"Here At The
"The Mock Turtle Song"
"Don't Let Me In"
"Wet Side Story"
"The Second Arrangement"
"A Horse In Town"
"I Can't Function"
"Can't Write Home About You"
"The Steely Dan Show"
"Here At The Western World"
Okay, you're going to think I'm totally punchdrunk, but (and this is in the same territory as "Time Out Of Mind"): when I hear this song, I don't think about a brothel, but about an upscale shooting gallery. It starts out comparing "The Western World" to "The Lido," which sounds hopelessly out--"sausage and beer"? The "in"--and powerful--people come here. "Nobody cares" because they're all on the nod--"where the sailor shuts out the sunrise/ Blacked out on the stairs." (Nice alliteration, by the way.) Even in the '70's, a Jackson wouldn't get you a foot in the door with a high-class call girl; it would take at least a Franklin. However, a Jackson was probably enough to procure a hit of "the sweetness you've been crying [jonesing?] for." "Ruthie will give you the silver key"--the new needle; "to open the red door"--the vein. "Skinny girl"--I don't know much drug slang from the '70's, but a stretch of the imagination could make a syringe, with its head-like bulb top and thin body, into a "skinny girl." "Knock twice"--slap the vein to make it more prominent.
Sorry. It's just what comes to mind. The line "In the night you hide from the madman you're longing to be" is one of my all-time favorite Steely lines. You want to be wild and crazy, but at night you have to face the demons that come with your dream, and it's pretty scary.
This song forms another William Gibson link: in Idoru, a key scene occurs in a private club/ cafe, atop a bombed-out building, called "The Western World."
Charlie "freak" Melonic (4/12/99):
I was listening to Steely Dan's Gold album this weekend while I worked
on my garage (with "Here At the Western World") and I couldn't help but
think about somebody's (was it your's?) feeling that it was about
Well, it very well could be, but I happen to have more of a "House of
red light" look on it.(practical as it may be) It sounds like a very
prostitution house where regular "customers" (Johns) go. The sailor
made me think of the common image of a sailor coming
into port, drinking his a$$ off, and then buying a prostitute. "Ruthie" appears to me to be perhaps the "Lido's" only prostitute, giving the customer the silver key to open the red door to the bedroom upstairs- red implying the "red light" often associated with prostitution. The "knock twice, rap with your cane" line only conjurs up images of older, perhaps "more dignified" customers leading to the feeling that perhaps Ruthie is also older, giving merit to the Jackson versus Franklin! "we've got your skinny girl" gives rise to a feeling that perhaps there isn't much lovin' left in this girl, skinny being akin to worn out, versus the more popular belief that skinny is attractive. The Western World title brings up images of a prostitute house located in a Germanic district of a city...such as "Klaus and the Rooster have been there too." Perhaps the famous line "In the night you hide from the madman you're longing to be...." refers to a guy being madly in need of a female companion, and the attachment that comes with it, but he "hides" from that way of life by taking a prostitute.
Fletch (GB, 3/9/00): Do you think the word 'Jackson' in HATWestern World, could refer to a....well.....male body part? Thats the idea I got when I 1st heard the song....
tom (GB, 4/21/00): two examples of one word turns in HATWW
"see" and "inside"
Lay down your Jackson and you will see
The sweetness you've been cryin' for
"see" - ah it's not a house of prostitiution after all
but a strip joint where the ladies perform to men behind dark mirrored glass. He isn't experiencing the warm body
physically but only with his eyes. "See" hits home the intimacy is only visual, huge difference. So that urging is not
the man raps with his cane to let the women know there is an attendant
in one of the booths and they need to get up and
start "performing" again
part two "inside"
In the night you hide from the mad man
you're longing to be
but it all comes out on the inside eventually
they could have said "comes out on the outside"
but the "inside" is such a twist
the man is struggling with his loneliness
he is aged (the cane) and wants the stimulation of young women
it has been a visual not a physical encounter
but his insides ache from his unfullfilled desires
and he struggles with not having a women
and all the sweetness that entails
but to see it in front of you
may partially gratify but really sends him to terror on the "inside" and he knows he really can't handle the women
physically anyway, so the mind and the body not at one and the visual the partial fullfillment
Midnightcruiser (9/8/01): Could it be perhaps that the "Jackson" in Here at the Western World refers to a painting by abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock? When I first heard the line "Lay down your Jackson and you will see the sweetness you've been crying for," I took it to mean, you obviously don't have the capacity to relate your screwed up emotions to Pollock's nonrepresentational images, so stop staring at them. Just a thought!
by William Gibson. My raving about this guy must be getting
Clas (GB, 5/17/98): Cruel intro. Cruel groove.
