming it's a thinly veiled, and as usual, quite obscure account of the last thirty years. As I say, I could be wrong, and hope to be corrected if I am, but..... wow, talk about a "Brother in tears", that was me. The sax solo portion of the song now makes sense to me as a reflective coda to the emotional walloping that they've just given you.
Bob Mc (GB, 3/8/00): WoH is about a man an a hooker..... Dr Warren Kruger I am sure informs the man he has aids.... read the words
Thinking about (GB, 3/8/00): Sounds like it's about a woman (a prositute or a swinging partner) telling a man she has aids and he should get testing. And the guy gets tested, and he tests positive.
Schwinn (GB, 3/9/00): Interesting "aids" take on WOH. Is Dr. Warren Krueger the Negative Girl's "...doctor friend uptown"? Not sure I'm looking for a positive answer concerning this.
F#maj (GB, 3/9/00): Positive to HIV+ undertow of WOH. he was Kid Clean... was.
however, do not see any evidence that Anne [ya, if that's her real name...] is a pro. no pictures of dead presidents evident. more like consenting adults who said yes yes yes a whole bunch of times. which lyrical hook says hooker to ya?
and imagine the ice 9 of receiving a positive result... after your ears stop ringing.
story being told to a brother in tears perhaps as they await the next blood series in the dismal reception area of a public health clinic? the CD 4 count is hey 19. okay, that was a stretch.
gonna be a long rainy season; but, time is elastic when you're in a trance.
Dr. Mu (GB, 3/9/00): No, I don't think Anne hooked much of anything except perhaps the virus. She may be waiting for the results of her test. The consequences of the Hollywood Lifestyle. Perhaps a view 20 years later after Glamour Profession???
aja (the younger) (GB, 3/9/00): WOH makes me think of River Phoenix, had he lived. I see two people on the brink of breaking into the spotlight, living hard and oblivious to hardness of their living, the "gnarly downside" of the business. Somewhere Kid Clean picks up HIV(IV drug use fits in well here) and gives it to Anne De Siecle. Since HIV takes some years to manifest itself, my take is that these two kept going with the lifestyle, never did make it big, and HIV+ status is all that they have to show for it some 10-20 years later, where we find our despondent narrator telling his story at a public health clinic. He analogizes his life as a weekend of bliss followed by a long rainy season.
A parallel with WASAM: both men pull back when the female interest reaches for their hand, saying "I've lost my dreams/you're looking a ghost".
Miz Ducky (GB, 3/9/00): It's simply the (first-person) tale of a man who is emotionally locked up, perhaps to the point of psychological disturbance. ("Look in my eyes/Can't you see the core is frozen" -- the mysterious Dr. Kruger I take to be his shrink). He overintellectualizes, he distances with words--but there's no hiding the fact that he is well and truly stuck. He's so distanced from his ability to feel love that, when the woman with whom he's been having this swinging affair all summer reaches out to him for true connection, he watches himself as if it's another person lurching forward and missing -- sounds like a classic description of a dissociated (sp?) state to me.
The tragedy of the story is that our protagonist is not so emotionally frozen that he can't feel anguish for the love he let slip between his fingers. That anguished cry of "And I almost got there" is for my money one of the most haunting Don&Walt have yet committed to music. For all that he tries to distance himself from that loss with more intellectualism ("tyranny of the disallowed"!) and escape into hedonism (chasing the easy girls of post-season Port Blanc), he can't escape the pain ... and the long frenzied sax solo at the end plays out what he's really going through behind those frozen-blue eyes.
cara mia (GB, 3/9/00): Enjoying all y'all's takes on WOH, my favorite obsession these days from the moment I heard it. I like the themes of love lost and therapy, and I think it is *totally* about his relationship (purely appropriate, but with all the transference and unconscious stuff that goes on when being shrunk) with his jaded/knowledgeable therapist.
Maybe the chorus serves as his representation of classic "resistance" where he drifts around not wanting to deal with recognizing the pain, riding along something about to "break" like that wave or his own breakthrough---the important realization coming to the surface (consciousness) in his personal therapeutic journey, calling it "way deep into nothing special".
