"COUNTDOWN TO ECSTASY"
"The Boston Rag"
"Your Gold Teeth"
"Show Biz Kids"
"My Old School"
"Pearl Of The Quarter"
"King Of The World"
For some breathtaking free association
on CTE, visit Breck's Bodacious Broadsides in Hear
My Ax Declaim.
The liner notes for "Alive In America" clear it all up with this: "Lure of East. Hubris of hippies. Quick fix. Jokey blues."
Edd Cote: One of
the best vocal twists I've ever heard appears in Bodhisattva. The
title immediately brings to mind eastern references, and when "Japan" and
"China" appear in the lyrics it seems all too natural. Except I don't
think they're talking about places at all (Well, maybe a bit. If
i knew exactly what they were talking about I'd write the songs myself
and let you do the analysis while I sat in Maui).
"The shine of your japan..." Japan is a glaze used to make ceramic pieces really sparkle. Sparkle like, oh, maybe a piece of fine china ?
The song is about dishes.
to Brian Sweet, " 'Bodhisattva' was written by Donald Fagen without Becker's
input....'That's sort of a parody on how Western people look at eastern
religion--sort of oversimplify it,' said Fagen. 'We thought it was
rather amusing--most people don't get it.' " (RITY, p. 59)Don't get the
song, or don't get the message of eastern religions? Probably both.
So this song conjures up all those gullible guru-seekers of the sixties and early seventies who glommed onto various self-proclaimed avatars and adopted all manner of embarrassing personae in their search for quick enlightenment ("I'm goin' to sell my house in town"--and move out to the ashram).
Joe Murtha (6/9/98):
Having just recently re-read Siddhartha [by Hermann Hesse], I couldn't
help but notice a few choice Dan related items of interest. Besides
the obvious Eastern/Buddhism theme of the book - appealling to Fagen's
well established fixation with all things Asian - there are these Dan relevant
1. "Govinda, said Siddhartha to his friend, come with me to the Banyan Tree. We will practice meditation." - Aja -
2. "Kamala, the well-known courtesan, she owned a house in town." - Bodhisattva -
3/ "Why did Gotama once sit down beneath the Bo Tree in his greatest hour when he received enlightment?" - Original Dan penned liner notes reference regarding Bodhisattva -
This last quote begs the obvious answer... For an illuminating blowing session with Baxter "the Skunk" and Dias "the Bebopper" of course.
Brett Barney (12/8/98): Bodhisattva: The boys desire to appear incredibly "cool" and "beyond" western ideas of success but will not be believable until "Aja"--a reconcilliation and apology of sorts. Truth be known, (and they made no effort to hide it), the dynamic duo was ravaged by drug abuse and profoundly unhappy.
Gorzedd (12/9/01): ... my buddy and I have recently "rediscovered" the now legendary Aniton 7/74 intro to Bhodissatvah,which EVERYONE thinks is mere incoherent rambling BUT IT IS NOT !!!! It is a complete rail against studio drumer Bernie "pretty" Purdie (you can tell the little ole "pretty" one that he missed out ) The drummer in concert,Jim Hodder, IS "Mr. Whatever" ,who IS here tonight. Aniton naturally doesn't know HIS name because at the time Purdie was their primary drummer and the late Jim Hodder was a relative unknown. Mr. Whatever (i.e. "the magnificent one" "the one and only one") gets exaggerated praise("he gonna get down tonight " "he gonna get widdit"),as the little ole "Purdie" one is being lightly mocked for not playing live.......With each reference to all this,Hodder plays little drum riffs to indicate his agreement,as a musical"response" to Aniton......This whole interpretation is CRYSTAL clear,when Aniton says Mr. Steely Dan AND whatever AND whatever (read:Hodder) There are all kind of other references too(for example,we have reason to believe Purdie lived in Watts at the time).
Oh Wow!...It's Me Again (Blue Book, 12/16/01): gorzedd..... I believe Bernard "pretty" Purdie didn't play with Steely Dan till 1976.
You are sadly incorrect. Upon the completion of my duties with Steely Dan, I went on to finish my Doctoral studies at Yale in Quantum Physics. I was soley responsible for the trajectory analysis culminating in the early success of the NASA Space Shuttle Program. Upon winning the Nobel Prize for Space Technology I retired to my home in the Swiss Alps to write my memoirs. And, as you may already know, Bernard Purdie never calls.
12/16/01): I don't believe your theory about Purdie holds any water.
You see, Bernard Purdie, was never a member of Steely
Dan. Bernard Purdie recorded on a few sessions, but this was long after
the band had stopped touring. I don't think he did any sessions with Steely
Dan prior to The Royal Scam album, which was in 1976. The Jerome Aniton
introduction to Bodhisattva was exactly what it sounds like... a drunken
rambler. The "purty" ones he refers to are the young girls in the audience.
The "musical responses" are merely rim-shots to try to keep this out-of-control
drunken introduction from completely tanking. "Mr. Magnificent one" would
be Mr. Steely Dan-whatever. He, even though he was employed by the band,
for some reason thought that Steely Dan was a "He", like Jethro Tull or
Molly Hatchet, instead of the name of the band.
Actually, I am amazed he even remembered the name Steely Dan because he sounds like he was so looped that he couldn't even remember his own name. Aniton was one of the band's roadies, and you might find this a little interesting, Aniton was the guy who drove the truck for the band. Isn't this the kind of guy you would want behind the wheel of the truck that holds all of your equipment? Sure, why not? It was the 70's, right? Yeah, sure.
Also, during this final tour (of the 1970's), the Steely Dan band boasted 2 drummers live - Jim Hodder and Jeff Percaro. ( Porcaro.)