Dr. Mu (GB, 9/3/98,
a round-robin GB lyric guessathon): It almost sounds like "Come
or "Young Love" but I believe it is actually "Dumb," a play on the
luck" running theme and the self-centered, cocaine snorting coulda been
young turks from the Bright Lights, Big City novel and movie who are
"But beyond that not too much..." (my favorite turned phrase, between drugs, AIDS, loss of direction and romance, love becomes a "virtual" experience....
Dr. Mu (GB, 9/4/98): Maj: If it's a *she* with pirate radar why would she be looking for "trim?" Since the main characters of the movie were heterosexual, I'll skirt the rejoinder. Plus the charaters were all quite superficial and "trendy" until the Michael J. Fox character (miscast city) sees the light at the end.
TheStranger (GB, 9/4/98): lots of interest around here these days in 'century's end,' & i can't disagree. it's got that never-get-tired-of-it glow. in same category is 'here at the western world,' which welcomes you to a hip, melancholy place with beautiful melding of lyrics and music. you just lay down your jackson for the cd and you get the sweetness you been crying for.
oleander (GB, 9/4/98): I dunno, I could hear "dumb," but in spite of the resonance with "dumb luck" "young love" makes more sense to me because of its irony--young love being all peaches & cream and doe-eyes, while we're talking about shark spawn. This song especially gets me because it's so cinematic--opening scene, the roar of the Monday-morning trucks in a slightly hung-over yuppie's ears.... Cut to the floor of the Stock Exchange, with daydreams about a conquest while trading futures;;;; "We cut to this blonde/ dancing on a mirror/ there's no disbelief to suspend...." Brilliant. Conjures up Marilyn Monroe on the subway grate, or Maggie Trudeau in the infamous 54 photo. An unapproachable exhibitionist--Madonna also comes to mind. She leaves nothing to guesswork under the "trim." "She's a concept more or less"--nobody's real, it's all pose and high concept. Then the cynical dismissal of any chance at redemption through hope of heaven or whatever. Just get out there and win one for the Gipper--though here winning is scoring in a different sense. Then the blonde is using her "pirate radar" to find a likely escort or, even better, near-celebrity to glom onto--like the "X-Rays" in Bonfire of the Vanities or Hall & Oates' "Man Eater." But you'll do, and you know that you're the fallback choice. "Let's get to the love scene" makes more sense than "seat," again because of the cinematic theme, and because on a loveseat the idea is to do a lot of touching--which is not the case in this song. These Tomorrow's Girls allow just this much of an approach, and God help you if you try more--love as a virtual experience--well-put, Mu. I also love how Mr. Fagen draws out the "l's" lasciviously. I know this was written for a movie, which may be why he/ they chose these images, but you don't need the movie to dig it.
the joKer (GB, 9/4/98): "Bright Lights, Big City" is one of Jimmy Reed's best-known songs from the '50's, I believe -- it's the song (played in that movie, even!) that made me a fan of the late Chicago bluesman.
fezo (GB, 9/4/98): So does anyone know if "Century's End" was written specifically for the movie. I never thought so given its futuristic title. I half figured it was part of the recordings that eventually produced Kama. It would fit with "Tomorrow's Girls" and I believe Snowbound was actually recorded in 1986 which was a little before Bright Lights came out so "Century's End" could have been recorded around that time too as part of a bigger project.
John Henry (GB, 9/4/98): Didn;t Fagen cowrite it with a guy named Timothy Meher? Don once said he really liked the way Tim's lyrics came out.
Pete Fogel (GB,
Tim Meher did cowrite "Century's End", and unfortunately died soon
it's release. About six months before the movie came out, Joel
who produced the soundtrack, gave me a copy of the original lyrics
were different from the final version.
I've had a clip Donald's version of "Bright Lights, Big City" in my computer for a while. I haven't put it on my site yet, but you can hear it here (or here)....