I especially like the lines:
"She reached out for my hand/While I watched myself lurch across the room/ And I almost got there..." ---and this I think signifies a therapist and her client forming that "therapuetic alliance" and getting our fellow to accompany her where she sees he needs to go... (Also musically, is this not the "bridge" of the piece?---god, these guys are so great painting a musical palette so sublime!!!)
"Look in my eyes/Can't you see the core is frozen?/ You can't ask me to access the dreams I don't have now"---He does not have the breakthrough and his resistance remains strong that summer of examining his "chain of sorrows"
"Sadly for us/ Our little talk is over/ So together we'll endure the tyranny of the disallowed"---Typical of therapy sessions, they have to end at that 50 minutes to an hour thing, sometimes just when something important is about to happen, but has to be held back until the next session, even when both know the value of it and want to continue, but can't as that is the tyranny of keeping with the clock.
Maybe the last stanza is the relief he feels at the end of his therapy of that summer presented as a visual of the literal place he inhabits at the time?...Port Blanc, etc. ... additionally in WOH that monotonous beat of the drums is SO like a clock ticking...YES? ticking away the minutes of his therapy sessions and representing the tyranny of the clock...YES?
rubybaby (GB, 3/10/00): Warning: HIV theory. Scroll if you don't want to hear it!
Bob Mc: You could be right about her being in the oldest profession. Here's my take, for what it's worth:
"Brother in tears / look at this chain of sorrows" - there's always a long chain of sorrows with hiv.
"I was Kid Clean" - No drugs, safe sex, not a hint of disease
"She was Anne de Siecle / just a thrill away from punching though to the cosmic wow"
- siecle does mean "forever". [custodian's note: that would be "toujours." "Siecle" means "century."] I think it symbolizes a certain unawareness of mortality that young people naturally have.
"It started out good / then it got much better" - the part that makes me see a relationship
"Makin' up the rules as we went along" - it's a feeling of being in control and things are working out so well. This is where they may stray from 'safe' sex.
"But with a business like this / there's a gnarly downside" - I can see why you link this to her prostituting. Could be, but sometimes the word business is used as just a phrase.
"Swinging so hard / we burned right through the summer / till the axis of pain/pleasure sheared the arc of desire / from the Rebus affair/ to the streets of Culver City / Places and event slip below the horizon line" - I see a couple of lovers that are on fire for life and for each other. They're in the clouds. So far, so good.
"The truth compels us / to bring a certain name / Meet if you will/ Doctor Warren Kruger" - this is where the bottom drops out. I believe that Anne began to show symptoms and went to the doctor. She is diagnosed with hiv. She invites him to meet Dr. Kruger.
"She reached out for my hand / While I watched myself lurch across the room / And I almost got there " - this could, in my mind, be one of two scenarios.
1) she is asking him to stay with her through the disease. He either wants to, but can't bring himself to, OR he'd rather run out, but can't bring himself to do that. 2) He's stayed with her through the whole ugly progression of aids. As she's dying, she reaches out to hold his hand and it's just too much for him. And now he knows what he's in for, because by now he's tested positive.
"Look in my eyes / can't you see the core is frozen / You can't ask me to access the dreams I don't have now" - His soul is not on fire anymore. He can't even talk about the dreams & plans he used to have. Understandable. He's going to go through a slow & terrible death sentence.
"Sadly for us / our little talk is over / So together we'll endure the tyanny of the disallowed" - I don't know why their little talk is over. Could be any number of things. But he has something in common with this guy in that they both will endure the tyranny. The disease becomes the main force & focus of life. No longer is he in control. Society also is a disallowing force, as is the condition of his inner self now.
"Don't you love Port Blanc / when the hooterie is over / when the girls get easy / and the crowds go home" - is he escaping his present ugly situation in this way? Drugs? I don't know.
"A weekend of bliss / then the rainy season" - to me this symbolizes the brief happiness he had with Anne de Siecle as compared to the sad rest of his life.
