"Glamour Profession"

    Brian Sweet describes this as "yet another song about Hollywood highlife;  a famous basketball star is hooked on cocaine, smuggling in large quantities from Colombia and throwing very expensive parties with the profits." (RITY, pp. 143-144)

   There are some great images in this song--"Brut and charisma," which I always misheard as "brooding charisma," and "celluloid bikers."  "Local boys would spend a quarter/ Just to shine his silver bowl"--his trophy, or his coke spoon?
          I think the narrator is a behind-the-scenes drug impresario with typical arriviste delusions of grandeur--"Hollywood, I own your middle name/ Who inspires your fabled fools?  That's my claim to fame;" controller of the entire "LA concession."  But he is also a mere chauffeur who watches from the shadows as the stars dance in the spotlight.

David Ong, Digest (12/23/97):  In Los Angeles, the alluring trappings of the rich and famous - "calls from my car," "meet me at midnight at Mr. Chow's" - are not the exclusive province of high society, but are accessible to anyone with the customary credentials:  cash.

Not My Nancy (6/10/98):  My opinion on the speaker of the line "That's my claim to fame"--it's the blow.  The drug itself is what inspires the fabled fools.  Kind of a poignant notion to elevate cocaine to the level of a character in the follies of Hollywood.

Michael C. Packard (6/24/99):  Interesting in "Glamour Profession" that they reference the lyrics as:  ". . . from the shadow, where he stood. . .".
In "Deacon Blues", reference is to " . . .that shape is my shade, there where I used to stand. . ."---so, I am not sure if this is where Walter and Donald are
'where' they are when they wrote these lyrics, but are referenced to in one or two earlier songs.  Interesting, though, when you think of it " . . .that shape is my shade, there where I used to stand"---where I have been, am I past that now???

Paige (GB, 6/25/01):  …just repurchased “Gaucho.” Heard the entire CD for the first time in years. So, what’s this crap about ‘Glamour Profession” being one of the most forgettable offerings by SD. Bullshit! This song is cryptic if not totally mystifying. I won’t even spend the time to refer to its musical quality. Close to the perfection we appreciated with Aja. It’s smooth, it drives, never misses a beat.
    Lyrically, the questions must be obvious. I know, they’ve been answered before by those more knowledgeable than me.  If they are true Dan Fans, they will encourage the questions that have been answered a million times before. If not, they are pretentious and boring.
    What is the “silver bowl?” And why would the “boys” pay a quarter to “shine: it?
     I know all about the drug references. They are obvious and contradict the “cryptic” nature of the song.
    Yes…basketball…yet in a way that is not so obvious. Is this urban. The cell phone from the car.
    What is the L.A. “concession?”
    What is the “celluloid bikers?”
     Is this a reference to the “Wild Ones?”
     “It’s Friday’s theme.” What theme?
    “Hollywood, I know your middle name.” What is this? What is the middle name?
    Why is it that Walter has nothing to do with this song?
     I see San Francisco, for reasons I can’t explain.
    The title: Glamour Profession…rich athlete?
    Damn Steely Dan. They have no right to be so complex in the face of such superficiality. It’s a contradiction. The joke is on us.
    They should have slept through English Lit class at Bard.

Dr. Mu (GB, 6/25/01):  The song is essentially a microcosm of the whole album. A Broadway-like pop-jazz production of Seven vignettes describing Los Angeles decadence and delusion. Here, appearances, style, and surface are everything - substance means ziltch. Even the spelling - the English as opposed to American - supposes the faux haute elegance that say a Joe Queenan would skewer. Like getting a hot towel after a meal at the Olive Garden or God forgid Red Lobster. Inflated self-promotion, even probably by the narrator permeate the song (Oleander astutely picked up on this. Within Glamour Profession we have three scenes: the young basketball star, the jetsetters out on the tow, and the deal done in plain view at a pos restaurant, instead of an alley. The star is blow - cocaine, which exploded to match the fat-pace LA lifestyle of the early 90s. Linking the baskeball pro with the jetsetters was pure genius.
    What is the "silver bowl?" And why would the "boys" pay a quarter to "shine" it? A drug reference. I think that's from opium references from the 19th Century. However, I missed the 60s, not to mention the 70s and 80s, and was way, way too busy in the 90s - HELP!
    What is the L.A. "concession?" Selling of the coke and other recreational pharmaceuticals from the obscenely self-important to the vapidly self-important.
     What is the "celluloid bikers?" Linking the Hollywood with the burgeoning biking, marathoning, triathleting, Adonis-like health scene. Show biz kids making movies of themselves...
    "It's Friday's theme." What theme? Theme for a trendy Disco meat market or just plain happenin' place....
     The title: Glamour Profession--rich athlete? Naw, dealing drugs. Drugs drove the film, sports, and lifestyles of the rich and famous scene of the 1980. How prophetic this song was as to the self-importance and greed of the 80s and 90s...and they said the 70s were the "me" decade...