Gorzedd (GB, 12/16/01): Thank all of you all for your interst in my theory....I am now in total agreement that Bernie "Pretty" Perdie didnt join Dan until later (1976/Royal scam era).....I was wrong on that count....HOWEVER,I believe more than ever that my Aniton interpretation is accurate...The band clearly had the famed L.A. studio drummer in the pipeline and he just plain refused to play live.....All I can do is BESEECH you to listen ONE MORE TIME, because he says "BERNIE..PERDIE..Little "Pretty one" missed out... HAW!!!!!!!!!!
Midnite Cruiser (GB, 12/17/01): I was thinking I had read that Aniton was referring to Donald Fagen when he was talking about Mr. Whatevah....Mr. Steely Dan....he either thought that was Fagen's name or couldn't remember it.....the Purdie angle is all wrong for the drunken introductions.
12/17/01): And now I give you the transcribed Introduction of Steely
Dan by Jerome Aniton:
Testing, one, two, test.
[instruments warming up]
Good afdernoon laydays and gennelmen...
we’re glad you’ve made it here tanight
becau’ you gonna miss out...
jhou can tell your friend tomorrow that
they gnna miss out on a *?-damn good thang that we gonna give you
Yeah, right on!
WHat we fonna five you ta-night ... it’ll be down to the nitty-gritty.
Yeah! You can tell all your frien’ ...way over in uhh...
Hell, hell I don’t care, you can tell ‘em in, over in Watts!
You can tell ‘em they mit...
you can tell ‘em tonight that San’a Monica ha’ been defin’ily set on
and theh meyh, and theat met on a dam good thang.
The best thing that ever happened to San’a Monica is gonna be here,
Yeah, and you can also...
Awl you little ol’ burdy, purty, little purty one, nHUNH!
If he ain’t here tonight, HUNH.
You can tell him forget it too,
because Mr. Whadeva is here tonight.
He gonna get down ta-night, brother,
he gonna get with it,
he gonna give you stumt’em that San’a Monica did never had.
If it good to ya, it gotta be good for ya.
Yeah, and one thing I can tell you brotha,
he is here tonight.
Mr. Magnificent One is here...
The Beautiful One’s here,
ha ha ha,
and you little ol’ purdy one here too,
you know, whadeva.
Here it is the magnificent one,
the one an’ only one,
Mr. Steely Dan and wadeva...
Now as you can clearly see Mr. Aniton states that, "you little ol' purdy
one here too". Which would
indicate that Mr. Bernard Purdie was in the audience, also playing that evening, or that Gorzedd's theory
is all washed up.
In The Years, by Brian Sweet
For an illustrious deconstruction of this tune, please visit Edd Cote's home page
Not My Nancy's comments in "Do It Again," on "Can't Buy A Thrill"
What is the "song of the past"? Is it a haunting melody from happier days, which nonetheless doesn't seem to affect the woman the song's addressed to ("I see no tears")? Is it an old line she's trotting out yet again, remorselessly, to use on the singer? Whatever, it seems to presage the end of the line--"the last for many years"--either for the relationship or--what else?
The singer paints her as a climber; she'll do anything to be one of the Beautiful People--"the better half." So, he asks, how well-connected do I have to be before you'll even find me amusing?
"I guess only women in cages can play down/The things they lose": What a brilliant image. Women who are not free, who are in some cage--whether literal, like the cages in topless and strip joints, or figurative, like those who sell themselves out to men, money, fame, addiction, social servitude (does that leave any of us out?)--minimize what they lose because it hurts so much really to look at loss, or because they're so numbed by it. Free women (and other people) are free to feel deeply and fully.
The singer is talking to a woman in a cage. She thinks only for today, and doesn't realize that when she has to lie down for Death, she "can't refuse."
Enter the Razor Boy. Another brilliant image. We know Death as that bony guy in the musty, ill-fitting hood, with that aggressively retro scythe. Strictly from Poesville. I see the Razor Boy as Death neologized--think John Leguizamo in "Romeo + Juliet": tight black spitcurl, flat, smoldering eyes, black leather and rich ebony jacquard, with a perfectly-honed pearl-handled straight razor.
Seeing him will definitely take that song of the past right out of that girl's mind. He will take HER away from her fancy things on that cold and windy day.
I find the singer's tone to be bitter, but full of longing and tenderness. He's warning someone he loves (or wants to love) of the inevitable fall at the end of her climb.
Brett Barney (12/8/98): Duh...man, this one is hard to figure out. Cocaine, baby. It "takes your fancy things away". Oh, and you're still singing it (craving it) when it's not an option. Did I forget, "You'd gamble or give anything for it"? Didn't think so. Anybody got a razor?
Maxine (GB, 3/2/99): The Razor Boy is the piper you have to pay after you've danced, regardless of what the dance was: drugs, sex, lies, etc.
Maxine also notes that the Razor Boy may be another
incarnation of the Mystery Tramp in "Like A Rolling Stone:"
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?