"I'm way deep into nothing special / riding the crest of a wave breaking just west of Hollywood" - He finds no real purpose to his life now. He doesn't see himself accomplishing anything at all. He just missed it.
bob mclaughlin (GB, 3/10/ 00): "She reached out for my hand / While I watched myself lurch across the room / And I almost got there " ---untill i read it this time i wondered, but hell, everybody now i know she does have aids and she was sick and dying
her last dying moments she reaches for him and he feels a sence of slow motion as he sees she is about to pass and she dies before he can get there to comfort her in her last breath of life?
"Look in my eyes / can't you see the core is frozen / You can't ask me to access the dreams I don't have now" ---he is cold inside she is gone an his dreams of them together is shot she has passed
Sadly for us / our little talk is over / So together we'll endure the tyanny of the disallowed" ---a eulogy?
Mike (GB, 3/11/00): Let me weigh in with some comments about West of Hollywood. First, the title might be a reference to Santa Monica, which I believe is where WB lived. [custodian's note: I don't believe that the latter is accurate.] The song seems to be a re-telling of the Junkie Girl story from 11TOW. That song talks about how the junkie girl tried to lure the author into her world and he wouldn't let her. WOH has several lines that seem to be telling the same story, especially the lines:
She reached out for my hand
While I watched myself lurching across the room
And I almost got there.
These lines tell me that she was trying to lure him into the depths of her addiction and he almost let her, but managed to pull back somehow.
The Kid Clean/Anne De Siecle names reinforce this theme. The author is "clean" while the girl is decadent, which is partially what the Fin de Siecle movement in art was all about.
steelygirl (GB, 3/14/00): So, I'm thinking that West of Hollywood is a Deacon Blues part II. Not only is this guy a loser in love, but he's also a loser in life. Dr. Warren Krueger can't help him.
Barely Glibb (GB, 3/21/00): About Doctor Warren Krueger. The "D" stands for Donald. The "W" stands for Walter and the "K" stands for Krantz. Roger Nichols, of course, is the RN.
Star Thrower (3/23/00): the name "Anne de Siecle" rhymes with, therefore (right?) it MUST refer to the phrase "fin de siecle": the end of the century, the end of an age, the living end?
Jeff (Digest, 3/25/00): Ann De Siecle is a reference to the rhyming French term "Fin de Siecle" which means "End of the Century." Donald pronounces de siecle in such a way so that we Americans would detect the spelling and thus the reference (those of us who know French and are familiar with the term). Native Frenchmen actually pronounce it like "See-eck," without the "L" sound. I for one appreciated Donald's pronunciation. It seems evident to me that an initial goal of Don & Walt was to have 2vN completed & released before the fin de siecle, as there are a couple or more references to Millennium.
Rick Mealey (Digest, 3/27/00): ... Anne de Siecle would appear to be a woman, cleverly disguised (probably by Fagen) as a play on words. The French would of course say Fin de Siecle, which means "turn (or end) of the century"...
... which would make our Anne the girl from (drumroll please) Century's End.
I hadn't considered that this *might* be the same Annie being gaslighted in Track 1 resurfacing in this lovely story... but hey, it's a tantalizing thought.. or is it just me?
Anyway, thanks, you've been great, drive home safely.
Mr. LaPage (GB, 3/29/00): get this! Dr. Warren Kruger was this character in Frank Sinatra's 1950's heroine-addiction flick "the man with the golden arm." The good Dr. tried to help a strung-out Frankie by administering tough-love but was killed-off without ceremony by a hilariously stereotypical drug dealer in a rain-soaked alleyway when he tried to persuade him to "get straight" and turn himself in.
KD (GB, 3/29/00): -- so, with Ms. Abbie' hand of solitare and Janie Runaway's showgirl, then we'd have three Sinatra references on one album. I love these guys.
Ronald Vos (Digest, 4/4/00): For those of you who wanted to know where or what Port Blanc is: it's a village on the isle Guadalupe (the French Antilles).
Clas (GB, 4/7/00): Hey, I think I got the lyric interpenetration on West of Hollywood. Listen:
The line "look at my ice, can't you see the car is frozen" must mean that Kid Clean aka "Kid Charlemagne" has ended up somewhere in Alaska.
Wich brings us to wonder; will Fagen sing "is there gaslight in the car?" on the next tour?
