"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"
"Night By Night"
"Any Major Dude Will Tell You"
"East St. Louis Toodle-oo"
"Through With Buzz"
"With A Gun"
"Monkey In Your Soul"
"If you're still here with me/ If you've got this far...." I feel that it'stime for another caveat and disclaimer. You may be getting used tomy blathering, and I'd like to remind you that whatever I say, I AM TOTALLYMAKING IT ALL UP, except when I reference other people who are also totallymaking it all up, or the authors. If I forget to add "I think..."or "It seems to me..." I'm sorry. It's implied. And if youand I have had the same thoughts, well, Steely waters run deep. Andif you think it's absurd to dig this deep into the lyrics--that's whatyour mouse is for. This is my own little personal compulsion, andI'M okay with it.
That said, "I hope you're smiling...."
re: Pretzel Logic lyrics interpretations (in my humble opinion)...
'Rikki'-obssessive Prof. typeof upstate NY college eyes young student..
'Barrytown'-college band (inupstate NY) plays gig near cult based town....
'Through With Buzz'-guy triesto swear off his 'habit'
'Petzel Logic'-nerdy student(from Passaic) reads up on Hitler and the occult....
'Charlie freak'-Burroughsiantale of a street person who pawns his ring for a fix
'Monkey In Your Soul'-Fagenand Becker zing their record co. 'I've got one (album)
and you want four.....' lyricalsequel to 'Show Biz Kids'.......
Ram (GB, 10/4/99): *** PRETZEL LOGIC ***
I dont think it's too much of a strech to say That PRETZEL LOGIC is the ultimate concept album based on the life and times of Charlie Parker....the supreme symbol of post world war 2 alienated hipster junky living in an isolated worldthat exists when the wolves come out to play. James Dean had nothinon this cat as the real rebel without a cause...and if the late 40's/ early50's had a face to represent this time...it would be Charlie Parker, andDon and Walter created a masterpiece that embodied this time with frighteningprecision and clarity. Nevermind The Beatles...this is Seargent Parker'sLonley Hearts Club Band.
1.) "Rikki Dont Lose That Number"- yeah this is his number to score, and its all he has to keep goin. Theozzie and harriot folks dont like his kind, but hey are clueless to thefact that he doesnt care, and they dont even know what he's about.
2.) "Night By Night"- yeah he's slowly killing himself for every thrill.....and he knows all too well that his ship wont come in...its been shipwrecked since his ancestors arrivedfrom West Africa.
3.) "Any Major Dude"- a fleeting glimmer of hope to get him through those dark hours of the night....buthe'll never hide from the demon that's inside of him.
4.) "Barrytown"- he's no monster and he aint lookin for enemies, still his sensiblities are above Eisenhowers America.....maybe in the back of his mind he'd like to find a place tofit in....but man look at the fashion sense of you squares...hahaha.
5.) "East St. Louis Toodle-oo".......yeah Duke knows where it's at...he's a friend.
6.) "Parker's Band"- you wont believe what the boys are blowin....but who's really listening?... I guess Monk is... but man he's dancing in circles again, so who knows whats goin on inside that pork pie hat.
7.) "Through With Buzz"- no...it's not very funny at all
8.) "Pretzel Logic"- dreaming of romatic times long ago....was it better back then ?(Napolean)...willit be better in the future? (The TV).....no probably not....just catchthe wind in your saxaphone today...because these things are gone foreverover a long time ago.....you could read Kierkigard, but "Ornithgogy" saysit better.
9.) "With A Gun" - desperatetimes indeed.....the end is so close at hand.
10.) "Charlie Freak"- down in his plot of frozen space and out...I'm not sure who takes his hand andtakes him home...I would like to think it's the sweet chariot...Don andWalter hate happy endings...but they could have a change of heart?
11.) "Monkey In Your Soul"- the epitaph...turn that Be-Bop down indeed.......
No, I don't agree Pretzel Logic is about Charlie Parker. I just enjoy
at the interpretation. Actually, Pretzel Logic is
all about Tricia Nixon's unrequited love for Frank Zappa.
KD (GB, 11/7/99): Pretzel is the first band's swan song, and the order fits that. 'Rikki'leads off with a tasteful Skunk solo, three words that never seemed tofit earlier on. 'Night by Night' lets the orginal band get funky; looseand tight at the same time, almost like the band was trying to convinceD and W of their R+B chops. 'Any Major Dude' is beautiful, with Denny andSkunk playing off each other and letting the unspoken chemistry dothe talking. "Barrytown" is the real swan song, and I was cryingthe first time I came to this realization. Two rhythm guitars startingoff, piano and tasteful drums pushing the hook through. The lyrics, writtenbefore the boys had even considered some Ultimate Spinach, seem very fitting.Snobbiness. Shallow put-offs and ironic/sarcastic dismissals of peopleby way of clothing and beliefs. The Dylan aspect is well documented, butthis goes beyond. Background vocals go high. Higher.
"Skunk, Denny, Jim, the studio guys are laughing at your shoes, your facial hair and the gear you play through. It's embarrassing. No, you can't come."
the "don't you scream or make a shout/there's nothingyou can do about" line brought the tears. Skunk's pedal steel followingorders, knowing the score but still playing till the final buzzer sounded.The last song by the first band.