F#maj (GB, 4/9/99):
steelyrics entering my mindscape require night vision. start by focusing
too actuely? trip and go bump. in the night. must go for gestalt, kinda
sorta gaze out there with vibrisae? yes, like a third eye on either side
of frontal lobe. wait. make that four eyes gaze gaze against the... no.
just gaze. things spontaneously appear, shapes assume meaning; watch out
for tree, that's a big root, look Harvey,a crab. caveat: hot lix and clever
trix played; deck may not be full, cards dealt from bottm (what's this
inside bushes? '57 Chevy. bastards! inside joke, fuzzy dice and bongos.)
some things placed without comprehension intention. other stuph exquisitely reeking with literary value. who nose. my mother still wants to know what he did to his old man in Awrregone. that's another thread. well.
after many years, still don't sense guy with scythe and funky robe. wish to point needle at 'voice' singing, the cage [what gots no lock on its door], and to half that's better than the woman who is too fried to even shed a tear for her sorry ass self as she ponders the past while the future goes up in the linear increments of her today [sniff]. but can't make out death hiding anywhere in the bushes. post too long. i gotta pee.
diggy (5/4/99): Razor Boy has someone speaking to a woman whom he cares for, but can't help. He warns her of her "crash and burn" future but she can't change. She is addicted to cocaine, razor boy is her dealer and he is taking her "fancy things" for payment. His name comes from the fact that he brings a razor blade to cut the coke into lines. She is a woman in a "cage" because the drug has her captive. She will lose everything because she doesn't have the bank roll to be "in with the better half" and support her habit. She will either end up broke on the streets -- still having withdrawl (singing it) - or dead. Where is your razor boy now? He never was the friend you thought he was.
Sparki (3/14/00): RAZOR
BOY could be about a guy watching a lady he cares for get hurt by a bad
The RAZOR BOY is the bad partner slashing away at the lady's hopes and dreams, stripping her of her illusions and pretty fantasies (Her "FANCY THINGS")
Lady Writer (4/13/03): i've been reading
your site and felt a need to contribute to the Razor Boy discussion. this
is with complete disregard to most of what everybody else said, but it's
a little different.
and i don't think the Razor Boy himself is death at all...
this goes line-by-line, so i'll include the original words...
i hear you are singing a song of the past
i see no tears
//i take this one to indicate that she has had to leave something behind... she's brought the song with her, but no tears/regrets/bad feelings about it...
i know that you know it may be the last
for many years
//this is the last time she'll be able to look back on her previous life like this, for a while, at least. narrator and woman are both aware of it, too. (don't know why everybody's so certain it's a woman, but somehow that's all it could be, i think...)
you'd gamble or give anything to begin with
the better half
//she's having to start over now, and while she'd love to start over on top, it's not gonna happen.
but how many friends must i have to begin with
to make you laugh?
//he's trying to make her feel better about the new venture, but he can't actually change the situation. (musical as well as poetic paralellism in the music/words "to begin with" suggests that maybe he doesn't have the kind of "connections" he needs to start her/them off on the upside?)
will you still have a song to sing
when the razor boy comes and takes your fancy things away?
will you still be singin it
on that cold and windy day?
//okay, so, chorus taken as whole. this is referring the song she was singing, something like that. flashbacklike. it's talking about before there was this great divide between Past and Now. "that cold and windy day" is "today" and she is in fact still singing it; she's the kind of girl that doesn't let things like a complete insideouting of her life mess her up. so the razor boy came and took her fancy things away-- and she is still singing, in fact, tho she won't be for much longer.
you know that the coming is so close at hand
you feel all right
//"the coming" i think is somebody coming to get (ie retrieve) her... the obvious connection would be the second coming of christ or what ho, but that's not it. "the coming" will signal the complete separation of Then and Now, the beginning of the identified period that'll last "many years." she's at peace with this. she's cool with it, pretty much.
i guess only women in cages can stand
this kind of night
//okay, so, some serious deviation from everybody else now. the woman he's speaking to is the woman in the cage; it's him that's not standing through everything. almost like he wishes he were in the cage with her.
i guess only women in cages can play down
the things they lose
//oh, he is jealous now! he sees that she's taken the hits and moved on. he hasn't managed to do that. he's always been rather contemptuous of her way of always being cheerful and musical and stuff-- "Will you still have a song to sing, when the razor boy comes and takes your fancy things away?" i know, i've ignored the cage: what it speaks to me (with my love of adventure and fantasy) is a slave wagon. the Razor Boy came through and sacked the village or whatever and took all the women and put them in cages, took all the fancy things, probably beat all the men up. the razor boy now being a militant group sort of thing.
you think no tomorrow will come when you lay down
you can't refuse
//aha, but she isn't cheerful all the time! she realizes that she's gonna be raped or similarly abused and it's gonna kill her-- but she can't say no 'cause she'd die sooner and in an uglier manner if she did.
//okay, so some thoughts on the most obvious element i
skimmed over. The Razor Boy isn't death, in my version.
first, thoughts on the name. Razor immediately brings to mind two things: cutting and shaving. cutting as in slitting, bleeding, suicide, yeah. those things. violent images. shaving is a little nicer; it suggests a rite of passage, getting your first razor (as a guy, anyway) and being able to grow a beard and all...
so set this against the other part. boy. young human male.
not having grown a beard yet.
so the razor boy could be a kid who's been forced to grow much older faster than he should have been-- he's taken up his dad's razor as a status symbol even tho he ain't got no beard yet.
or he's... a highschool age kid who's gone all depressed and suicidal and cuts himself so often he carries a razor around with him. something like that.
I will confess it's not exactly exhaustive, but i thought
it was worth sharing, i guess.
"Romeo + Juliet"--the movie
"Black Cow," on "Aja," and "Dirty Work," on "Can't Buy A Thrill," for similar
themes--girl trouble and girl, troubled
"Like A Rolling Stone," by Bob Dylan, on "Highway 61 Revisited"
"The Boston Rag"
According to Brian Sweet, this song " 'has my chorus and verses by Walter,' said Fagen, attempting to explain [sic] how the song came to feature the lyric 'You were Lady Bayside.' Bayside was a community in Queens where Becker once lived and where he formed one of his first rock and roll bands. He included it for no other reason than he liked the sound of it in the song.... The lines in the song 'Lonnie was the kingpin back in 1965' and 'Lonnie [sic] swallowed up all he found/ It was forty-eight hours till Lonnie came around' refer to Lonnie Yongue, Fagen's room-mate at Bard. Strangely enough Yongue had never been to Boston, but Becker later commented: 'The nice thing about "The Boston Rag" is that it took place in New York.' " (RITY, p. 58)
Huh (GB, 5/12/98): Come on guys! It's LAID at Bayside.