oleander (GB, 6/25/01):  Great series of vignettes, fast cuts between the corrupt basketball star deep into the blow, the nightworld, the Barbados lark, the Szechuan score.... You're right. They're perverse, the Dan. They have our psyches hooked. There's that pulverizing disco beat to pummel us into sonic submission. From the outset, you see and smell this beautiful,  graceful, extremely rich, very young man who has ascended to sudden power in the bizarre, rarefied world of American pro sports (first round draft pick out of high school?). The narrator, leech parvenu, has like no boundaries; since he's the supplier, he thinks he's in the spotlight. Yet he watches from the darkness.... Both a pitiful attempt to be the star he can't be and a distorted sense of being the dark puppetmaster. The thing reeks with double entendres. The silver bowl could of course be a coke spoon, but could be one of the glaring ranks of trophies in Hoops' domain. So you see images of local gangsta sycophants trying to get a piece of the action in disturbing juxtaposition with adoring kids who would do     anything just to shine their hero's trophies. Lots of blinding light and ambiguous darkness in this song. Cruising the Caribbean just for fun; conspicuous consumption of the veneer of experience. That little "tink" in the percussion sounds like the touch of champagne flutes raised in self-congratulation. Then the night life: James Dean, Marlon Brando, the emblematic animus biker badass is our persona of the evening. Also a well-established gay and S&M fetish theme, so lots of flavors of darkness and threat. More illicit if not illegal fun, and tomorrow, we'll be someone else. The LA concession--it's this guy's territory, his turf, a pretty plum sales district. Only the best. Only one who knows the secret heart of Hollywood, its middle name, which he won't say because to keep it secret is his power, can handle it. And in turn it's guys like him, the fast, the loose, the dangerous, who inspire Hollywood to create roles from "Man With The Golden Arm" to "Blow." It's ALL a glamour profession.
    There are three other songs in which Mr. Becker is not. The ghost in the machine.
    The whole album is so bleak, such a set piece of so many LA-manifest-destiny themes. And so funny, and so luscious.
    Starts out heading to the end of nowhere, and ends up in apocalypse.

steveedan (GB, 6/25/01):  This song totally Pegs LA at that time to the wall.

Clas (GB, 6/25/01):  W Becker said in some interview; -We imagined this famous basket-player.
     This is my take on GP, it's pretty obvious....
    A quarter: that's a quarter of an hour. The silverbowl is the spoon you heat up the stuff in.
    And "toll"? Living hard WILL take its tool, and besides, it's rhyming with "bowl"....
    Radar: Jocks nose. Dread Moray Eel: a line of coke. Eurasian bride; that's probably Aja (the cover-model)....
    Middle name: cocaine, that's what inspired our fabled fools....
    Szechuan dumplings: spicy dumplings, small airplane dumps narcotics in waterproof bags, near the shore, it's direct from Bogota.

wormtom (GB, 6/26/01):  Dr Mu suggests three separate storylines in this one,
     certainly intertwined in the underbelly of LA and each enhanced in significance by their respective association
     kind of like the way seedy characters revolve around a whole in a movie like Magnolia or Pulp Fiction
     Another interesting thing about the song is the musical accompaniment. An upbeat jazzy score with drawn out horns that seem to accentuate the tension of the moment and the inevitable spiral downward. like the characters themselves it has a slick facade but hollow core, and sounds like it could self destruct at any moment.
     greek tragedy with an 80's twist

luckless pedestrian (GB, 6/26/01):  i think Glamour Profession prophesizes (sp) the whole over the top consumption of the 80's - drugs, hollywood, hangin
     with professional sports stars, car phones (barely heard of when the song was written), carribean trips just for the hell of it - i love the way the tune carries me down hollywood boulevard in my saab with the top down (i wish, i was in college in the early 80's) some guy in the back fumbling with a mirror, a boy toy in the paaenger seat on the phone with his agent, and a barbie doll trying to put make-up on in the back seat - great tune, great analysis below by all - i firmly     believe that release is underrated because the critics egged and tried to compare it to aja, which is stupid to me because it was a totally different theme than aja, they were out to "do" something different with gaucho, but whatever, these things happen