"East St. Louis," the throw down of the jazz scent, "this is where we are coming from, healing regression rather than sliding intodecadence. The Eagles started coming from C+W but lost their sense of homein a cloud of kilos and white man afros. We'll stay with what broughtus here." Dean Parks helps out on banjo and D plays that damn sax, duetingnote for note with Walter on guitar.
'Parker's Band.' We might dump our touring band, but we'll still rock. Words about the man who started the bop and two drummers making our balls shake.
'Through With Buzz', mixing
bebopish words and the rock and roll words and licks, coupled with the
ELO-like strings. A lotof ishes and -likes. 'Pretzel Logic,' what can
say? This is how thesetwo create an epic. R+B keys and blues shuffle
into an out and outmasterpiece. WB's note perfect guitar
solo and shoeful bridge prove to us that these boys cando wonders with just an idear and a melody. No expensive help needed here.
tom (GB, 12/30/99): Pretzel logic a concept album
alot of the tracks have Parker's direct inference for sure: PB, TWB, WAG,CF, MIYS
but Ithink alot of the tunes are period pieces and not directly tied to Charlie:RDLTN, NBN, AMD
the title track seems to be set in the era with words like "minstrel" and "phonograph", but then again "seen them on the tv" sorta sets that off, unless it's alater in life look backwards
I've always interpreted the view from one of the local hipsters, Bird's contemporary's pleas formeaning and substance and a longing for something lost
"stepped up on the platform" - time machine? sounds like Donald pulling the leg,I thought the platform signified his recalling when he was playingfor his croonies - yet he's not quite accepted or measuring up here - "wheredid you get those shoes?"
anywaythe neatest line
"well I've never met Napolean, but I plan to find the time"
could be his laid back comment on self significance, like I'll meet him (an inherent impossibility) when I can get around to it (more important things fillthis cat's agenda)
the pretzel logic part of it? perhaps the hipster is living in a past that he neverquite measured up to, a circular tension with a present that's passinghim by as well
first tv broadcastwas A.Hitler at Games. pretzel logic? twisted
becomes body politic.traveling minstrel show- zeig heil, baby!
into the tent. thisholy roller is very convincing. [cue Guido's
on the masterrace from Life is Beautiful. Que Bella] the man gave me
news-maybea junk line to set up the rhyme. but the platform [well, in
you step*down* to the subway platform] refers to the shoes. platforms
trains,platforms for shoes- and maybe storm trooper boots [platform
said freely associating. put down the flame thrower and take
back. love your "circular tension with a present that's passing
nice line! the protagonist has a Napolean Complex and aspirationsof
a lot of people who make him feel smaller still. he's no hipster.he
even have the right features for his master race. go figya.so how does
one convince a major population that it is entitled to executea moral
with pretzel logic.
and,we share this gene pool.each and every one of us. heavy year-2000 sigh. [well, probably each andevery one of us...]
Now most Steely Fans know full well about the N.L. - S.D. connexion.
howmany have actually read the book? Turns out, even a cursory readthru
lightsup one's eyes like a pinball machine, with damp references
fromthe dead paper. N.L. is a book that could conceivably've been
AFTERthe Dan's corpus was established, it smacks so strongly of their
Alright, timefor some real stuff you mightn't a known.
"John and Maryin hotel room (music of East St. Louis Toodleoo)."
This passageis found near the end of the chapter/jagged book division titled "A.J.'sAnnual Party". A trippy porno cavalcade, this is a fun section to readwhile playing the proper songs in the background. I also recommend BlackCow.
I am also certain of (yet unable to refind) a bit about poor boys "throwing their gold teeth".
The entire workhas the feel of Showbusiness Kids, what with 'waiting for the Man' andall. The effect of that song is very comparable to reading the book piecemeal.
During the biennial Panics, Dream Police chase down Mugwumps (read, don't ask). Dream Policesmack of the Dawn Patrol (featured in Night by Night). And no, Mugwumpsdo not carry shotguns.
"Recollect whenI am travelling with the Vigilante, best Shake Man in the industry. Out in Chi . . . We is working the fags in Lincoln Park. So one nightthe Vigilante turns up for work in cowboy boots and a black vest with ahunka tin on it and a lariat slung over his shoulder.
"So I says:'What's with you? You wig already?'
"He just looksat me and says: 'Fill your hand stranger' and hauls out an old rusty sixshooter and I take off across Lincoln park, bullets cutting all aroundme. And he hangs three fags before the fuzz nail him. I meanthe Vigilante earned his moniker. . . ."
Sounds vaguelylike another unwelcome cowboy-dude type. Mr Gaucho.
That's all fornow, I hope you're inspired to read or reread the book from all this.
"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"
In Reelin' In The Years, Brian Sweet quotes Mr. Fagen: " 'That's a verysimple love song to a young lady. I always thought it was a rather erotic, decadent sort of thing. Here you find a guy, a rather rich gentlemen [sic] living in a resort and he somehow manages to capture this young lady.' " (RITY, p. 71)
"One interviewer in America was convinced that the 'number' referred
the single was a marijuana cigarette. Becker denied this was
even that he and Fagen knew of this usage for the word number. 'I think
that's San Francisco slang,' he said, 'but we didn't know that.' Fagen
picked it up from there: 'The fact is we were simply referringto
a phone number, so I think people should take the lyrics more
[it'll] be on the safe side.'