Jane (Digest, 4/7/00): My take on West of Hollywood is a simple one. Abortion. Dr Warren Kruger is the doctor who performs it. She reaches her hand from across the room hoping that he will have a change of heart and stop the procedure, but he knows that in the long run this is best for him anyway because as he says later he has no feeling in this direction and can't pretend that he does. I believe that he is talking paternally.
Penny (Digest, 4/8/00): "Way deep into nothing special" - I lived in various parts of Los Angeles for 37 years. Many folks, especially those living in West Hollywood, West L.A., the San Fernando Valley (all within Los Angeles County) are "into" things (or they're focusing on concerns) that those living in other parts of the country consider superficial. "Riding the quest of a wave just West of Hollywood" - There is a community called West Hollywood (which is west of Hollywood geographically). West of West Hollywood (driving west on Sunset Boulevard) leads to the beaches along the West Coast and (thus)the Pacific Ocean. There also is a community called Culver City, which is west of Hollywood (and in between West Hollywood and the Southern California beaches with some other communities in between). I'm probably being too literal since I know the geography.
sooutrageous (GB, 4/13/00): ~in light of d&w's recent comments in the wonderful article in songwriter magazine; and the time i've spent poring over pete fogel's exhaustive metal leg archives,i've come to the conclusion that a lot of the lyrics in the sd songs that we bicker & banter about in our pedantic crusade to find some hidden meaning, are actually rather straightforward. D&W are extremely concerned with phonetic meter in the composition which subjugates literal
translation on any number of levels,(they're down by decree on that issue). their desire for rhythm, feel and meter is quite evident in their statements concerning the minutae behind the WOH composition. any of the variations that were discarded before deciding on the "riding the crest..." line would have been loosely appropriate given the narative of the piece. it's a variation on a theme. nothing hidden, no particular enigmatic message.
WOH is about people living the "lala-land lifestyle" during the morality addled late 70's/ early 80'. big fucking deal. there's no epihany here. these guys were not/ are not the bastian of insight into the human psyche. witness their pathetic personal lives.
don't take me alive is about a demon-tormented "everyman"-cum-terrorist hold up against society.
black cow's about a guy who breaks off an emotionally rocky relationship with an emotionally immature and singularly selfish mate.
royal scam speaks of the pervasive evil perpetrated on immigrants, searching for the "good life" here in the land of plenty.
deacon blues talks about unfullfiled dreams of nirvana/shangri-la, artistic success and emotional contentment.
this isn't allegorical. we're not talking jonathan swift, thoreau, or even (heaven forbid) burroughs. is it satirical? yes, bitingly sarcastic? undoubtedly. cryptic? only insofar as phonetic integrity has taken precedence and legal exposure has been pondered; vis-a-vis kid c, dr.warren kruger. incest, may/december dalliance, addictive tendency, unrequited emotion: this is social commentary. subversively-moral fulmination. comic relief. good songwriting.
when faulkner was questioned repeatedly throughout his life about the so-called "hidden agenda" rife in his body of work, he steadfastly debunked the idea as absurd and avered 'he wasn't smart enough to be that profound and quick-witted." if you read joyce's biography, you'll see that he was plauged by this particular line of questioning also, with similar disdain.
let's not diefy these guys for something they're not. after all, D&W are from brooklyn and passaic respectively. lol!
seer, sage, prophet, oracle?
gifted songwriter, composer, wholly human?
... if you'll indulge me while i babble on in an incessant tirade, i'll endeavor to state my premise. i too have spent many an hour pondering the "hidden" meaning baying like the hounds of hell in the souls of these songs. i have willfully suspended disbelief any number of times and it pretty much comes out the same. these are two guys who are moderately educated, voraciously well-read and socially miscast, (for the purposes of this piece, their musical gifts notwithstanding). we've known these people throughout our lives. they sat off in a corner, eating their tuna salad on wonderbread-sans-crust in the school cafeteria. they lurked in the shadows near the bleachers at dances, too insignificant to play the wallflower. even as "rock stars' they were pariahs. spent time alone on the road. never got the feel for the groupie thing. didn't have the belly or the rap for it. (while skunk partied his ass off. i heard an interview where skunk admitted he only learned to play guitar to attract women. i was astonished. such dynamic chops. his means-to-an-end). d&w were the suffering artists. like the protaganist in glamour profession, they continued to watch from the shadows while others danced, loved and found emotional contentment. love and fulfillment were elusive, unattainable.to this end (imho) deacon blues is hauntingly autobiographical of the emotional black hole that were/are d&w and once again, lyrically straightforward.