EvivaLaughs (GB, 9/4/98): fezo--re: Century's End--my theory exactly. As Oleander guessed, the rawtha generic lyrics only tangentially allude to the situations in the movie, and some have NOTHING to do with the movie. Maybe Fagen had already written a song about a club called "Century's End" (not in the book or the movie--dontcha love the Dan's fascination with bare with double-meaning names a la "Western World") and when he got the movie deal, changed a few lyrics to meet the movie requirements. (Did you like the book too? SO much better than the movie. Jay McInerney turns a fascinating phrase like a chef turns an omelet. I couldn't believe that was his first novel.
Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney, Vintage, 1984
"Bright Lights, Big City," the movie, with Michael J. Fox and Kiefer Sutherland, directed by James
"Bright Lights, Big City," the tune which started it all, Jimmy Reed (per joKer, check out the boxed set)
The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe, also made into a movie with a miscast protagonist (Tom
Hanks) in 1990 by Brian DePalma.
"Man Eater," by Darryl Hall and John Oates, on Greatest Hits Volume One (volume only, that is)
"Snowbound" and "Tomorrow's Girls," on "Kamakiriad." Check out the commentary on "TG".
"Here At The Western World"--see above.
also find this song on "Gold." It was written for, of all things,
the soundtrack of a movie called "Heavy Metal."
tune appears on "Decade," and was written for the soundtrack of,
terrific tidbit of Beckeriana appears only (as far as I know) on the
import version of "Eleven Tracks of Whack."
"The Mock Turtle Song"
This song appears on "Steely Dan--Forward Into The Past," the cd I love to hate. I include this only because it's the song of the Mock Turtle, in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, set to music. It's fun to read the song in the book, and admire the pictures by Sir John Tenniel or Peter Newell, while listening to our heroes. This illustration, with the Mock Turtle at the right, is by Arthur Rackham. Thanx to Father William.
Adventures In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. Revisit this and
his otherworks; you'll be glad you did.
"Don't Let Me In"
This is on "Steely Dan--Forward Into The Past," which has been mentioned before. I've been having some superego vs. id/ ego struggles lately, and this hits me as one of those struggles. It's also a very Steely inversion of the usual rock theme of baby, please let me in. The narrator's superego could be warning the song's recipient to keep the door locked against him no matter what skillful emotional appeals--or threats--he might make, as Dr. Jekyll might warn against the appearance of Mr. Hyde. He reinforces this warning with his feral howl in the chorus' "nononono-woa-no-no"--straight from the id. I can hear the snakes in the basement slithering up through the vents of consciousness; the trap door flapping in the hot wind from hell. I can double-hear "bleeding arms" as "pleading arms," which gives that line even more pathos. Is he referring to a suicide attempt? And the "pounding heart" makes me hear Poe's "The Telltale Heart" (not the plot, but the incessant sound, echoing the rat-a-tat knock on the door of the brief drum intro). Shivers!
Or else it's the id & ego talking. They are devious and driven enough to make this a malevolent, B'rer Rabbit-style example of reverse psychology--the worse he sounds, the better he sounds. The music underlines this perverse plea--threatening but hooky. After all that: of course she'll let him in.
Telltale Heart," by Edgar Allan Poe
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
"Wet Side Story"
IMHO (GB, 7/13/98): Wet Side is about a computer geek who takes a break at a diner or coffee shop or something, meets a girl, gets freaked 'cause it's the "real world" (The "wetside", as in wetware, a slang for biological, living matter [distinguished from hardware and software]).
Clas (GB, 7/14/98): I thought "Wet Side Story" was a Womans Lib-song. -Let the man sleep on the wet side.
Angel (5/25/01): Ok, the following is my interpretation of Wetside Story.