"The realitywas really quite simple: there had been a student at Bard College called Rikki who had made quite an impression on Becker and Fagen and they decided to utilise her name for the opening song of the album." (RITY,pp. 71-72)
Mock Turtle (GB, 8/5/98): "Rikki" is about a damn phone number.
KD (GB, 11/7/99): ... could be the most bitter and angry song of all time. It's right upthere with 'Like a Rolling Stone.'
2/28/00): Until I was 17, I used to think the bridge lyric in
went: "you tell yourself you're not my kind/but you don't even know
But thatcould never work, the fella in the song never had that sort of confidance.He had game enough to know that Rikki needed his number, needed him andwhat he could offer her, but didn't have enough faith to swear that- regardlessof what she thought or said, she was already his. He just blows that she'sof no clue of her own brain.
When Iactually saw the real lyric a few years back, I was sad..because the songwas so sad. But it wouldn't work any other way.
Roger D. Friedman (New
York Observer, week of March 6, 2000): By the time Mr.
Mr. Becker split up in '81, Steely Dan had turned out seven
platinum albums and a dozen or so hit singles, including the sarcastic "Reeling in the Years" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." What is that latter song about, anyway?
Mr. Fagen: "We always thought of Rikki being a girl and the number being a phone
number. He [the narrator] was a desperate guy."
Mr. Becker: "The idea that this girl has stumbled into some kind of debauched situation
and has momentarily recoiled from it."
Mr. Fagen: "In the 70's, linear lucidity wasn't that big a priority."
In reading people's views on Rikki here, I am surprised that nobody
the opinion that it is simply a silly ode to Rick Derringer.
it relates an episode from one of Derringer and the Dan's
That's what I've always figured.
1) Derringerplayed guitar on RDLTN, one of a few songs with a prominent guitar near-solo
2) The coverof the RDLTN single (I think it's the cover, in any case its some promotionalitem associated with the single) features a 'woman' tucking a business card into her garter. Upon close inspection thewoman is revealed to be a man in drag, and I have heard that this pictureis in fact of Rick Derrringer himself.
3) the title
4) It seemsto me that coming from the Dan, this song is too sincere to be a simplebroken heart song, as many have advocated. I think it would be justlike Don and Walt to guise lyrics about attempting to set up a gig as a'love song.'
I imagine anepisode in which there was some friction between Derringer and the Dan,and he storms out of the room, only to get in touch later to record thesong.
Seems straightforward to me
5/14/01): This song just doesn't work as a typical
break-up where the guy's heart is broken and he really wants the girl
keep his number and call him later. Something else is going on here.
To be supportable, an interpretation must answer or at least account for some nagging questions raised by the lyrics. For example:
Why did Rikki get scared?
Why is this phone number the only one Rikki owns?
How do you make sense of the bridge:
You tell yourself you're not my kind
But you don't even know your mind
Consider the song in light of the following scenario. Rikki is a young
man frightened and confused about his sexuality. [Note the gender
ambiguous name (at least in the way it sounds) and that, other than the
way the name is spelled, the song does not contain any real indicators
of Rikki's gender (i.e.,"Honey", or "Lil' Darlin'") so often used by
Dan.] Rikki had his first homosexual encounter with the
(and perhaps others), and freaked out. The phone number is either the
or some other number through which Rikki hooked up with the Singer. The
Singer, knowing that Rikki's fear and confusion is not unusual for a
man first coming to grips with his homosexuality, tells Rikki to hang
to the number. The number is Rikki's link to the gay world, and the
link to Rikki.
The first verse sets the scene:
We hear you're leaving, that's OK
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart
Note that Rikki scared himself, as opposed to the Singer causing Rikki to be scared. In the chorus, the Singer, knowing Rikki will eventually calm down and once again want to explore his sexuality, tells Rikki to hang on to his only link to the gay world:
Rikki don't lose that number
You don't want wanna call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don't lose that number
It's the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home
The Singer, of course, also has an interest in Rikki calling him when he feels better. In the second verse, the Singer tries to calm Rikki down by offering some suggestions of "activities" that might be less "scary" than what went on during their "little wild time."
I have a friend in town, he's heard your name
We can go out driving on Slow Hand Row
We could stay inside and play games, I don't know
And you could have a change of heart
Rikki don't lose that number . . .
The bridge is critical. In a "normal" relationship, if Rikki were breaking up with the Singer, Rikki would say "He's not my type." But here, The Dan has bastardized the cliche to fit the song:
You tell yourself you're not my kind
In other words, Rikki tells himself that he's not like -- that he's qualitatively different from -- the Singer. The Singer responds by telling Rikki not to be so sure because Rikki's confused:
But you don't even know your mind
And you could have a change of heart
Dr. Mu(GB, 5/14/01): "You don't want to call nobody else" I guess the number then is a 70's version of Maxwell Smart's shoe-phone...
oleander (GB, 5/14/01): Re: Slow Hand--were they into Clapton or something? The Pointer Sisters hadn't yet come out with their paean to slowhandedness.
CrayZee (GB, 5/15/01): Don't know about Clapton or Pointer Sisters. The impression in my mind created by Slow Hand Row is more of an up and down stroking thing.
Rikki (GB, 5/15/01): Is that a skeleton in your closet or are you just glad to see me?