Brett Barney (12/8/98): Fevered withdrawal. Not the first time. Lonnie is the "Id". Still the Kingpin.
Thunderbird (11/15/02): The Boston Rag
%Let the Boston Rag image refer to Old Glory, the US Flag.
(1973) %(Say the song was written in ~1970 to 1972. (I dunno, but say it was.)
%Think back to what was on those dim blue tubes 30 years ago!)
was good news, and the feeling was bad at home
%1970: The US was rife with dissent and misinformation.
% Richard Nixon announced the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.
% Four students protesting that invasion killed by National Guard at Kent State.
I was out of my mind and you were on the phone
%Nixon was inattentive to domestic concerns. Or maybe the author’s girlfriend was %inattentive (perhaps also to domestic concerns).
Lonnie was the kingpin back in nineteen sixty five
%Lon Nol, the (quixotic & often-deposed) nationalist ruler of Cambodia.
I was singing this song when Lonnie came alive
%Ok, this can probably be forced to fit current events of those times, if
%only because there seem to be so many different accounts of so many events.
%I have just shamelessly cut & paste some Google search results far below*.
Bring back the Boston Rag,
%Get the USA out SE Asia, it sucks over there.
Tell all your buddies that it aint no drag
%Peace with Honor! Declare Victory! Whatever!
Bring back the Boston Rag
Lady Bayside, there was nothing that I could do
%Well this certainly weakens my case for ‘you’ being the fed. gov.
So I pointed my car down Seventh Avenue
%There certainly was nothing anybody could do about the war, Kent State,
%Agnew, Nixon, etc. etc. So let’s go score.
swept the playroom and he swallowed up all he found
%Lon Nol in fact did run wild, albeit with diplomacy & guns rather than (or at least in
%addition to) drugs.
It was forty eight hours till Lonnie came around
%But the Cambodian leader’s binge was not without personal consequences.
%(In fact – though still in the future when "The Boston Rag" was released – Lon Nol
%was deposed in 1975. He fled to the U.S.)
related to Lon ‘Lonnie’ Nol, 1965 – 1972.
%Act One, Circa 1965. (http://www.embassy.org/cambodia/press/chronology.html)
%Oct 27, 1964 - The Royal Cambodian Government and the National Assembly warn the US that diplomatic %relations might be severed should the United States continue to violate Cambodian airspace.
%May 1, 1965 - Bombardment by United States airplanes of villages in the "Parrot Break," Cambodian border area %with South Vietnam.
%May 3, 1965 - Prince Norodom Sihanouk breaks relations with the United States Of America.
%Sept 11, 1966 - Cambodia's first General Election, in which Sangkum Reashniyum leadership did not pre-select %the electoral candidates.
%Oct 22, 1966 - A new Government under Lon Nol was approved by the rightist National Assembly which had %emerged from the general elections.
%April 30, 1967 - Lon Nol resigned as Prime Minister, ostensibly due to injuries during car accident.
Circa 1970-‘72. (http://angkor1431.tripod.com/index/id26.html)
%"Abandoning Prince Sihanouk's policy of neutrality in the Indochina War, Lon Nol staged a coup d'etat on March %18, 1970, which ousted Prince Sihanouk (Cambodia Head of State) from power; he established close ties with the %United States and South Vietnam, permitting their forces to operate on Cambodian territory against Vietnamese %communist and Vietcong. And on October 9, 1970 he proclaimed Cambodia as a republic, Khmer Republic, %ending the country more than one thousand years-old monarchy, which was established with the ascending to the %throne of King Jayavarman II in 802 A.D."
In The Years, by Brian Sweet
"Your Gold Teeth"
Roy.Scam (GB, 2/21/97): YGT=gambling. I picture Sharon Stone stalking the Vegas floors in "Casino." When you gamble everything else away, you take the gold out of your fillings and bet that. The bridge (tobacco...Peking) says that if you rely on the same crop time after time, one year the locusts will come around and you're screwed. But then I could be wrong; I don't even know if they grow tobacco in Peking....
Gambling makes sense: this could be a film noir encounter in a down-and-dirty, dangerous gambling hall/casino. Starts with a creepy deja-vu feeling in a guy down to the bottom of the barrel (gold teeth rolling; is "gold teeth" also slang for dice?). But it could also be about a failed, bitter love affair with s&m undertones--with, of course, Lady Luck in her beaded gown. You need her, but she tortures you with her fickleness, takes everything--and makes you like it. "I have seen your iron and your brass"--her enforcers, packing heat and brass knuckles behind the two-way mirror. "You don't have to dance for me; I've seen you dance before"--he knows this game so well, but can't stop playing. The way he describes her is one of the most riveting lyrics in the song: "Your fortune is your [at least as I hear it] mouthy legs, your gift for the runaround." Just think of the image! Wow! Legs that say it all and more, and won't shut up! Think Tina Turner! Julia Roberts! Then, at the end, in harsh monosyllables, he says, "Dumb luck, my friend, won't suck me in this time"--but we're not ready to believe him.