Fretless (6/26/01):  Sentiments expressed reminded me so much of an interview w/DF from a somewhat esoteric mag. I thought it unlikely that everyone who   reads these pages might have come across it, so- I offer!
    from Guitar for the Practicing Musician
    "I don't think Walter and I were songwriters in the traditional sense, neither the Tin Pan Alley/Broadway variety nor the "staffer" type of the 50s and 60s. An attentive listening to our early attempts at normal genre-writing will certainly bear me out. It soon became more interesting to exploit and subvert traditional elements of popular songwriting and to combine this material with the jazz-based music we had grown up with. In college, we were both intruiged by certain     humorists of the late 50s and early 60s, such as John Barth, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Berger, Terry Southern, and Bruce Jay Friedman. (I've since cooled a lot on these writers). Walter read a couple of novels by Thomas Pynchon. We both thought the predicament in which popular music found itself in the middle 60s rather amusing too, and we tried to wring some humor out of the whole mess. We mixed TV-style commercial-arranging cliches with      Mersey beats, assigned nasty sounding heavy amplified guitars to play Ravel-like chords, etc. The fairly standardized rock instrumentation of the original group added to the schizy effects. We never tried to compete with the fine songwriters of the era [Goffin & King, Lennon & McCartney]. We were after a theatrical effect, the friction produced by the mix of music and the irony of the lyrics."
     How eloquently succint! Can you hear Donald's voice as you read- that, honey dripped mellifluous tone and, important to note:
     I believe this is as straight an answer as any journalist has ever gotten out of the man!
     D&W must take turns being comedian/jazzbo- think of Lenny Bruce bombing with an audience but leaving completely satisfied because the guys in the band were hysterical. Aspiring music journalists take note: try to split them up and interview them apart... then mix. Repeat as needed.
    Glamorous, wonderful friction, indeed.

W1P (GB, 6/26/01):  Living hard will take its toll. Life in LA before Len Bias.

bad_sneakers (GB, 6/26/01):  Glamour profession contains one of the finest works of art ever performed on a 6 string Fodera bass by Anthony Jackson, a blinder of a guitar solo by steve Khan and the immortal ironic Donald Fagen "thats my claim to fame" line - what more do you guys want - harmomelodics ??

Cray Zee (GB, 6/26/01):  1. I interpret "celluloid bikers" as the fashion "theme" for "Friday...."
    2. I don't know how to describe this musically, but just before the start of each verse, there's a one bar interlude with a slow roll on the snare. I always thought that this little intro into the verse sounded like the musical expression of snorting a line of coke -- a little pick me up before the next round of activities.
    3. Mr. Chow is a chinese restaurant in L.A., so I think the dumplings are real food.

GE (GB, 6/26/01):  1)  The lyric:
    Local boys will spend a quarter
   Just to shine the silver bowl
to me rings true of the approximate cost of an "8 Ball" of coke being $250.00 or "a quarter of a grand" in the late 70's early 80's. Shining perhaps related to that last finger wipe before putting the last bit on the upper gums.
    2) ...Len Bias in general [was] the wake up call to the drug abuse among basketball players at the time. Bias died in 1986, long after Gaucho came out but drug use was rampant in the NBA and college at the time and was the dirty little secret the league didn't want us to know. Obviously, Don and Walt had an idea.

Blaise (GB, 6/28/01):  The silver bowl is the championship trophy the player brings home to show off the locals. People would pay just to touch the trophy, never mind shine it. Made up of iron and/or brass,it usually shines behind a glass but this tradition of parading the trophy at parties and whatnot gives the local boys the opportunity. In the song, it's a timely indication that Hoops is successful, he's the champ at the time, he's on top of the world at the moment and has the damaged nostril vessels to prove it. It's a vignette of the pro sports and drugs universes colliding in the late seventies-early eighties. And one of my favorites bass grooves eva, enough said. Here, the parallel stories of Hoops McCann and Jive Miguel are grafted to the narrator's own experience. Like a movie highlight reel developping little sub-plots to better evoke the eseence of an era, a Zeitgeist.

