relates, " 'Gaucho' was typical Becker and Fagen imagery: the two
homosexual partners live together quite contentedly in a luxurious
high above Manhattan until their relationship is threatened by the
of a handsome young South American cowboy wearing a 'spangled leather
and 'elevator shoes.' Becker and Fagen later said that if, when
were listening back to one of their songs, it didn't make them howl
laughter, they regarded it as a failure.
"They weren't at all keen on discussing the lyrics on 'Gaucho.' The only explanation Walter Becker was prepared to give (and even then only semi serious) was the definition of the Custerdome. 'It's, ah, one of the largest buildings in the world. You know, an extravagant structure with a rotating restaurant on top.'
But Fagen was more forthcoming. 'It exists only in our collective imagination. In the Steely Dan lexicon it serves as an archetype of a building that houses great corporations...' " (RITY, p.141)
David Ong, Digest (12/23/97): Ah yes, the lyrics. They're as endearingly obscure as ever. It's obvious that the singer is berating an acquaintance (a roommate or other such cohabitant?) for his association with some poseur, a lightweight, freeloading hipster fraud who's long overstayed his welcome. Beyond that, though, we know nothing. Who are these characters? What are the circumstances of their involvement? What is the Custerdome? In the end, of course, it doesn't matter, because we're hearing a snippet of a diatribe from one character to another, and that's all we're supposed to be hearing. Although it's a problem for some, one of the Dan's signature qualities is its deliberate vagueness, its preference for detailing a moment instead of telling the whole story.
I love this song. The mesh of lyrics and music is absolute perfection. Many have commented that it is about a homosexual love triangle. The narrator can't believe that his lover has taken up with a mawkish climber, a cowboy stereotype in awful clothes. I think "elevator shoes" is a clever dis of cowboy boots. Though the narrator uses business lingo in his tirade, he still loves his wandering "special friend," which he betrays when he compares the studs on the poncho to the other's eyes.
Dr. Mu (GB,
The gaucho is the horse-back riding cowboy of the plains of Argentina
as the pampas. They are known for a bit more colorful dress than the
of the American West. A wide rim black hat perhaps with tassles, a
vest, and flowing shirt adorn the gaucho amigo.
A "dude" is a tourist or "city slicker" who vacations a faux Western ranch to get a taste of the old cowboy life. "Dude ranches" sprang up in California and other areas in the 70's as middle-aged urban and suburban white collar-types spent a few bucks to get in tune with themselves, nature, and hard physical work...kind of pathetic. Anyway, Walter and Donald were probably seen by some jazz purists and perhaps even one or two of their session players as "dudes"kneeling near the sacred temple of jazz. I wouldn't be surprised if they coined that relationship for themselves in the studio...of course later the kids picked it up and became household by the time "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" was released.
Miz Ducky (GB,
Re: the song "Gaucho"--in addition to the original meaning of Gaucho
by Dr. Mu, I always thought its use in the song was a neat pun on the
"gauche" (borrowed from the French), meaning someone who is
or socially awkward. Here's this classy club our narrator's trying to
and his friend brings round this tacky "rough trade" character he found
god-knows-where, wearing this South American version of a Midnight
rig, and being so uncool as to actually snap his fingers to the club
and hold hands with his sweetie! I mean, rilly, how absolutely
I could go either way, actually, on the narrator himself being gay. When he lays the line "I don't care what you do at home" on his erstwhile friend: I can't tell you how many times I've heard versions of that line said by certain straight persons who are not as comfortable with others' homosexuality as they think they are! But in this context it could also be said by a person of any orientation who is just generally weirded-out by an acquaintance's relationship-choices. So ... yeah, like, my internal jury's out on that one. But just thought I'd point it out.