Cray's take is very interesting, considering this cyber-art interp of "Rikki...." Can you say frisson?
I have long thought that this was a song to a girlfriend/girl friend
has crossed the line into full scale addiction. She is on her way to
and he gives her instructions to just mail his phone # so it will be
when she gets out. A silly way to do it but normal rules do not apply
has kind of freaked about her own behavior in retrospect and is scared.
She must say, at some point, that he is to good for her, go
tell yourself your not my kind} etc. He counters: you are
only telling yourself (in this state of DT's) you are not my kind. The problem is that at this moment you are to confused to "know" what you are saying or "your mind". The referance to slow hand road seems to possibly mean "steady hand" as in no shakes, however it may just be a referance to life in the slow lane. Upon her return from rehab when she gets "steady" they can just stay in or drive away from the same traps and trappers of the past.
In The Years, by Brian Sweet
"Like A Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan, on "Highway 61 Revisited"
"Night By Night"
8/12/01): I watched ”Alice doesn't live here anymore” (is that
right title? Anyway, great movie)
She says something like -I live like this until my ship comes in (meaning a good man, who can make her happy and safe).
I thought the meaning in ”Night by Night”; ...when my ship comes in... meant when the end is coming, death or something. You know, stepping out in the big nowhere.
8/13/01): Recently, posters were asked what their least favorite
Steely Dan songs were. I was surprised that a couple of people
the song “Night By Night.” I had always considered this cut to be one
my favorites. Not just due to the edgy musical style (the rock ‘n roll
Steely Dan) but also because of the edgy lyrics that reinforce the
we see in many of their songs.
So, I went... to see what others had written concerning Night By Night. I was interested in how others interpreted the lyrics and what possible storyline(s) existed behind the song. To my amazement, there were no interpretations posted for this song.
For years, I had listened to Night By Night and did what I think most people do with any song they hear over and over again. We establish in our minds a certain setting and cast of characters that are mostly born of our own experiences. It could be a word or a whole line that triggers a scene that reappears every time we hear the song. Of course, this may reinforce a storyline that was never intended. But, this is not necessarily a “bad” thing. I think that we can agree that music, like all forms of art is open to a wide spectrum of interpretation. I have to remind myself that there really is no such thing as a “bad take” on a song. It is in the ear of the beholder.
That being said, I can think of few other songs that better represent the typical Steely Dan “painting.” Broad and dark brush strokes that are at once impressionistic and yet surgically specific. This song IS quintessential Steely Dan.
When I think of Steely Dan – lyrically, I think of subjects like: drugs, prostitution, sexual perversion, gambling, ill-conceived relationships, mental illness, etc.etc. In Night By Night we see a mixture of these same dark conditions dabbed in what appears to be random association. This makes the bigger picture represented by the song, the subject and meaning in and of itself. It is self-sufficient as a “generic” Steely Dan image. The specifics (of the story) are less important when compared to the “imagery” of the entire song.
But first, a word about the music itself…
Of course, I know nothing about music. So I can’t do “music speak” to all you talented musicians out there. But then again, this may actually give me an advantage. (Let’s talk…)
The music to NBN seems to fit the lyrics to perfection. This is not one of their “simple” tunes. There is a lot going on here. Night By Night seems to mix the horns with the harder rock sound better than other SD offerings. They mix the raw guitar sounds so well with the fluidity of the horn section. Even the violin (like) sounds fill the song with atmosphere. When I hear the complexity of this song (musically), I know that the boys did their homework (so to speak). You can hear the effort that was made to combine everything into a cohesive sound.
The music is angry and forceful. The vocals reinforce this anger throughout. The guitars are raw, crisp and biting and contrast beautifully with the fluidity of the other instruments. Just before the guitar solo (by the way, who is this guy?), you hear the muffled (covered) strings that set up a repeat of the intro. Wonderfully done.
There is anger in this song.
Back to my theory that Night By Night is more a “general” statement about the misery of the human condition (on the streets) than a specific story. The cryptic lyrics allow for the widest of interpretations. We are left to speculate what is going on here…to see beyond the “imagery” to find a storyline that might have inspired the song…if one exists at all.
Is this about gambling? Drug sales and distribution? A (serial) killer on the streets? The misery of the downtrodden? Police control in a small town? Or all of the above?
NIGHT BY NIGHT
“It’s a beggars life,” said the Queen of Spades
“But don’t tell it to the poor man”
I get the impression that the scene is set in a small city community,
has a thriving “bad side of town.” This side of town is typical of the
decay-like conditions of your average dying inner city. There are
prostitution, roaming dogs with no tags, old men standing around a
gallon drum, their gloves missing the fingers, trying to stay warm.
In this scene we have a drug dealer. The addicted are poor having lost all of their income to their demons. The Queen of Spades seems to refer to “fate” of the cards. “You must do the best you can with the cards you’re dealt.” The poor man DOES live a “beggars life” and therein we find the contradiction. The Queen of Spades appears as the “holder” of the cards (or the controller of man’s fate). No need to tell the poor man. He is already aware of his fate.
“‘Cause he’s got to kill for every thrill, the best he can.”