The "killin' floor" is an abattoir, a slaughterhouse. You can find it in Howlin' Wolf's song of the same name [by Chester Burnett a.k.a. Howlin' Wolf, 1966, from Real Folk Blues (MCA 9273), copyright notice] [for the record, Electric Flag also covered this]
I should'a quit you, long time ago
I should'a quit you, baby, long time ago
I should'a quit you, and went on to Mexico
If I ha'da followed, my first mind
If I ha'da followed, my first mind
I'd'a been gone, since my second time
I should'a went on, when my friend
come from Mexico at me
I should'a went on, when my friend come from Mexico at me
I was foolin' with ya baby, I let ya put me on the killin' floor
Lord knows, I should'a been gone
Lord knows, I should'a been gone
And I wouldn't've been here, down on the killin' floor
Here are some intriguing comments on the "killin' floor" from Bluesman Harry's fantastic glossary of blues expressions: [you MUST visit. He also has a massive collection of blues lyrics]
Particularly in the Chicago Stockyards area many black newcomers from the
South found jobs during the 20's, 30's and 40's working on the killing
floors. Metaphorically being on the "killing floor" means being in
trouble with little way out or being so depressed (primarily by the loss
of a lover) that he (generally) feels like he is going to die, having hit
rock bottom and with nothing left to lose....
Jack King suggests: "When a woman gets over on you and you just can't seem to do anything about it, and you can't stay away from her even though you do your best, and your mind is all a mess from it. You promise yourself to never see her again and wind up at her door a minute later. She has you on the Killing Floor." Thanks to Jack King for this contribution to the list....
So in "YGT" the narrator watches this woman cross the killing floor--what an image--dressed to the nines, she saunters across a scene of carnage, immune to it, above it....
I wonder if "the year of the locust" might refer to Nathanael West's The Day Of The Locust, which I've mentioned elsewhere, and which is simply gemlike.
According to Brian Sweet, Kathy Berberian is a singer from New York who "studied at the Milan Conservatory and adopted a singing style that required her to moan, snarl, snort, squeal and scream in imitating electronic sounds. She later said she was 'terribly flattered by the tribute from Steely Dan,' and bought several copies of 'Countdown To Ecstasy' for her immediate family." (RITY, p. 59) A roulade is "a quick succession of notes, properly as sung to one syllable" (OED). I take this line to mean that you're not invincible; there's always one thing that remains beyond you.
Also according to Sweet, Mr. B. & Mr. F. quoted Count Basie and Joe Williams' version of "Going To Chicago Blues" in the "monkey woman" line. According to the abovementioned Bluesman Harry, "monkey man" can mean an outside lover--backdoor man, or candy man--cf. the Stones' "Monkey Man" on "Let It Bleed." This line also makes me think of Portnoy's Complaint, since the ambivalent Portnoy called his girlfriend "Monkey."
Ida Cox recorded a ladies' version of this idea in 1924 [from Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1924-1925) (Document 5323), copyright notice] [For the record, she it is who sang "Wild Women Don't Have The Blues"] :
Chicago Monkey Man Blues
I'm goin' to Chicago, sorry but I can't take you
Yes I'm goin' to Chicago, sorry but I can't take you
'Cause there's nothin' on State Street, that a monkey man can do
I've got a monkey man here, a monkey man over there
I've got a monkey man here, a monkey man over there
If monkey men were money, I'd be a Chicago millionaire
I've got fourteen men now, I only want one more
I've got fourteen men now, and I only want one more
As soon as I can get one, I'll let these fourteen go
Now I'm goin' tell you, like the day goes so must you
Now I'm goin' tell you, like the day goes so must you
When you nobody no money, mama can no usin' you
I can take my monkey men, and stand them all in line
I can take my monkey men, and stand them all in line
Anybody can count them, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight times
kashi (GB, 5/8/98):
About Gold Teeth 1, I had to findout every little detail about this song
(my own interpretation), and the people mentioned Cathy Berbarrian (sp).
This song is about a drug woman who has to suport her habit by performing sexual actions; they are pure S&M acts. The person singing is there to collect a debt, and the woman offers to "perform" to offset paying the debt.
"you got to pay today, of pay tomorrow...then you try to tie me down, do we work it off one by one or play the combination."
The narrator describes the fine product that he peddles, where it comes from and how the seasons affects the harvest. When a crop fails he compares it to a very difficult and complex roulade (a very difficult vocal piece in which a singer cannot take regular breathing beats, slightly harder than opera, for you never stop until the entire piece is done they can be as long as 45 min.), being sung by the worlds greatest roulade singer Cathy Berbarrian (sp), inwhich she cannot do it and she fails in her attempt to sing it.
After the explaination, he helps her to gather her things so she can clean her debt. she trys to talk her way out of it but to no avail.
"..all you need to use is your silver shoes, your gift for the run around, use your knack darling , take one step [back] darling, there ain't nothing in Chicago for a monkey woman to do...."
steve v dan (GB, 5/9/98): YGT II: possibly inspired by Burroughs early '70's novel 'The Wild Boys'...and I think the term "gold teeth" is in Naked Lunch, although I haven't looked at that weird book in years......I think there is a lot of Burroughs influence in the early stuff, although I am sure B/F would deny this....
gordy (GB, 5/10/98):
Well thats as good as anything. I dont know if you got it or not, but Cathy Barberian is a REAL porson, she lives outwith the scat. She was married to Luciano Berio, a chum of Stckhausen et al and composer of a series of works called the "sequenza" on horn not to play musical intruments eg hitting trombone of cookie barrel, porking trumpet etc. Number two was the vox humana and the Cath performed it like a women on the verge of a nervouse breakdown - two voices, two mindsets. Erie or what? Check it out.
Brett Barney (12/8/98): Hey look at me! I'm the 4th song! You played the combination! If I'm ever weak again I can always look at Cathy Berberian for an excuse. "What do you mean I'm still grinding my teeth? Ooops! There goes another molar!"