Dirt wrangler's got to take a break some time
Got to feed the machine
Steamer Heaven is empty
Couple of kids in behind the counter
The lovely Janine
Soon as he walks in the door she's smilin'
Covers his eyes with his hands
'Cause everyone knows that it's scary out there
When you jump to the wetside
Where it's cold and it's loud and it's screaming with light
Where it's way complex
Hacking through all the harsh effects
goes for a Bomber
Who wants to walk with an angel who's healing
We're gonna talk
Gives him back a reward
A few bloody tears and you can feel the flames arching
Off the roof of the shop
For a moment they swung on the edge of history
Fell into animal time
out on the tarmac
It was alive with the sweet sounds of summer
Oh, the Steamer's all right
Mick tries to remember
Somethin' kinda cool but it's already fading
To straight black & white
"Maybe I needed a girl at downtime"
Covers his eyes with his hands
I go along with the computer geek scenario. Mick gets hungry and stops over at the Steamer Heaven. Janine, smiles at him and he totally freaks out, covering his eyes with his hands.
The very critical Verse 2
Mick orders some food and Janine decides that he needs something more physical than food alone. Things get pretty hot and with the climatic (literally) "Fell into animal time". The deed is done.
Mick just totally overloads and blacks out. The line about the Steamer being all right refers back to verse 2 and the fact that the fire, was indeed, inside Mick himself and not the building. Then the final thought about needing a girl at downtime, causes him to cover his eyes with his hands once again. Obviously, he hasn't gotten over his fear, yet. (My money though, is on the lovely Janine).
"The Second Arrangement"
The Steely oeuvre could be regarded as a sketchbook of psychopathology straight out of the DSM-IV: you could find paranoid schizophrenia in "Don't Take Me Alive" and "Third World Man," pedophilia in "Everyone's Gone To The Movies," antisocial personality in "Everything You Did" and "Green Earrings," sadomasochism in "Your Gold Teeth" and "Take It Out On Me," borderline personality in "Don't Let Me In," sexual obsession in "Dirty Work," delusions of grandiose type in "Glamour Profession," fetishism in "The Fez," neonazism in "Chain Lightning," and mental disorder not otherwise specified in "Bad Sneakers" and "Aja." Not to mention all manner of substance abuse. OK, OK, I'm no psychiatrist, but I can make my case, except for neonazism, which should be in DSM-IV.
"The Second Arrangement" is a brilliant study of a textbook narcissist. You remember the mythical Narcissus, the unbearably handsome lad who turned into a flower after pining away as he stared at his reflection in a pool. Don't forget, though, that his sin was not vanity: Nemesis -- the goddess of righteous anger -- made him fall in love with his own image because he cruelly rebuffed all those who loved him.
The narrator in "2A" is en route from dumping one lover to starting up with another, apparently a "mutual friend" whom he had been cultivating (seducing) while segueing out of the "first arrangement." Clearly, this is a well-rehearsed pattern: "You should know the program/ Just one red rose and a tender goodbye," and "Now it's time to redefine the first arrangement again." His perception of his serial affairs is binary -- they are infinite iterations of loving and leaving.
He begins with a series of romantic platitudes which show his callousness: "Pour out the wine, girl/ I've got just two friends in this whole wide world/ Here's to reckless lovers/ We all need somebody." How dashing he looks in "the yellow Jag" (12-cylinder XKE?) with all he owns in his "Gladstone bag" (named after the favored suitcase of the polished and erudite prime minister of Victorian England).
So he moves on. Now, who steps out? Many have heard this in many ways; I hear it as "LaRue steps out/ With no regrets...." Lash LaRue was a cowboy star of the '40's and '50's who sported black duds and brandished a whip. Now there was a guy who knew how to scratch the itch in the American id. He also claimed to have been married ten times, and if he wasn't an ace narcissist, I'll eat that whip (I don't want to get ANY email about this comment!). Could the song have been referring to him? Discuss among yourselves. There certainly are other Steely references to the Western genre ("With A Gun," "Do It Again," "Only A Fool Would Say That"). Well, if that's too much of a stretch, Chris (at the Steely Dan Shrine) thinks it's "the roue," and lovebob sings it "the rube." I think this guy is clearly anything but a rube. Chris may have been meaning roue', a French term for lecher, but it's not pronounced "roo." Boy, it's fun to obsess when nobody knows what the REAL lyrics are.
Anyway, to a narcissist, other people are there only to serve and build his self-esteem and gratify his every appetite. So dumping his lover is "only the natural thing" if she has become boring, or there's something a little better on down the road--like fresh romance and devotion. That's why he has "no regrets/ A sparkling conscience/ A new address."