Note that the first three lines are spoken by the Queen of Spades. She continues. The addicted need their fix and will do anything to obtain the money for their self-destructive habit. Inner city murders during the commitment of robbery. They do it for the “thrill.” Not the “thrill of killing” but for the thrill of the high they receive from their addictions. So, they “kill” (rob) for the “thrill” (high).
Everywhere around me, I see jealousy and mayhem
Because no men have all their peace of mind, to carry them
I love the line “all their peace of mind, to carry them.” This line is almost like a life lesson or philosophical axiom. Complete and total peace of mind is never achievable. True contentment is somewhere out there just beyond our grasp. This results in the mayhem of our existence. It is the “drama” of life. Jealousy exists when we are not content or have peace of mind…when we are full of self-doubt. Self-doubt is as much a part of our existence as breathing. The misery of our human condition is really born from within. I think that this line is saying that if we could (in some perfect world) have total contentment and “peace of mind,” we could carry ourselves through this world.
Well, I don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right
But until my ship comes in, I’ll live night by night.
Well, here’s our first look at the dealer (the narrator). It’s pretty straight forward. He is selling drugs. He is contributing to the decline and destruction of the downtrodden. He cares only for the monetary return he receives from the addicts. Yet, there is a hint of conscious. The fact that he mentions that “he doesn’t care” in and of itself indicates that he thinks about it. The “night by night” line seems to refer to the term “day by day.” We all go to work everyday in search of legal tender at whatever cost to our self-esteem. It is the drudgery of our lives as we “wait for our ship to come in.” This is no different than our narrator. This is HIS job, night after night. He too is waiting for his ship to come in (to hit the big time) when he will not have to sell drugs…always on the run.
When the joker tried to tell me,
I could cut it in this rube town
The joker here probably refers back to the Queen of Spades again (cards and fate). But beyond that…the joker could be the dealer above him (in as much as he is the middle man). He is encouraging him that he can make it (as a dealer) in this town. He could build his own little empire of addicts and dealers just as he has done. The “rube” town seems to refer to the “unnecessary complexities” of drug dealing…an overly intricate system necessary in insuring the dealer’s safety. The joker is trying to tell the dealer (narrator) that he can fit within the system
When he tried to hang that sign on me
I said, “take it down.”
The narrator hates what he does, but he does it out of necessity. The higher dealer (joker) laughs at him as he (the narrator) denies what he is…a purveyor of drugs (and destruction). Still, the narrator justifies his trade, convincing himself that “his ship is about to arrive.” “So, don’t call me a dealer, this is just temporary.”
When the dawn patrol got to tell you twice
They don’t do it with a shotgun
I think that the local authorities are on the take with the dealer(s). They go through the motions of patrolling the streets but do little to combat the scourge of drugs.
Yes, I'm cashin' in this ten-cent life,
For another one
I love this line. It seems clear that the narrator has succumbed to the realization that he cannot escape his fate. He is fully entrenched in this lifestyle of drugs and crime. He can no longer see his “ship” on the horizon. He sees his life a cheap (without value)…”ten cent life.” The players may change, but the game remains the same. Thus, even when he attempts to trade in what he is doing, he winds up doing the same thing for someone else.
Well, I ain’t got the heart, to lose another fight
So until my ship comes in, I’ll live night by night
The narrator is completely defeated. He fights to leave behind what he
is doing to himself and others…but it is a fight he will lose yet
And so he stares off towards the horizon, waiting for his ship to come
I saw where there was a Dan fan that created paintings based on his interpretations (or impressions) of SD songs. I don’t think that this is any different. This is simply a painting…an impression.
8/13/01): Paige: Weighing in on Night by Night, I see. Somehow
on this particular song at 1:30 in the morning seems appropriate to me.
Ok, first off. The line is "It's a beggars life said the Queen of Spain" not Queen of Spades (As much as I wish that was the case, since I always had heard it as it's a Vegas life and that works much better with a Queen of Spades.) I got yelled at for that mistake several months ago. :-)
In that vein, there was also talk at the time about who that Queen of Spain might be. Isabella being right up there as a candidate. You might want to try searching the archives for Queen and see what you get. I remember quite a discussion, with research on queens, etc.
Fan (5/31/02): I have two SD chord books both
this song. One has Queen of Spades and the other has Queen of
"Any Major Dude Will Tell You"
So what IS a "squonk?" Brian Sweet relates: While recording 'Any MajorDude' some of the musicians were wandering around the studio furtivelyasking each other about the line 'Have you ever seen a squonk's tears?' 'What the hell is a squonk?' they inquired. Being unfamiliar withliterature, they were all reluctant to ask Becker and Fagen directly forfear of ridicule, but a squonk, they later learned, is a mythical woodsanimal that has the ability to cry himself into a bag of tears." (RITY,p. 71)
Sounds like Lewis Carroll to me, but I've been unable to find it in his works. Anybody have a source for this description (besides Gary Katz?)?
thom (8/16/99): You may wish to check out A Trick of the Tail by Genesis and their song "Squonk." It's post-Pretzel Logic, yet seems to be of the same mythos, with its lyrical mention ofcapturing the squonk and being left with nothing but "a pool of tears."
lucky henry (GB, 5/26/99): Any Major Dude = Any M.D. "When the demon is at your door, in the mornin' he won't bethere no-ooo mo-ore...."
5/26/00): Allright - yet another (actually 2) one word twists
define a dan song
Here goes"Any Major Dude"
any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend
Any minorworld that breaks apart falls together again.