Angel (GB, 7/3/01):  The things that make it so compelling to me are the way the instruments make the noises of the city at the top of the song. The way the backround singers go at it, especially with the Hollywood lines. Yes, it has a disco type beat, but our guys don't just stop there. They put those cruel lyrics and sneering Donald Fagen vocal to work.  If you have ever had a single nice thing to say about Los Angeles, you have forgotten it totally by the end of the song.     Pretty impressive piece of work and their "expensive kiss-off" to the City of Angels. Oh, and you can dance to it, too.

jjflash (GB, 7/4/01):  Hollywood's middle name is "fame."

Miz Ducky (GB, 7/5/01):  I actually *like* that D&W built it on a disco beat--that's part of its diabolical charm. I kind of think of it as the Distopic Disfunctional Post-modern Noir Disco Tune from Hell--which makes it a perfect match for its lyrics.
    In the liner notes to Alive in America, Walter asks whether "Babylon Sisters" represents a healing regression or a slide into decadence. I'd say that question could be asked of all the songs on Gaucho, including and especially "Glamour Profession" -- and the answer would be "some of both, so mixed up together that you can't tell one from the other anymore."
    So it's also just right that IMO "Time Out of Mind" is kind of about the far Eastern religion angle and the drug angle simultaneously. Like that optical illusion image that looks like a vase one moment and two faces the next. It ain't either/or, it's both/and, a synergy much more twisted than either one alone.

Blaise (GB, 7/6/01):  ... most of their catalog seems to lend itself to concurrent relevant interpretations. You always hear of those "cryptic" lyrics in every article you've ever read on the music of SD but that just speaks of the many layers of meaning the listener can peel away over time. I also agree word for word with your sentiments on Glamour Profession as being thematically representative of Gaucho as a whole, may I add.

kd (Experimental GB, 7/8/01):  Satan Disco at its finest. The idea of knowing someone's middle name, brilliant....

Javier Moreno (aka el Rey de Cacao Rock, 4/15/02):  Gaucho is a masterpiece because it was recorded in a very bad moment for the two members of SD.... The best song of Gaucho, The Second Arrangement, was unintentionally erased by the assistant Engineer, and they never recorded it again. A variation of it, Third World Man, was included at the end. But, nevertheless, SD's Gaucho is my favorite album because it's a conceptual album about what we do with ourselves, being prophets in far-away lands. Obsessed with youth -Hey 19-, with Drugs -Glamour Profession-, with Art and Fashion -Time Out Of Mind-, with Cheating -Gaucho-, and, of course, with threesome sex -Babylon Sisters-. I could say also that Gaucho is a Political album about the end of the innocense for Western Culture. It's a neverending source of wisdom, music! ally and lyrically.

About "Glamour Profession" - a deep analysis

“Glamour Profession” could be, in my opinion, the best song ever recorded on analog tape. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen put in this work their peak level of creativity; musically and lyrically. In the Book Reelin’ In The Years by Brian Sweet, “Glamour Profession” is described as “yet another song about Hollywood highlife; a famous basketball star is hooked on cocaine, smuggling in large quantities from Colombia and throwing very expensive parties with the profits” (RITY, pp. 143-144).
    The song is a disco attempt to reach the high levels of the Los Angeles nightlife. It sets up the mood for the beginning of a big party night on Hollywood or Sunset Boulevard. It also features, in seven minutes, some of the best instrumental works ever recorded for American Popular Music. It’s a masterpiece, and it’s my favorite song.
    If I were a Universal exec, I would release it as a single. It’s amazing it wasn’t included in any of the Steely Dan’s Greatest Hits albums. This is the best Steely Dan song they ever recorded.