He makes a pretense of discussing the whole ugly business: "It's a sticky situation/ A serious affair/ I must explain to you somehow," but since insight doesn't serve his purposes, any attempt to analyze or even excuse his motives or behavior smites him with ennui. So he withdraws --"right now, I'll just move back one square"-- chesslike. You may remember seeing another chess reference in "Dirty Work" (or "Knight By Knight").
Narcissists tend to dump friends the same way, and blame the falling out on the other person. Our hero mocks his friends' criticism: "Here comes that noise again/ Another scrambled message from my last, best friend/ Something I can dance to/ A song with tears in it." His fed-up (and used-up) former friends finally dump him, but, he thinks, only because they envy his dazzling personality and luck in love: they suffer from "the routine politics of jealousy" (one of my very favorite lines).
What really is dazzling is how the Dan captured the nuances of this sleazeball's pathology so poetically. If you don't buy the narcissist angle, Dr. Mu thinks that he's a gigolo, just moving on to the next day's work. Which may very well be, and I'll be picking leather from between my teeth.
Silvers (4/1/99): This is another Dan oral report from L.A.,
isn't it? It's a song about a shallow, hollow man who's incapable
of friendship, yet (the Irony Twins at work) "friend" pops up all the
through. Insincerity -- the "Luv ya , babe!" mentality.
friends abandon me," as if he ever had any to begin with.
"The home of a mutual friend" has to me always meant the site of the tryst. Bothe parties are married, and you can't meet at her place or at his, so rather than rent a motel room, simply find a cooperative acquaintance (e.g., "The Apartment").
Sure, he's married, he's just not a fanatic about it. He can't even stay faithful in his affairs.
Who is the wife? Possibly a doormat, but I'll hazard a guess that she knows everything he did and lets him have his head, as long as she gets the material possessions and the social status he provides. (No political significance.)
Now WHY should "you . . . know the program"? It's not likely to be a long-term affair, so maybe the answer is that he chooses only other experienced adulterers has been through this a time or two before. Interesting, then, that he chooses a partner experienced in deceit rather than a young single woman who's dreaming of him leaving his wife for her. No, both people in this assignation are equal partners in crime.
Expanding a bit on the chess imagery: in this "sticky situation," the king is under attack and, unable even to move pieces between himself and the attacker (s), his last-ditch defense is to run away. Within the rules, though, he may only move one square at a time. It's a slow-motion chase with no real chance of escape.
(3/31/99): Like "Green Earrings," I didn't see it as
more than a love relationship thing: my first listen gave me the
impression that he's acting cold and composed to try to console
looking for upsides as in "One Less Bell to Answer." Fagen
strikes me as sometimes torn between narcissism and total
He doesn't think he's a great vocalist and he's indecisive as hell
putting out his work, yet he often projects the idea that he's too good
to hash around with all these pathetic earthlings....
Larue: Isn't that French for 'the street'? I thought it was a clumsy way of saying he's back in the street, so to speak.... Rue also means regret so with some stretching: the rue steps out, thus, no regrets.
(Blue Book, 5/29/02): Well, having seen some of these files
the Metzger site, I have been
taking interest in "The 2nd Arrangement." I was over at the Fever
web site and there was a discussion regarding a line in the chorus.
claims the line is "Larue steps out, with no regrets". I'd like to
this...how about "The Rue steps out, with no regrets." Basically a
of the narrator's guilt, sorrow, etc. that he should feel from playing
this two-timing game. Or potentially the narrator tells his lover the
news, and his lover leaves upset (The Rue). I think "Lash Larue" is a
narcissist case, but noticing the song's lyrics the guy never talks
anything other than the situation at hand...and being a self-centered
it makes a lot of sense he talks about himself and the things that
Different versions of the lyrics reside in The Steely
Shrine and Tomas Broberg's excellent site.
For the only extant live cover of "The Second Arrangement," and what a gem it is, hie yourself to Le
Bar Bat and The Steely Damned.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, American Psychiatric
Association, 1994. Some of my favorite bedtime reading.
Chris' Steely Dan Shrine, for lots of lyrics to Steely rarities, and comments as well.
www.andymetzger.com for all your illicit wants and desires. Thanks, Andy.