When thedemon is at your door, in the mornin' it
won'tbe there no more.
the two words you ask? simple "falls" and "it"
his situation is so bad that it can't come together but rather out of shear desperation it "falls" together
out ofthe total chaos and dispair his life can then mend
"it"?yes. the demon isn't literal but rather the hangup that has you down forthe count. An object or obstacle that keeps
you downand fearful
Luke (9/1/00): "(Lacrimacorpus dissolvens) The range of the squonk is very limited. Few people outsideof Pennsylvania have ever heard of the quaint beast, which is said to befairly common in the hemlock forests of that State. The squonk is of avery retiring disposition, generally travelling about at twilight and dusk.Because of its misfitting skin, which is covered with warts and moles,it is always unhappy; in fact it is said, by people who are best able tojudge, to be the most morbid of beasts. Hunters who are good at trackingare able to follow a squonk by its tear-stained trail, for the animal weepsconstantly. When cornered and escape seems impossible, or when surprisedand frightened, it may even dissolve itself in tears. Squonk hunters aremost successful on frosty moonlit nights, when tears are shed slowly andthe animal dislikes moving about; it may then be heard weeping under theboughs of dark hemlock trees. Mr. J. P. Wentling, formerly of Pennsylvania,but now at St. Anthony Park, Minnesota, had a disappointing experiencewith a squonk near Mont Alto. He made a clever capture by mimicking thesquonk and inducing it to hop into a sack, in which he was carrying it home, when suddenly the burden lightened and the weeping ceased. Wentling unslung the sack and looked in. There was nothing but tears and bubbles."
- William T. Cox, "Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts"
When I first heard this song, I thought of Lewis Carroll and then Jorge Luis Borges' The Book of Imaginary Beings. I hunted high and low in Carroll with no luck, and spent a desultory couple of years trying to find a copy of Borges' book in your average bookstore with equal success. Then, as I was poring over my surreally disorganized bookshelves one day, I found my quarter-century-old copy, which I thought I'd given away--and there it is, on page 213, between the Sphinx and Swedenborg's angels, the above quote.
The Years, by Brian Sweet (buy & read!)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ,Through The Looking-Glass, The Hunting of the
Snark, Sylvie and Bruno --allby Lewis Carroll, the pseudonym of Charles L. Dodgson,
a very clever and subversive fellow indeed. If you haven't read his works since you
were a kid, suspend your adult prejudices and go read them again now. They are
just as creative and astonishing as ever. Also, if you're into annotation, try Martin
Gardner's The Annotated Alice or More Annotated Alice.
FEARSOME CREATURES OF THE LUMBERWOODS With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts
by William T. Cox ; #1037 Judd & Detweiller 1911 hand stamped over printed 1910.
illus by Coert DuBois. [The astute Luke found this on Bibliofind.]
Lots of other fanciful beasts and loving depictions thereof from Greece
Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings, 1969. A favorite quote therefrom: "As we all know, there is a
kind of lazy pleasure in useless and out-of-the-way erudition."
According to Brian Sweet, this song is named after a town near Bard College "whichBecker and Fagen used as a target for denigrating small town America."(RITY, p. 72)
Expanding Man (GB,
"Barrytown" -- neither Bigotry, Fundamentalism, or Right Wing
Rather, it is Prophecy!
Think about Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry, his arrest for smoking crack ("I can tell by what you carry..."); the distinctions made by locals between those who live in VA, MD, and DC(trust me on this one; lived there for 10 years); the steady depopulationof the city itself ("I know you'd like some company"); the class distinctionbetween the politically-connected elites and the working stiffs who makeup the federal and local bureaucracies ("Barrytown people got to be fromanother world", "a special lack of grace").
The song was written about thetime DC got Home Rule ("I'm not one to look behind, I know that times mustchange, but over there in Barrytown they do things mighty strange. Though you're not my enemy, I like things like they used to be.") and expressesthe misgivings felt by many at the time about the change.
Roy.Scam (GB, 6/1/98): When I heard "Barrytown", I assumed there was a reference to Barry Goldwater (R.I.P.); perhaps some built in irony about bigotry and prejudgingworking both ways (i.e., what if the accepted ones were the outcasts?).I've listened carefully to the bridge of this song, both the demo and thePretzel Logic version, and he definitely says "..the WORD was hurled..",which gives somewhat of a fundamentalist turn to the narrator's point ofview. Had he said "..the WORLD was hurled..", then we've got theBig Bang, scientific side. Close mindedness could go either way,I guess. Anyway, it's one of their prettiest tunes, IMHO.
Lotion Charlie (Newsgroup,
2/11/00): There is a town in Westchester County, NY (just about
called Tarrytown. Supposedly, the Moonies had a
major commune there: "theway you cut your hair" - get it? The song is hilarious when observed fromthat ta
Jon Stone (Newsgroup, 2/11/00) (hi jon!): Barrytown is a small burg located near Bard College (where the boys schooled, or attempted to). The song poked fun at small-town intolerance.
Adamnoir (Newsgroup, 2/12/00): Over there they still do things mighty strange.I live about approx. 5 miles to the east, just adjacent to another Westchester hamlet to where the sweet things from Boston go when they slide on down.