"Home At Last," on "Aja," for another deja-vu
Other gambling references: "Hard-Up Case," "Jack of Speed," "Do It Again," "Glamour
Reelin' In The Years, by Brian Sweet
"Casino," the movie, directed by Martin Scorsese
Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth--a landmark sixties novel with what has to be one of thebest last lines in literature
"Your Gold Teeth II," on "Katy Lied"
Rolling Stones, "Let It Bleed" (1969)
"Show Biz Kids"
Brian Sweet says, "Strangely enough, critics and fans alike... had great difficulty figuring out the incessant vocal vamp beneath the song. One ridiculous music press suggestion was 'We're gonna love sweeties.' In fact, the girls were singing 'You go to Lost Wages,' a Fagen/Becker pun on Las Vegas." (RITY, p. 60)
People hear "Lost Wages," "Las Wages," "Lots Wages," "Out-rageous," and all this close listening has spun me out into a loopy fever dream:
put on your headphones, and listen closely to the backup singers--they're
not singing "los" or "las" but "lots." Now a linguist would tell
you that when you move from an "ah" to an "ess" your tongue elevates to
your hard palate, almost inserting a "t"--say "mas matzoh" five times fast
& you'll see what I mean--but I think this "lots" is premeditated.
Each voice, all through the song--I defy you NOT to hear it!
So if they're saying "Lots Wages," I have 2 interpretations:
One, "Lots Wages," short for lots of money, which is what Vegas is built on, and the thrill of winning and losing it. A pretty good pun.
Two, my favorite: "Lot's Wages." Roy.Scam is the only other person who will admit to hearing this aural hallucination too. Now forgive me for getting Biblical, but you all remember Lot's wife from Genesis (the book, not the band), the one who turned into a pillar of salt. Well, Lot's story is actually very interesting: he tagged along with Abraham, his uncle, but his guys and Abraham's didn't get along, and Lot moved on up the Valley to just outside the town of Sodom. Next thing you know, God has decided to investigate Sodom for possible destruction because of the dissolute habits of its citizens, and sends two angels undercover to check it out. Well, Lot is sitting in the gate, drinking in all the gambling, traffic in human flesh, etc., when he sees the angels coming and recognizes them. He sees the writing on the wall, and hastens to invite them into his house. (By this time, he and his family have moved plumb into Sodom.) But then the lustful Sodomite men surround his house, shouting, "Send out those good-looking guys so that we may know them in a Biblical sense as a group!" Brave Lot replies, "No way! These men are my guests and have sanctuary here--but you can have my two daughters, and do whatever you want with THEM." The Sodomites apparently are not bi, and start to force their way in. The angels intervene and tell Lot they've seen enough--he'd better pack up his family & stuff and split before they make with the fire and brimstone. Lot lingers lovingly, apparently having got quite used to the ways of Sodom, and almost doesn't make it out. In fact, his wife, with her ill-advised last glance, doesn't. (The story ends with Lot & his two daughters living out their days cowering in a cave above the nearest town, afraid "the disaster" will catch up with them. His daughters, desperate for offspring, take turns getting him drunk and getting pregnant from him. Then we hear no more of Lot.)
Now what could evoke a richer image of Vegas, that latter-day Sodom, than to call it "Lot's Wages"? Especially with LA/ Gomorrah right down the road? I tell you, these Dan guys are brilliant. Even if they didn't mean it that way.
bunny lood (11/19/98): El Supremo to me is sort of an infinity...If you think you've reached the top of the stairs, you missed it. So el supremo is potential. Always pushing our thoughts out there... on stage... I think that Show Biz Kids are those who choose to risk it and pull the shade off the light...or maybe don't allow for a shade at all...Lot's...Lost...not too different, methinks. Lot lost lots, but escaped with himself and the rest of his family. His wife thought she'd reached the top, and dared glance back...she wasn't pushing on, she was sucked in. But he had already seen the rape of the world, the "abomination before God", had no need to look back.. Show Biz Kids throw the dice, bet on the number.. risk their gold...don't look back. see, I really think these guys' music is one long piece. eack album an opus.... If you listen to each album...back to back, they all flow.
Brett Barney (12/8/98): Donny's not very happy with Chevy--or anyone for that matter.
Daniel J. Kelly (Digest, 2/23/99): From the very first time I heard this song I heard CLEARLY, "She owed her life's wages."
diggy (5/4/99): Show Biz Kids is as obvious
as it seems. It is the contrast between the overly rich and the very poor.
Dan picks on the show biz movie "stars" who are "making movies of themselves".
But they could have also slammed on professional athletes, powerful politicians,
or themselves (wealthy musicians) who "got the Steely Dan T-shirt."
Poor people stay home at night sleeping and cover bright lights with shades.
Rich often want to be in the spotlight. These "stars come out at night",
go to broadway openings, go to award shows for themselves,
walk on red carpets, smile for the cameras, and perform their acts. And later, after the "show", they smoke their "El Supremo" (a very high grade of dope) in a quiet room away from the public. I believe the "Washington Zoo" is a reference to the insanity of that town. Crooked politicians infest that city -- making their huge incomes and riding in black limos. Meanwhile, Washington DC also has one of the highest povertyrate in America. Here, the rich and poor are face to face daily.
By the way, I think it is "lots wages" but not a reference to Lot of the bible. It is lot as in "our lot in life". Meaning - or place or job in society.
Sparki (3/18/00): I
detect the El Supremo from the room at the top of the stairs -- recording
agent or music-biz honcho in his lofty office
And I make it out to be -- Poor people sleeping with NO shade on the light -- in contrast to the wealthy and famous partying all the time, there are
disadvantaged folk sleeping under bare light bulbs in tenement apartments
And "they've got the shapely bodies" cuz they can afford to go to gyms and health spas.
And it is Lost Wages, a pun on Las Vegas -- the musicians play Vegas
As a teen, i thought it was "You know you're not Swedish" or "You know that that's the way it is."