don't get me wrong; their music has had a tremendously positive impact on my life and undoubtedly the lives of countless others, given their extensive
catalog and dorian gray-like staying-power. as music, literature and art are the balm of the inner man, their work has soothed me to the core. once again,
i can say without equivocation that their music has provided the soundtrack for my life.
d&w were never much about making a social statement ala barry maguire, csny or dylan. they simply held true-to-form as the socially maladept spectator;
standoffish in their own private torment, casting judgment and disdain toward the ham-handed performers, type-cast as the "collective human race"the
ignorascenti(sp). they didn't give a shit about us.(ie. didn't tour for 20 years. no new material for as long. lived rather nicely on royalties from their oh-so-marketable body of work). they made music for themselves and if we were pleasured in the process, it was completely incidental. it was not the primary or perhaps even secondary desired result. as music-lovers; as humans; we bit and we bit hard. they're only now getting a feel for what this sd thing has meant to so many. the huddled ugly masses, US. Two Against Nature? Or better yet, (walking in their "brown shoes"), Us Against them.
souout (another guy on a roll. GB, 4/25/00):
....the lyric to WOH commencing with "she reached out for my hand" and ending with "don't you love port blanc, when hooterie is over......then the rainy season" is (imho) the epitome of the sd wordcraft. don't you love it? ain't it cool? who else writes contemporary lyrics such as these? I do-so love "port blanc". in my mind, my store of tomorrows; i've been there. i've enjoyed the rocky outcropping, the gull's plaintive cry, that lonely crescent of beach,the relentless surf, the offshore breeze, the long afternoons by a crackling fire during rainy season. i've planned my summers; my life for "hooterie". the sailboat regatta, open-barbecue spits, ladies adorned in crimson and black hoop-skirts. castanetts keeping time to the pulsating salsa beat. the edge-close frenzy. the unending wellspring. i live for the elusive moment when the "girls get easy" and the lovin' is langourous and sweet; the after-glow unending. we are indeed fortunate. we're the honored initiates. it's like we've been admitted into a little secret society, replete with other-worldly oaths, absurd passwords and macabre initiations. these guys are getting better, craftier, cagier, skeevier,more sublime with age.
i'm glad i "get it"!
Red Blazer (GB, 5/8/00): "...watched myself lurch across the room" refers jokingly to the description a rag writer once gave of Fagen's bodily ways.
lucky henry (Digest, 5/22/00): On March 8th, Jim McKay asked: " What IS THE DEAL with this Warren Kruger guy. Is he real? "
Around then, Barry Braksick e-mailed Doctor Kruger about this, who replied stating: "Your the third person to E-mail me to ask this very question. The answer is I don't know :-) " (Note the smiley face.)
Hoops then commented: "I hope everyone leaves the guy alone...sounds like he's got some serious work on his hands."
Following these comments were astute and gripping observations on the topic from Danscribe-Of-The-Year-2000 Candidate Mam'zelle Daphne Canard, and others. Thanks also to Chris Lonn for spurring on the discussion (back in April.)
Imagine my surprise when i picked up this call at the Knowledge Center today: "Hello, this is the Fox Chase Cancer Center." I listened to the requester's not-so-pretty story, gladly providing her with her Knowledge-related needs, but the inevitable question would need to be asked.
After some sincere gushing about the important work they do, having visited their website and learning they are among the Nation's best cancer research facilities, I finally asked the caller whether she knew one Doctor Warren Kruger. I heard her eyes brighten as she replied, "Oh, yes. Doctor Kruger is not only very intelligent but he's also one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet..." (hmmm..didn't somebody once say that about a certain Mr. William Gibson?)