Al (Newsgroup, 2/15/00): Gary Katz denied in an old radio interview that the song is about the Moonies; he said that it's just about a small town. I'm from the New York area and I can attest to the fact that both Tarrytown and Barrytown exist....
Vancouver Murph (7/23/00): I always assumed Barrytown was about Moonies, not just because of the geographical clue, but because anyone who had to pass through U.S airports in the 70shad to run a gauntlet of ostensibly wholesome-looking (Jesus freaks tartedup with bowl haircuts and cheap polyester "business suits") who would waltzup to tired travellers (B&F? See Dias on "Buzzingthe Field", Official SD Site) and say, "You look like you need a flower!"with a big smile. When you accepted the flower, they'd smile even widerand say "That'll be five dollars, please - it's going to a good cause." The first time around for this nonsense, most people would fall for it,and rather than telling the jerk to frig off when he or she asked for themoney, would curse inwardly and hand over the cash (part of the sales pitchoften involved a few commiserative sentences to establish a pseudo-friendlyrelationship ("Missed your flight?" "Yeah." "Gee, I know what that's like.Hey... you look like you need a flower today!"etc.). Experienced air travellerswould learn to avoid these clean-cut zombies by their very appearance (thatcult-member glassy-eyed stare & blissed-out smile) & the fact thatthey always carried flowers - not unusual in airports, where folksare often meeting people they haven't seen for a while - but the combinationgeek-look with the flowers was a dead giveaway. Thus, "I can see by whatyou carry (i.e. flowers) that you come from Barrytown (nearby a big Mooniecompound)" - a very prescient song in view of Rev. Moon's later legal problemsre being a scam artist. Burned-out road musician finally blows up at Moonie& the lyrics are his rant.
Altamira (GB, 7/25/00): I've been to Barrytown (as part of a Dan pilgrimage) and it's a tiny little place, about five houses and an abandoned train station, only marginallysmaller than the nearby Annandale-on-Hudson, in an isolated, rural, butsupremely beautiful part of upstate New York (during my visit to FDR'sestate and library in Hyde Park, about 20 miles south of Annandale, I learnedhe was named for an uncle who was from Barrytown - according to a bookI bought about old houses in the area, Barrytown was once quite an impressiveplace, and is much older than Annandale).
Sparki (5/31/02): My take is the "Barrytown" boy is a gay
and the narrator is a homophobe. "What you wear" and "the way you cut
hair" = the stereotype
that gay gents wore fancy clothes and went to frou-frou styling parlors.
"Go play with someone else" = the man is saying to the gay guy, "leave me alone, I like girls."
"What you carry" = the Gay Pride insignia or the stereotype of a gay man being effeminate and carrying a purse
"Over there in Barrytown, they do things very strange" and "Barrytown people got to be from another world." = Barrytown is a gay community, and the narrator can't see why people would choose same-sex partners
"It was there when you CAME OUT." CAME OUT. Those two words are the reason I think this song is about a gay guy, and the "it" that was there was homophobia and predjudice.
William Gibson gives one of his many Steely nods in reference to "Barrytown" in Count Zero. For example: "It was such an easy thing, death. He saw that now: It just happened. You screwedup by a fraction and there it was, something chill and odorless, ballooningout from the four stupid corners of the room, your mother's Barrytown livingroom." (p. 17)
In The Years, by Brian Sweet
Count Zero by William Gibson (Ace 1986). Yet another of Gibson's unmissable works. Then again so are they all.
"East St. Louis Toodle-oo"
I know, IKNOW! It's an INSTRUMENTAL! Just want to keep you on your toes!
Roy.Scam (GB, 11/24/00): In my historical studies (Don't ask.), I recently discovered that 'EastSt. Louis Toodle Loo' was a reference to the way field hands walked while on the job. Why did you people never tell me this dialectic tidbit? I thoughtit was just a song about a guy leaving a town.
I was impressed, even for Steely Dan, when I first saw the album cover
for Pretzel Logic and saw that they were doing East St, Louis
I have always liked it in a great variety of Duke's arrangements.
I was even more excited after I heard Steely Dan's interpretation
I thought that they really caught the essence of the early sound of the
East St Louis Toodle-oo was originally called East St. Louis Toad Low. It was written about a man the band saw walking down the street one day (in East St Louis of course) who was so stooped over with age that they thought that he looked like a toad. This tidbit was in a book by Stanley Dance about the Duke and also in the Smithsonian collection of classic jazz liner notes.
This song is a loving tribute to Charlie Parker. If you haven't heardhim, close me out immediately, go buy anything he's done, and when you're saturated meet me back here. "Savoy sides" refers to one of Mr. Parker's record labels. "Groovin' High" and "Relaxin' at Camarillo" referto Bird tunes, the latter also to a California institution in which hespent some time. Fifty-second Street in New York City was a hotbedof innovative jazz in the fifties. "A bird in flight that just can'tquit you" refers to Mr. Parker's handle, "Yardbird." "A dizzy weekend"probably refers to Dizzy Gillespie, who played with Bird. "Smackedinto a trance" refers to the unfortunate prevalence of heroin and othersubstance use among the contemporary jazz community.
Onething you might wanna mention that I didn't see noted in the Dictionary.
The point about Camarillo wasn't used just as a geographical reference.