(11/28/99): What is the Kulee Baba? It is almost certainly a
religious rite since almost all rituals from early cultures are
in one way or another. It's described as "cruel," but that is a
pronounced by the narrator; I'm sure the participants don't find it
- it might involve some sort of cutting of one's flesh, probably while
in a trance state brought about by the dancing and perhaps aided by
However, this comment does indicate the narrator's point of view, which
seems rather condescending toward the participants.
This leads to which of St. Augustine's comment the narrator might find applicable to the Kulee Baba, since he seems to view it as some debauched primitive thing rather than a religious ritual - the cameraman's "beginning" the Kulee Baba as the broadcast ends and the participants leave is indicative of the view of the Westerners that the ritual is without deeper meaning; that it is something one can do without needing to know the background and be a part of the culture. However, the narrator does say that he "preserves great moments as they come," so perhaps he does view it as something important, but maybe only as some sort of interesting cultural material that he’d like to record to satisfy people's curiosity.
Quotes from St. Augustine that might be what the narrator had in mind:
"But we are carried away by custom to our own undoing and it is hard to struggle against the stream...."
"Crimes against other men are committed when the emotions, which spur us to action, are corrupt and rise in revolt without control.
Sins of self-indulgence are committed when the soul fails to govern the impulses for which it derives bodily pleasure...."
"I was trying to find the origin of evil, but I was quite blind to the evil in my own method of research...."
"All things are fit and proper not only to the place but also to the time in which they exist."
[This sounds like it fits in better with my view of the Kulee Baba than the narrator's]
"I stood on the brink of resolution, waiting to take fresh breath.... My lower instincts, which had taken firm hold of me,
were stronger than the higher, which were untried. And the closer I came to the moment which was to mark the great change in me,
the more I shrank from it in horror."
"The senses are not content to take second place...."
And, finally, the two quotes that I think the narrator was most likely referring to:
"[Men] are an inquisitive race, always anxious to pry into other men's lives, but never ready to correct their own...."
"Have hope, and persevere until the night passes, the night that is the mother of sinners.... "
[I think this is the best match, since it fits in with the "What a night" comment that precedes it and also with the part about New Orleans.]
"A Horse In Town"
G (GB, 7/8/19100): On the day I'm about to see Steely
live for the first time since being a fan from the early 80's, down at
Jones Beach Theater by the Atlantic Ocean on such a perfect summer day,
I'm jazzed for another incredible reason.. After finding the official
website in March, I wrote them a question about something my ears
listening to the muddy mix of one of their early songs "A Horse In
It sounds like the first line is "Left New Hyde Park..", so I asked the
source if what I heard was accurate, as I grew up and am living back
Hyde Park, NY!... Naturally they're a little busy these days, so I got
the blanket email saying they can't answer every question, which I
So today, I'm visiting different SD websites, including this one, and I hit the lyric page on one of them, and there it is!!!!
That's exactly what the lead vocalist (not Fagan) sings! I mean, I've owned this cassette of their early work for about ten years, and only recently did i hear that line possibly mention my town. To have this confirmed on the day that I'll "leave New Hyde Park" to drive down to the ocean to see one of my favorite bands for the very first time.....can you say serendipity??? Now I gotta go blab this on their website, if I can. It's pretty freaky...
[anonymous] (GB, 4/26/01):
This bright familiar sun
Rescues a dreary Sunday
On Sunday morning
Like a Sunday in TJ
Drive west on Sunset
Powered by the sun
Watch the sun go brown
Colors from their sunny island
Where no sun is shining
Where the sailor shuts out the sunrise
In that sunny room she soothes me
Her skin, like milk, It's like she's never seen the sun
Wake up Darling, they're knocking, the Colonel's standing in the sun
They're speeding towards our sun on a party run
I'll rise when the sun goes down, cover every game in town
In the last light of the triple sun
Late line 'til the sun comes through the skylight
Now I step into the sun
Under the sun
That noon sun is blinding
Join in the search for sun and sand
I've got to have some time in the sun
To watch the sun rise in the dopest part
Then the sunshower breaks
I'm thinking of a major Jane Street sunrise
From the sunny day I met you
Our salad days.... beneath the autumn sun
Not too far from the earth or too close to the sun
A world become one
cara mia (GB, 4/26/01): inspired by the "sun"
You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
There where neon bends in daylight sky
Late line 'til the sun comes through the skylight
A shadow crossed the blue Miami sky
Now and ever bound to labor
On the sea and in the sky.