Dogmatic Dave (GB, 7/7/00): As for what the background singers are saying, I think it rotates from Lost Wages to Outrageous (they sync up with Donald in the end; "and for the coup de grace, they're outrageous). But I always thought the song was about making porn movies in the Hollywood Hills. The shapely bodies, the Steely Dan (a dildo, remember) T-shirts. As for the poor people, if you read the lyrics, they're sleeping 'neath the shade of the light, not without a shade, not a bare light bulb. My original record has a lyric sheet. Also under the musical vamp at the end, it sounds like the police are making a bust.
an effort to further fuel the Lost/Las/Lots Wages/Vegas lyric quandary,
even Donald's pronunciations are suspect. Listen when the background
singers sync up with him on the line, "and for the coup de grace, they're
outrageous." Only Donald is clearly (at least to my ear) singing
"odds-rageous" not "outrageous."
Clean Willy (4/16/03): On the line "show business kids making movies of themselves you know they don't give a fuck about anybody else":
This album came out in 1973, which was the height of the American Auteur movement and L.A. (where the Dan were living) was the apex of that movement. Part of that filmmaking philosophy is "world view" or depicting the world through the eyes of a director.
chs. 13, 18, and 19.
Reelin' In The Years by Brian Sweet
"My Old School"
Is this one of the greatest songs ever, or what? This is Roy.Scam's all-time favorite Steely tune, and if pushed really hard I might have to second that emotion.
"My Old School" is widely thought to be a kiss-off song to the Steely alma mater, Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. According to Brian Sweet, "the Wolverine [was] a train that ran up to Boston... from New York and Bard was compared favourably with William And Mary, one of the oldest colleges in America." (RITY, p. 59) However, Roy.Scam & I both hail from northern Virginia, and were both convinced for many years they were referring to the Annandale that is a D.C. suburb--especially since The College of William And Mary is a Virginia school. There was an unpleasant drug bust at Bard in May of 1969, according to Brian Sweet, and both Mr. Becker and Mr. Fagen were apprehended (RITY, p. 15)--thus, presumably, the reference to ending up "with the working girls in the county jail." Historical note: G. Gordon Liddy was the assistant D.A. Again according to Sweet, "Bob Dylan had earlier made his comment on the predictability of the Bard drugs [sic] raids ('Must bust in early May/ Orders from the DA') in his song 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.' In the same song the couplet 'The pump don't work/ Cos the vandals took the handles' also purportedly refers to an incident at Bard." (RITY, ibid.)
This song has one of my favorite Steely rhymes--"oleander" and "can't stand her." Incidentally, oleander can't grow outdoors in upstate New York--it's a Zone 7 plant. This humble shrub was mentioned in Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust, which, if you haven't read it since freshman English, is a superb, dark novella, well worth rereading. It absolutely nails the ugly Hollywood ethos of the thirties. See "Deacon Blues" for more about Day. Pardon my personal interest in this plant.
Brett Barney (12/8/98): The university of abortion. Such an easy decision for the aristocratic brats 1967 - 1971. On a better note, the boys seem to have learned something. "They're never going back." I wonder who drank the hemlock?
diggy (9/3/99): My Old School - A great song
-- must be heard LOUD. The way I see it, he leaves for Bard college on
the wolverine train and she (girlfriend I
assume) gives him a "sweet goodbye". Soon thereafter, in September she is busted - probably for dope and daddy had to pick her up from jail. For one reason or another, (possibly a bad break-up) she squeels on the boys at Bard and the entire dorm is busted in May. He swears he will never go back to Bard and is pissed off at her. Years later, he's still pissed at her and the fact that she is still "doing what she did before". I assume she is still growing dope and dealing it. Oleander, you mention that the oleander flower doesn't grow in NY, but it would if it was under a flourescent plant light which also may be growing her weed. The boys now live in LA - and the day that California tumbles into the sea they will go back to Bard. Obviously - this won't happen and if it did --- they would be dead anyway. I believe Chino and Daddy Gee are NY dealers that don't like small timers taking some of their business. The boys get some revenge by telling them of her dope operation on their turf. They sarcastically mention that they tried to warn her through the mail (a very slow process - and I doubt a letter was ever sent.)
A classic love story.
Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West
"Deacon Blues," on "Aja"
"Everyone's Gone To The Movies," on "Katy Lied"
Reelin' In The Years, by Brian Sweet, for an account of the bust (buy & read!)
"Pearl of the Quarter," for another choice rhyme
"Working Girls," a good Canadian film about a prostitute
"Subterranean Homesick Blues," by Bob Dylan, on "Bringing It All Back Home" (thanx Joe)
"Pearl Of The Quarter"
...has one of my favorite Steely rhymes, "quarter" and "Martyr."
Brett Barney (12/8/98): ...aka, Red Beans and Rice for a quarter: The boys reconnect with their simple, sensitive side and contrast their new sparkling selves with the dirt and sordid reputation of N'Oleans just in case their parents don't believe they really mean it this time. Louise is the new, improved Lonnie that can never be exorcised from the "self". "Won't you tell her I love her so", and "She got a place to go" speak of acceptance and perhaps mastery of addiction.
Dogmatic Dave (GB, 7/7/00): The "miracle mile" referred to in "Pearl of the Quarter" is a small section of L.A. near Century City/Beverly Hills. [ --however, "Pearl" is set in New Orleans. Think they were mixing refs for lyrical purposes?]
Fan (5/31/02): I read a comment regarding "Pearl of the Quarter"
which questions the reference to Miracle Mile to an LA subsurb. Canal
Street, the main street in downtown New Orleans which seperates the old
(French Quarter) from the New (Central Business District) has been referred
to as the Miracle Mile. It was also the name of a bar across the
street from the Criminal Courthouse where defense attorney, prosecutors
and judges hung out after a tough case.