The fallible-narrator aspect of this lyric is wonderful, especially given how economically it's done. Most obviously, our narrator is oblivious to the connotations of his dream-club being named the Custer Dome. That, and the way the music gets all star-struck and dreamy in the chorus when he's describing the Gaucho Amigo (plus the "studs that match your [star-struck] eyes" line in the second chorus) show that the song's actually siding with the supposedly disreputable lovers. Yeah, they're not welcome at this joint; but ultimately it's a point in their favor that they're not welcome. They need the Custerdome and its image-obsessed owner like, well, like Custer needed more Indians.
fezo (GB, 12/2/99): I've always thought "Gaucho" was just the typical* boy burned by girl cause there's a new kid in town song. The competition as seen through the eyes of the jilted lover is reduced to caricature and the angst of the loser in the contest is still right on the surface.
*as typical as any SD song can be
f#maj (GB, 12/3/99): Gaucho is an aging homosexual's superficial hissy-fit avec pause for fashion critique! It's a caricature steeped in Steely tongue-in-cheek [no pun intended].
last stand (GB, 12/6/99): Custerdome - the 'corporate' machine as an extension of the 'winning of the west' (irony of failure\victory interpretations and re-inventions). I guess.
Altamira (GB, 12/12/99): It seems to me that the narrator's objection to the other person's relationship with the Gaucho isn't because they're gay, but because the guy is tacky! The Gaucho isn't a gay stereotype, he's a silly, embarassing person who dresses badly. I've known gay men and lesbians who have said, regarding friends who were dating someone they found embarassing, something like "I don't care if she/he wants to go out with this person, but I wish she/he wouldn't bring her/him along when we all go out" or "I wish he/she wouldn't bring his/her date to my parties." That's how I've interpreted the line "I don't care what you do at home." But maybe I'm just being too charitable. I've always liked the song and found it rather funny; it's brought to mind some of the weird people my friends have dated that I found rather embarassing (then again, they may have thought the same thing about women I was dating).
Dan (rilly! 6/3/00): For those still on the fence as to the narrator's homosexuality, I would recommend a more liberal reading of the line, "I'll scratch your back, you can scratch mine."
Se-Dan Man (GB, 7/25/00): The atmosphere within the Custerdome has the effect of making everything appear to shimmer in that out-of-focus, 70's film-making technique popularly used in "dream sequences" in movies and TV of the day. This phenomena can still be observed through camera lenses in Wal-Mart portrait studios.
8/4/00): What is the Custerdome?
A) Custer's brand of sheep-skin condoms
B) Late 70's NYC hipster slang for "in da house"
C) A pet name for a squat
D) A private exclusive club of some kind
The Answer Man (GB, 8/16/01): Custerdome is a domed, seemlingly invisible large area of hovering, stationary dust stirred up at the Battle of Little Big Horn, which has NEVER entirely settled. It can viewed with special chemical glasses.
Gaucho is a song that has grown on me. I love the way the singer
appears to address his partner and the Gaucho at the same time,
the direction of his singing from one to the other. He is really
ripping into the Gaucho while chastising his partner, and the singer
not seem to care that Gaucho is standing right there to hear it.
One angle in the relationship that I have never heard suggested however, involves taking the line "Lord, I know you're a special friend" literally. He seems to be talking directly to the Gaucho when he says this. Now it might be a little far-fetched, but could it be that the singer is confronting his formally successful business partner ("boy we can't miss," "you are golden," with presentations high in the "Custerdome" board rooms) with concerns that his business partner has recently found religion? (Thus making the Gaucho almost a messianic or prophetic character.) These beliefs have taken over his partner's life - he is dragging this into everything and their business relationship is suffering ("one more expensive kiss-off"). Religious enthusiasts from time-to-time have probably confronted us all, and they can make us feel uncomfortable, because we do not know how to respond - but we will also then laugh behind their back later on. Obviously the "heavy rollers" in the business world would not take a shine to such behavior.
The singer is asking a lot of questions, partially to get a handle of what's going on, but also to try to find out how this Gaucho person can totally disrupt everything they had. Who is he? Why is he wearing your clothes? Doesn't he have a home? Can't he try again tomorrow (hopefully someplace else?)