    The Lyrics:
    The narrator, a suddenly rich drug-dealer making it big in L.A., wishes desperately to be part of the glamour of Hollywood. He feels that he is already a part of the show, but in the shadows of the Illegal business. He looks good, and he considers himself also an entertainer, in a very special point of view. He “entertains the entertainers”:

Six o five
Outside the stadium
Special delivery
For Hoops McCaan
Brut and charisma
Poured from the shadow where he stood
Looking good
He's a crowd pleasing man

    Everybody wants to be somebody, and in L.A., the most important "somebodies" are the movie and music entertainers, being Hollywood the self-called entertainment capital of the World. In this verse we find he is –or he wants to be- a Basketball player. “Crashing the backboard,” means he’s a Basketball player, and during that time there were a lot of drug scandals regarding basketball players; Len Bias is the most important example. “Jungle Jim” may describe, in two words, his physical appearance: white, tall, black hair, just the way Johnny Weismuller was (or probably he only wants to be like him).

One on one
He's schoolyard superman
Crashing the backboard
He's Jungle Jim again.

    The song was written and recorded between 1979 and 1980, and there were no cellular phones at that time. Therefore, it took a lot of money to have a telephone connection in a car. The profits of being a drug dealer impress his dates, again.

When it's all over
We'll make some calls from my car
We're a star

    The chorus describes his business and how the famous people accept it. “To shine the silver bowl” can mean a trophy –a girl, or a coke spoon-. To have fun in this town, you must have money to spend –a quarter can be also fifteen minutes, a reference to Andy Warhol’s fame time-. “If you work hard, you must have fun the hard way”, can be the moral message:

It's a glamour profession
The L.A. concession
Local boys will spend a quarter
Just to shine the silver bowl
Living hard will take its toll

    This is the most important phrase of the song, compressing the entire meaning of the lyrics, so the listener doesn’t get lost:

Illegal fun
Under the sun

    Second part: He goes for some sexual references describing himself as a “Carib Cannibal”, a member of a group of American Indian peoples of northern South America, the Lesser Antilles, and the eastern coast of Central America. The entire “Jack with his radar…” phrase locates our narrator in his car, having a hand-job (“Stalking’ the dread moray eel”) high on Morphine (the Eurasian Bride).

All aboard
The Carib Cannibal
Off to Barbados
Just for the ride
Jack with his radar
Stalking the dread moray eel
At the wheel
With his Eurasian Bride

    “We Dress for Action” is a line borrowed from Kraftwerk’s “Showroom Dummies” (from the album Trans-Europe Express, Capitol, 1977) and it means the dealer care too much about his looks and the looks of the people he hangs around with. He talks about a recent movie -“Celluloid Bikers…” can be a reference to Marlon Brando’s The Wild One, comparing himself with the actor, as he is looked in his famous car.

On the town
We dress for action
Celluloid bikers
Is Friday's theme
I drove the Chrysler
Watched from the darkness while they danced

    He’s the one.

I'm the one
It's a glamour profession
The L.A. concession
Local boys will spend a quarter
Just to shine the silver bowl
Living hard will take its toll
Illegal fun
Under the sun

    Middle section: Instrumental with a piano solo by Rob Mounsey. Good moment for reflection. The Bridge is spectacular: He aggressively declares himself the real source of Hollywood Inspiration.

I know your middle name
Who inspire your fabled fools
That's my claim to fame

    Third verse: Miguel is his partner, bringing more cocaine from Colombia. He’ll go to Mr. Chow, one of the most expensive and high-classed Chinese restaurants in the seventies- to serve his customers. He’ll be having dinner by midnight, before continuing his adventures in the night. Szechuan Dumplings can mean the code word for the cocaine packs he’s going to get. Dumped from a plane coming from Bogotá, Colombia.

Jive Miguel
He's in from Bogotá
Meet me at midnight
At Mr. Chow
Szechuan dumplings
After the deal has been done
I'm the one
It's a glamour profession
The L.A. concession
Local boys will spend a quarter
Just to shine the silver bowl
Living hard will take its toll
Illegal fun
Under the sun, boys

    We are left with a brilliant instrumental fade-out recalling the initial hook. At the end of the song, one can do nothing but stand up and applause. It’s so colorful, so descriptive it can be extended to be a movie or a Broadway musical. A great but illegal adventure. A seven-minute chant. that tells us how shallow can be somebody’s life and to be proud of it, by the deep meaning of its lyrics. Illegal or not, a great experience to listen to!

That’s why I like it, because it goes way beyond lyric and musical interpretation.

You can catch Javier at www.geocities.com/cacaorock

Reelin' In The Years, by Brian Sweet
              "Deacon Blues," on "Aja"