Since LaPage's initial supposition that the West of Hollywood character might have been inspired by a 1955 Otto Preminger movie [ "The Man With The Golden Arm"] my curiosity around this character intensified, so I purchased the video. The similarities between this film and Steely Dan lyrics in West of Hollywood and Jack of Speed are striking, to say the least. In fact, it could be outrageously surmised that Sinatra is the Jack (Jack Duvall, after all!), Darren McGavin is his new best friend and the throttle is the hypodermic. Dealin', steppin' out, tradin' fours' and right wing hooeys stinkin up the joint (some lyrics verbatim) fit in perfectly with historical themes about drugs, gambling, addiction, animosity toward Skunk and throw in an acknowledgment for Joe Jackson who has apparently returned the favor. While theories of AIDS, abortion and others were advanced, I believe LaPage's theory as to the identity of this individual, and Steely Dan's obsession with addiction fit the overall thematic structure of West of Hollywood. (I was also inspired by ruby baby's excellent synopsis of this composition which was posted sometime in April, i think...i'm unable to ftp at present.) I can only believe that Dr. Martin Lennox the Detox Specialist assumed the role of a randomly-named Doctor Warren Kruger and the poor Real Doctor Kruger happens to be an innocent bystander. Unless there happens to be some other connection...we're still working on it.
somewhere in the arc between the axis of pain and pleasure,
grateful purple (GB, 5/30/00): Trane kicked H (Kid Clean), spent the rest of his career trying to punch through to the cosmic wow (alienating a lot of folks along the way), almost got there, then died way too young. His music often was all about enduring the tyranny of the disallowed (Alabama, etc.). He was criticized for not swinging but, really, he was swininging so hard, he burned. Other more obvious references are the "waves of sound" style and C. Potter's solo which is certainly Cotrane-esque. W likes Trane and I've always thought this was a W tune.
Mr. LaPage (GB, 6/20/00): "Till the axis of pain/pleasure
shears the arc of desire"
depending on what school of thought you're proceeding from:
~the LA drug wheeler/dealer with female sidekick scenario
~the LA-niceguy-meets-decadent-Anne-De-Siecle-who-gives-him-AIDS scenario
The axis of pain/pleasure refers to points A-B along a graph with the verticle axis representing pain and the horizontal; pleasure. The arc of desire is the connecting point between these two extremes. Our desires are generally what initially spur us to action along this axis and we're constantly balancing these desires with our insatiable pursuit of pleasure and our natural aversion to pain. Generally the pain we experience in regards to the pursuit of pleasure (physical, monetary, morning hangover, drug jones, crashing, relationship conflict)is a deterrant to our unbridled desire to feed the Freudian Id within each of us.(Satisfaction and Satisfaction NOW!)
They 'burned right through the summer' till the pain they were experiencing to feed this incredible jones became overwhelming and sheared the natural arc bridging the chasm between pain and pleasure. If their particular jones were drugs, this pain would have been manifest in deteriorating relationships, employment problems, money issues, physical ailments, legal ramifications.
If the jones was love/sex and the protagonists discovered that they had contracted HIV or AIDS, then the ramifications are indeed obvious.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Brain Dead Dawn, oops, Blazer (GB, 6/21/00): -- Swingin' so hard
We burned right through the summer
Till the axis of pain/pleasure sheared the arc of desire
From the Rebus affair
To the streets of Culver City
Places and events slip below the horizon line --
This part evokes touring for me; a rock 'til you drop
or 'til we decide to stop summer concert series
in the past, but of course, it will still apply in the near-future.
These guys tour 'cause they like it,
It's their new philosophy of road life they present here, I think.
As well as there, maybe:
-- Don't you love Port Blanc
When Hooterie is over
When the girls get easy and the crowds are gone
A weekend of bliss
Then the rainy season --
I'm not saying this is the main theme of the song.
I do believe that Steely Dan songs present, generally speaking,
different themes at once. They definitely stray from
the straightforward pop songwriting formula. WOH is the ultimate
example of this.
Lines put together mainly for their musicality which can still make sense in a subjective manner for the listener. This is
I see it, although that meaning may not have been
intentional on their part.
Isn't it poetry in its essence, though?
That plurality of meaning thang.