Gaucho (Merriam Webster Dictionary definition: A cowboy of the
American pampas): Whenever I've reflected on the mysterious
of this song, a sense of some sort of struggle regarding the emergence
of gay sexuality between protagonist and antagonist (perhaps within one
member of a deep friendship between two "straight" or occasionally
inclined men who were previously quite close in terms of their
and relationship) seems hard to entirely dismiss.
Rajah of Erase (Blue Book,
think the Gaucho is a
fascinating, haunting, perplexing person. He reminds me of those
characters in Chekhov plays who are talked about but never appear.
They're always down the hall, in another room, waiting in the sleigh
outside. Here he's snapping his fingers to music within eyeshot
presumably of our narrator. I have a friend who said he always felt
like the Gaucho, the outsider, the impostor, the unworthy, the
substandard. Oh no, that's George Bush but seriously, there is no
character in all of Steely Dan more shadowy than the Gaucho. He doesn't
seem to have a home, he's a nomad. The song is disturbing. I read it as
a gay lovers' spat but mixed in with some sort of illegal activity
going on high in that Custerdome. He's a boudaceous cowboy, openly gay
in his spangled leather poncho. I get the sense that the gaucho is
blowing (no pun intended) the narrator's cover, there's a social
gathering going on up there in the Custerdome that's somehow tied to
business, money, deals. The narrator sounds like a jealous wife but
she's savvy enough to know that apart from what kind of side action her
hubby is getting, Gaucho does NOT belong here. She'll get around to
kicking his ass when the gaucho is shown the door.
That's it -- it's about a kid bringing a stray dog home to his mom during a dinner party!
DACW (Blue Book, 10/14/03): Yes, the narrator is concerned that
the "don't ask don't tell" but
assumed quiet cover will be blown as he moves up in Hollywood society,
revealed throughout the album's remainder as glossy hypocrisy...it's
wryer than The Birdcage, but you getr my drift...I wonder thought if
the Hollywood Society is doomed or the narrator's upward mobility or
both - after all high in the Custerdome oblivious of the pending Sioux
molly (Blue Book, 10/14/03):
I see it more of a partnership rather than a homosexual relationship-I
tend to see our two boys here D & W, fresh off of a platinum
selling album, in the Custerdome of the music biz if you will-or
Hollywood... -apparently D & W have said that a common theme in
lyrics involves a relationship between two people where one ends up
straying off to another person or subject be it drugs, religion, a
lover, etc.... so the narrator's partner... starts bringing this
flashy dude around-not a homosexual but a flashy dealer type-all the
while other people in the biz are noticing this and "laughing" at him (
the narrator) telling him to "get rid of him"-the line "I dont care
what you do at home" is now implying that the drug use is affecting the
workplace-OK the Gaucho wearing the friend's poncho and shoes I'm not
too sure on-maybe that these items represent the partner's selling of
his identity to the dealer-losing himself in the junk-"drop him near
the freeway" -another drug dealer reference like "under the
bridge"-"holding hands with the man from Rio"(uh,hmmm,South America?
Drugs?) and of course my favorite "with the studs that match your
eyes"-pinholes in the eyes, a heroin addict's tell tale sign....
Rajah of Erase (Blue Book, 10/14/03): Gaucho IS about D & W, and the Gaucho is...Keith Jarret. The Custerdome is where they were after AJA, at the peak of their game. And just like the Last Stand, they were sitting ducks for anyone (Jarret) who wanted to bring them down. Then the world swoops in and ba-boom, the both of them were thrown completely off course. We raise our heroes up in this society, then we crucify them for it. It's positively Biblical, for goodnessakes. But it's either Donald blaming Walt or vice-versa, I get that feeling.
Reelin' In The Years, by Brian Sweet
"Time Out Of Mind"