While the memory of their southern sky
Was clouded by a savage winter.
That Trans-Island Skyway
Up in the sky
There's that cruel countermoon
Double helix in the sky tonight
Throw out the hardware, let's do it right,
Keep your eyes on the sky
Put a dollar in the kitty
Don't the moon look pretty
Then the milkman screamed
And pointed up at the sky
There in the corner of the eastern sky
The tortured angel of your rising sign
Down in the bottom where your demons fly
Down in the bottom of the eastern sky
Since your daredevil hang glider fell out of the sky
Dusted down in shanty town behind a sky of red
What are the secrets they trace in the sky,
A kingdom where the sky is burning;
"I Can't Function"
(GB, 6/11/01): I believe the quote is "I was a 'W'/Now I'm an
'L.'" Like, the Sixers were a W in game 1, but have been L's in games 2
Blaise (GB, 6/14/01):
They're throwin' a party for big Ida Lee
The man from the skyway, the Chinaman and me
There's so much affection, it's making me crazy
I've run out of reasons for keeping it neat
[Now the scene is a party and probably a foresight of future danfests
be held every year on ole's birthday
The Chinaman is Walter, Ida Lee is Paul and Purdie's the man flown in to overdub
They all love each other very much]
Everybody's laughin', everybody's makin' love
Ida Lee, it's you I'm thinkin' of
Threw out the favors, the hooters and the hats
Put out the candle, and blew out the cat
My temperature's rising, we're all on the chaise lounge
Big Ida Lee, she's nowhere to be found
[Hats and hooters reversed? hmmm... I smell a looooooong subtext from
The second line hints at this reversal in meaning
"chaise lounge" really is a French word mispoken meaning divan. "long chair", chaise longue
Paul is dead?!]
They open the air shaft as Ida walks in
She comes up to me and whispers,
"Honey, where have you been?"
I'm stripping my gears, I'm blowing my fuse
'Cause Ida Lee's giving me somewhat more than I can use
[Paul is not dead
It's Rupaul walkin in (BIG Ida Lee gives it away)
Donald is working on his Rhodes
He can't be bothered]
"Can't Write Home About You"
Of course, no
official written lyrics
are available for this juicy ballad of declasse love. Of note is
the line, "Gin and Rose's, hold on, we'll spiral down." Why do I
say "Rose's," not "roses"? After all, a glass of gin beside a
red rose is a cool image.... Well, because I can, and because gin and
Lime Juice in equal measure make a Gimlet, the signature drink of
Marlowe, Raymond Chandler's detective of the underbelly. It's the
anti-martini, the drink of choice of the jaded and disaffected of the
and their spawn. Any comments from you Marlowe aficionados?
Steely Dan Show"
Book, 6/9/04): I was leafing through
this big dog-eared print out of all the
Steely Dan lyrics that I keep on the shelf, I'm always revisiting this
damn thing, it's like my Gideon bible or a woman from your long
forgotten past that your thoughts occasionally stray back to. I
ought to just punch a hole in it, put it on a chain and strap it to the
john but this time I stopped to look at the words to "The Steely Dan
Show." You know, that tune they cobbled together late in the Y2K Tour
to open the second set? It's a throw-away right, just a little ditty to
bring the collective tush back to the cush so we could all push? That
would be wrong, Bodhisattva breath. This am the Rosetta Stone ovah
heer. Viewing it as I did, there's a little pearl in there
encapsulates so much about them and, by extension, so very much
us as well. Ya know, us Steely Dan nerds? Probably the biggest
collection of neurotic souls on this or any planet? One nuttier
more tortured than the next? Allow me to post those lyrics if I may:
Boys and Girls
They come from all around
From dear old Stockholm
To Copenhagen town
Forget their troubles
In tasty riddum n' rime
So here you are
And now it's party time
Wrap your mind
Around this sound
And let the goodness ripple down
Goodbye to Lonely Street
You're in the Catbird Seat
At THE STEELY DAN SHOW
If you got backpacks
And pointy little shoes
Or just those walkin' blues
A case of heartache
That you're too numb to fight
A secret sorrow
That keeps you up all night
Well don't you fret
It's not your fault
Just lay it all on Don and Walt
Just trip out on these hits
The groove that never quits
At THE STEELY DAN SHOW
So buy a program
And/or a hat
You don't pass up a deal like that
It's only promo stuff
But hey it's good enough
For THE STEELY DAN SHOW
©2000 Steely Dan and their agents