Finally found that old article refered to in the song:
"Fagen exudes seriousness. He talks slowly, he LURCHES ACROSS THE ROOM laboriously. He looks like Victor
Mature reflected in a funhouse mirror that widens and elongates. He speaks in a slow, laconic New Jersey drawl(he was
born in Passaic), and when his wide mouth smiles, the grin resembles a sneer."
Source: Granatino/Readings/New Times article 1977.
The rest of the song probably refers to different personnal events taking place around the same time as this work on the
road, or more generally, in the past.
CHI Rival (GB, 6/21/00): BD Dawn, its so ironic how just as you mentioned WOH's lyrics there was a recent discussion about the royal scam. Both songs
are similar in theme (go with me on this) That theme is the smile that hides the frown. Deception, this is what makes these guys so @#$%&* cool! Royal Scam in just the title alone is a play on words. When you think of the term Royal you see elegant, perfect. flawless, etc. but the scam is dark, deceptive and so on. Another credit to SD and their sublime actions is displayed in the music.
Listen to RS how the tempo rises and falls throughout the tune. It reaches its highest whe Don says "See the glory" then the backups take it even higher and hold the note till Don chimes in again and says "Scam" as though he just lost his days wages in a game of 3 card monte on the subway. WOH rises and falls as well Like? The crest of a wave? Hmmm. This is not coincidence. to prove my point check out the part: Meet if you will Dr. War(higher) ren(higher)kru(higher)Ger(crest,highest) the wave breaks, next line I'm way deep into nothing special. and if you notice the next part after they sing just west of hollywood there's a little riff where the music goes up (higher) and then a legato slide into the bridge (middle of the song) which is lower and it starts walter's solo. This happens throughout the song with the music and lyrics. Lyrically they (kid clean, and Ann) were exact opposites he described the good and bad in every line. It started out good then it got much better (higher) Breakin all the rules as we went along (higher) BUT with a business like this(business IMHO refers to the business of doing whatever you want with no regard for the consequences be it SEX, DRUGS, or Whatever) There's a gnar(higher) Ly(Higher)
Down(higher) Side(Crest highest). Just imagine a wave at its peak, and then imagine ebb tide. They are exact opposites. Dont you love Port Blanc" A weekend of bliss (higher) Then the rainy season.
Mr. LaPage (GB, 7/11/00): ... on the Glamour Profession/West of Hollywod connection.
Juxtaposing the lyrics and following the story lines, the people and places are the same; only the name's have been
changed to protect the 'guilty'!
No one makes it out alive in this derranged dreamscape.
West of Hollywood's Frozen-souled Kid Clean could actually be a character-continuation of Glamour Profession's shadow-lurking Steely Man as he finally crosses the line from isolated voyeur to willing participant now drowning in the roiling undertow, silver bowl in hand, of the white-tipped wave cresting somewhere near Malibu's exclusively decadent 'Colony.'
Though now, the Chrysler has become a Jaguar XJC and he's cruising west, descending from Pacific Palisades on Sunset and emerging like a suntanned god on PCH near Gladstone's, the wind in his hair, Anne stradling the shifter to seductively bite his earlobe, Sonny Rollins testifying, heading north toward Point Nowhere and the last vestiges of Hooterie.
The price exacted by the fates from continually tempting the sirens of pain/pleasure is indeed heavy.
~ (GB, 7/11/00): remember, 'swinging so hard'="living hard will take its toll'
Hank Silvers (GB, 7/14/00): "again show me a dan song that you can tear apart and say that's Don and that's Walt"
Not entirely, no. . .that's a mighty tall order. But I figure that the same man who came up with "the laws of curved space/time / susponed without warning" was also responsible for "Till the axis of pain/pleasure sheared the arc of desire."
Also "Bang-zoom to the moon on things unknown" and its Honeymooners allusion was IMHO as much a WB line as "The Green Acres of my good intentions / and the Twilight Zone of zero self control."
Not My Nancy (GB, 11/25/00): 59 Down in the Friday Boston Globe crossword puzzle
"West of Hollywood"
How 'bout them apples, lit crit Dan Fans?