Take you pick but chances are it was simply a reference to Canal Street.
"King of the World"
Brian Sweet relates: " 'King Of The World' was written after Becker and Fagen watched the 1962 film 'Panic In The Year Zero,' starring and directed by Ray Milland. 'Typical devastation,' said Becker. 'Like, what you do at the end of the world. The sense of doom is overwhelming.' The film focused on a family on a fishing trip in the mountains when Los Angeles is blasted by a nuclear attack. 'King of the World' examines the behaviour and predicament of a survivor after a nuclear attack and asks whether he would be better off dead anyway." (RITY, p. 58)
Brett Barney (12/8/98): A backlash of guilt. Santa Fe was and is symbolic of spiritual rejuvenation. It is in "ruins". Interestingly and befitting enough, Marigold means "virgin". No virgins in the promised land? Amazing how drugs can make even our heros the lords of nothing.
aja (GB, 2/11/00): The song I think Donald sings especially masterfully is "King of the World". The lyrics on paper look like they're about the apocalypse, but what I hear conveyed in the song (through Donald's voice/interpretation) is more a devastation of the soul, as in someone facing the daunting task of putting their life together after a devastating loss. When he sings "I'm alive and doing fine" rhymed with "share my poison wine" I hear someone ironically reflecting that they've survived their loss physically intact but are facing a bleak period of rebuilding. The line "might as well die" (with "die" amplified and distorted) then having the vocals go back to the normal tone of the song with "When you come around, no more pain and no regret" sounds like he's hitting the nadir of despair, then picking himself back up and getting on with his painstaking recovery.
MizDucky (GB, 8/28/00): my take on the "cobalt cigarettes" line is that it's part and parcel of the whole survivor-of-nuclear-holocaust subject-matter of "King of the World." Here's this poor shnook who somehow survived the nukes, he's met no other survivors, he's desperately broadcasting away on his ham radio trying to find even one other human being out there, and he's getting NO RESPONSE WHATSOEVER except static ... and so for lack of anything more constructive to do to stave off the Big Despair, he's ditzing around on the air about what what fun things he and some yet-to-be-located buddy could do while they wait for the nuclear winter to set in or whatever. And in this vein he throws in an additional gallows-humor line about smoking "cobalt" (i.e. radioactive) cigs. ("Oh yeah, and by the way my face happens to be on fire, no biggie, just a flesh wound ... "). Sorta the musical sequel to Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," IMO--waddiya do *after* they drop the Big One? Or perhaps a really weird-ass precursor to "The Nightfly's" title track--all alone, broadcasting into the Great Unknown, wondering if there's any intelligent life out there to receive the message ...
Gentleman Loser (GB, 8/28/00):
I like the Nightfly connection. Lester is by far my favorite character
dan man. Forever spinning late night jazz to the lonlies who will never
call and the crazies who always do
A race of men in the trees definitely; ferral after so many years and a forgotten world, wearing leather clothes that will last them the rest of their lives, hunting caribo and wild dog through the decimated shells of metropolitan centers
Dr. Mu (GB, 8/28/00, from
the runes of Santa Fe): The cobalt in KOW refers to Cobalt60 which
is a radioactive isotope and a breakdown product of plutonium - a common
fuel for A- bombs and nuclear power plants. Isotopes are variations of
an element (carbon or cobalt) which have less or more neutrons. The number
of proteons actually determine whether an atom is oxygen or nitrogen. Stable
isotopes have a similar number of protons and neutrons. Most isotopes are
actually stable (oxygen 18 for example or deuterium: H2), but fewer or
greater neutrons than an element can handle makes it unstable and radioactive.
That is it emits radiation as it breaks down to other elements over time.
Radiation of different types and far different intensities can be alpha
(2 protons and 2 neutrons - not so nasty usually), beta (electron-the intensity
can vary greatly: C14 is not so bad but those in a nuclear reactor are
very powerful); gamma - electron radiation, X-rays - high frequency radiation.
Cobalt60 in the cigarettes is an allegory of a post-holcaust (nuclear)decaying world. Cobalt 60 interestingly has a half-life of 5.5 years turning to nickel. theoreticaly, in 33 years (6 half lives) all of the cobalt would be come nickel if all were produced at the same time. Cobalt 60 is a "waste product" of nuclear power plants and is used for cancer radiation treatment instead of being dumped. Cobalt 60 is a pretty strong gamma emitter which means it penetrates tissue pretty well allowing targeting of tumors.
The "glow in the dark" thing. This is a really cool effect called Cerenkov light. It happens when a powerful beta emmitter spews radiation from a "light medium" like air into a denser but clear medium like water. The speed of light is actually greater in air than in water which has a higher index of refraction. Now the beta particles hit the water at a speed higher than the speed of light in that medium. The electrons radiate that extra energy as a beautiful blue glow - electron "skid marks" if you will. Ir can be seen big time in nuclear reactors where water surrounds the core for cooling. Unfortunately, it means that non-transluscent solids can't really glow in the dark even under the influence of a beta emitter, but it's neat poetic license anyway.
"War Games," the movie, not the Matthew Broderick one, though I liked that
too, but a pseudodocumentary
from the sixties which portrayed the aftermath of a nuclear attack
in ruthless detail
There are any number of post-apocalyptic novels and films of interest, such as A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller, Jr.; The Postman, by David Brin; "On The Beach" with Gregory Peck (from the book by Nevil Shute); and the "Mad Max" films with Mel Gibson.
"Wooden Ships," by Jefferson Airplane, also recorded by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
Reelin' In The Years, by Brian Sweet