Do you see the second quatrain of verse two commencing with "a case of heartache?" Yeah, that's it, children we have it right there. This is them, they spill it here. Right in the damn middle of this throw-away song. You know how some of us, well, the hard core cases, bust our brain trying to crack the meaning of stuff like, I dunno, like that crazy Kulee Baba? Or how we've mused in the past about how impersonal or how detached these poetic diamonds of theirs are? How little they betray of their own human faces? I wouldn't speak for anyone else on this but for me this is the very heart of Steely Dan. There's a buttload of hurt and longing inside their songbook. You've noticed how everything is always going wrong in Steely Dan songs? You do it again, she brings you only sorrow, I foresee terrible trouble, his starving children cried, let your madness run with mine, drag yourself home half alive, gathering up the tears, there's nowhere left to turn, his lady's aching, cry a jag on me, the feeling was bad at home, dumb luck my friend, don't give a fuck about anybody else, I can't stand her doin what she did, share my poison wine. And those are just the first two albums, it gets darker, well, you all know. It's every song, I swear, or pretty damn close to it. Chaos, pain, destruction, madness, sexual dysfunction, self-loathing, violence, addiction, betrayal, dark spots on your past. Sounds like my mental health report. [rim shot] Thank you. And probably a little like yours as well, dear Blue of my heart, no? Well, what family doesn't have their little...foibles. Yes, laughing out loud, isn't that what we often say? Ridi pagliacco.
And so, a case of heartache that you're too numb to fight, a secret sorrow that keeps you up all night. This is the tortured soul of Steely Dan. It reminds me so very very much of Hamlet. Have you read that lately? Do it, it's not that painful, really. It's the pinnacle of Western literature, I swear, never ever gets old, hell, it's been over four hundred years now, just a taste:
"The heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to." III,2
At the core of Don and Walt's work is this pain. Now before you reach for the cutlery, don't despair. I guess it's just part of being alive. Nobody can avoid it. Awful things, terrible trouble, hurt and loss is all part of this ride. The shit happens to everyone sometime in a lifetime. But speaking it out loud, recognizing, grieving over it and finally accepting it is, I think, really important to well being. No, I'm not a Doctor but I did play one on TV once. Ever notice how Donald's voice is grieving with that whine of his, he suffers great, he has the great gift of communicating human sadness. And in some crazy fashion that seems incongruous but somehow compelling to me, maybe sadness is the road to goodness and happiness. Or maybe goodness is at the end of the road of sadness. Now some of us can just get naked and express that loss, that hurt, that sadness in front of everyone. I hear there are such people. Like Donald and Walter. For those of us whose personalities really don't run in that direction, there's these beautiful songs which are such a gift from their hearts to ours. This is what draws us to Steely Dan and it is my opinion that this is what draws us to each other. And yes, I feel the melancholy out there over the fact that we might not ever see another appearance of that thing we call Steely Dan. I sense this is part of the dysfunction that we've witnessed over here a bit in months past. But we can't let that sense of loss overtake us, we mustn't let it win out. Maybe I'm just speaking to myself here but we've got to encourage each other, and search for that goodness and happiness and outright giddy joy in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the bad things, the unfortunate things, things that maybe didn't work out so well for you, the terrible things, the tragic things that inevitably happen to every single one of us. And not add to the misery by wallowing in it for too long, cradling that hurt of yours. I realize that isn't always possible and it's never easy. And these Steely Dan songs aren't going anywhere, we have them, all 82 of them, they are present and alive and will remain relevant probably long after you and I are gone, up there on somebody's shelf with Hamlet on Mizar 5, each one with a precious pearl inside it. They shine, as do you, my dear old Blue.
And we're not going anywhere either, we're here for each other. Maybe we're oddballs, maybe we're outcasts, maybe nobody understands us, maybe we are the Gaucho amigos, but we fuckin rock like no one else, beeaatches.
I needed to share that whole mess, thanks for putting up with it.
The Rajah turns his human face to yours and nuzzles you warmly.