South of Muswellbrook (pronounced Muscle-brook, BTW) (10/19/03): There are some interesting interpretations of WOH on the feverdreamsWhoa! This is some bodacious fever dreaming! Don't forget "gnArly downSIDe." The pain-pleasure axis is an area deep in the human brain that includes the hypothalamus and the septal area--the limbic system. Sound familiar? As in "reptile brain"? Remember that many themes/ phrases seem to show up twice in Steely albums. So in this axis, and especially in the hypothalamus, is where our deepest abilities to feel pain, pleasure, hunger, satiety, lust, etc. reside. I'm more of an amygdala person. And actually, the amygdala may be where the arc of desire shears that axis. Caution comes from the amygdala; unprotected sex comes from the axis of pain-pleasure. Maybe there's your HIV connection--especially since the joys of the summer in WOH seem to end with the intersection of the two. To get a little less physiologic, maybe where "the axis of pain/pleasure shears the arc of desire" is that crucial balance point of sexual risk. Desire's trajectory is at some point (different for each person)intersected by an axis that has on one side pleasure, desire + pleasure being a good thing, and on the other pain, because desire can also cause pain, or accompany pain. Which is often but not always a bad thing. I would think contracting HIV would be on the latter end of the axis. And perhaps sadomasochism is an area of indeterminacy, like the uncertainty principle, around that balance point--where desire is for pain, where pleasure is pain. I think "a weekend of bliss/ then the rainy season" subtly underscores your interp. At any rate, I think this phrase is about appetite, transcendence, and consequences. Yoga and Buddhism seek to transcend desire and thus abolish pain--and pleasure--to achieve awakening, to obviate this geometry.
site. Some have it that the chap is in therapy, others that the girl gives him AIDS. But is there is anything in the lyrics to clinch it one way or the other? And why in heaven's name is the girl named Anne de Siecle? End of the century and decadence are interesting interpretations but why chose that particular name? It must all tie together somehow.
I think you need to look at three key phrases: Anne de Siecle, arc of desire, and tyranny of the disallowed. These all appear in prominent positions at the end of lines, one in the first half of each verse. Nice symmetry.
Try writing them like this: Anne De SIecle, Arc of DeSIre, tyranny of the DISAllowed. Looks pretty clear what D&W are saying or have I been doing too many cryptic crosswords?
The girl was Anne de Siecle (the girl was AIDS whist he WAS Kid Clean). Together they are enduring the tyranny of the disallowed (the tyranny of AIDS). I can't quite work out how the axis of pain/pleasure relates to HIV/AIDS but I'm sure it does too. Remember, their path leads from here and now to hell and gone. AIDS is their hell and gone, their gnarly downside, their rainy season.
For me the key image in the song is in the bridge: "She reached out for my hand / while I watched myself lurch across the room / and I almost got there". He's just seen Dr Kruger and got the bad news, she reaches out to him and he tries to go to her but collapses in grief.
I doubt you'll find any prominent phrases containing "A", "I", "D" and "S" is any of the other songs on the album. One per verse in WOH does not seem to be mere coincidence. The SD world doesn't work like that. Someone must have figured this lot out already. Maybe that's what Bob Mc was one about, GB 3/8/00: "WoH is about a man an a hooker..... Dr Warren Kruger I am sure informs the man he has aids.... read the words."
Dammit I wish this spell checker would stop changing WOH into WHO.
There are actually several geometric images in the song which punch up the sense of relationship and loss--the horizon line, which looks flat, but hides a curve you lose things behind; the frozen core of the globes; the crest of the wave; the chain of sorrows stretching to infinity. They give the narrator some emotional distance. I also keep seeing the map graphics on "Kamakiriad." And don't forget "the Rebus affair": a rebus is a puzzle in which you decode images to get words or phrases--just as in this song, except we hear the images. SOM has done some major decoding, for sure.
Now if we're really going to deconstruct, "axis" may also refer to the system of delineating mental illness in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition, the shrink's how-to). Axis I is your mood disorder (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder). Axis II is your personality disorder (and, again, I am an advocate of Steely Dan lyrics' being a surprisingly complete and accurate compendium of Axis II disorders--see "Don't Let Me In" and "Second Arrangement" in particular.) (For completeness, Axis III refers to medical disorders, Axis IV to psychosocial/environmental stressors , and Axis V to overall level of function.)