Until a coupla years ago, there was a California State Mental
there -- a place where Charlie Parker was once sent. Hence, theold
jazz tone "Relaxin' in Camarillo"... it's a reference to cooling your heels in the mental hospital in Camarillo. Fagen and Becker were no doubt refering to the mental hospital, not justthe town. There's not much in the town besides that. It's a bedroom community.
I am a newspaper reporter who used to live and work in Camarillo. The mental hospital there, until it was shut down, was old and kinda scary. They didn't
send the criminally insane there,only the real doozies. It looked kinda like one of the Spanish Missionsin California ... long green lawns, quiet, white plaster buildings, nicegardens, etc.
1/29/02): Caught a little of the French translation of Jazz on
tube last night. An episode I had missed about Charlie Parker.
high or relaxing at Camarillo (State Hospital)
Spending a Dizzy (Gillespie) weekend
Smacked into a trance..."
It's all spelled out right there. There's no room for debate on that one.
"Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Charlie Parker Collection," on
Records, as an intro; it includes a wide variety of his most
tunes,and lots of biographical info .
"Through With Buzz"
Brian Sweet quotes Mr. Fagen: this song is about " 'a more or less platonic relationship between two people. There's nothing really sexual about it until one of the young people realises he's being used and starts having paranoid fantasies and breaks off the relationship. There's no symbolism or anything, we never use puns. It's a very saccharine sounding track with a very cynical lyric. We often do that for an ironic purpose. That is, to juxtapose a rather bitter lyric against rather sweet music.'" (RITY, p. 70)
As an incidental note, I find it very interesting that with all the other literary techniques they use--alliteration, assonance, double entendre, literary reference,rhyme, glossolalia--they don't pun. I would love to know why. (And isn't "Lost Wages/ Lots Wages/ Lot's Wages" a pun?)
KenRobarge (Steely Mailroom, 4/22/98): You gotta love a lyric withone line per verse!
Roy.Scam (4/9/99): My spin on "Through With Buzz", a much maligned Steely Dan song that I like a lot: when we're forced to confront the ugliest aspects of our own behavior, we like topersonalize them, make them a separate entity, and even give them a name. This gives us someone to blame and takes a lot of the scary responsibilityoff of our own shoulders. Don't most religious belief systems havedevils and evil spirits to serve this same purpose? This guy Buzztold me he was my friend then he took my money and my girl; he'sprobably a fairy too. Remember Richard Pryor's routine about talkingto his freebase pipe, or Anthony Hopkins arguing with his ventriloquistdummy in "Magic", or Flip Wilson and "The Devil made me do it."? ... I've had a few relationships with this Buzz character myself; maybe that's why I like this song.
Miz Ducky(Newsgroup, 7/29/00): As to "Through with Buzz," I can read some unaddressed homoerotic tension into this brief gem. Protagonist, pissed off at his ex-friend Buzz, accuses him of all sorts of semi-paranoid things. In this vein, he resorts to making (what is in his mind) a derogatory remark about Buzz's sexual orientation, which remark is obviously bogus given he also accused Buzz of stealinghis girlfriend; so the insult sounds more like the kind of schoolyard taunting in which terms like "fairy" get thrown around to the point of meaninglessness. BUT--note also that protag misses Buzz in a most poignant way: late atnight when he's all alone. Makes me wonder what kind of unacknowledgedfeelings he might have had going on for his ex-friend all along.
Ti Bone Ange (Newsgroup,7/29/00):
To expand upon your idea, when I hear the narrator lobbing bombs at
I hear envy, and lots of it. So his "maybe he's a fairy"comment even
like erotic jealousy to me—Buzz always wins, alwayscomes out
on top <insert your favorite gay "bottom" pun here>, includinghis
adventurousness, leaving the narrator in the dust.
Kyle inadvertently raised a good question with his post: how do songwriters write? Any rudimentary study of B&F 's backgrounds reveals that they are not dummies, but well-read and diverse, curious to the point of probing and fascinated by everything weird or once found on the margins of society. Especially in literature,it's not possible to partake in a steady diet of Boy Meets Girl Etc. Andit is in literature where homoeroticism is most often balanced on the razor's edge, where we are made to wonder without always getting a straight answer.
My first exposure to homosexuality happened in Sunday School, studying the friendship of David and Jonathan in I and II Samuel. David wrote: "...greatly belovedwere you to me, your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women"(II Sam 1:26). These two men seemed to fall in love at first sight: "...whenDavid had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (I Sam 18:1).Jonathan's response to David, his soulmate, was immediate and dramatic:"Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan stripped himself of his robe that was upon him,and gave it to David, and his sword, and even his armor and bow and girdle.(I Sam 18:1-4)"
Sure, my Calvinist Sunday School teacher made a point of downplaying Jonathan's display ofsudden nakedness, not to mention all the other soap-operaish twists inthe tale including Saul, Jonathan's father being homophobic and blaming his son's condition on the kid's mother, still a standard today. But I knew better.
Homosexual love fares much better in literature than it does in conservative society. Virginia Woolf's "Orlando" still makes it to the top of intelligent people's booklists.
Male friendship and how far it can go is also a hotly debated topic in the BeatLit world--the Beat Triumvirate being composed of two homosexuals and one guy who claimed to be straight but apparently loved the occasional blow job (Burroughs,Ginsberg and Kerouac, for those of you who don't know). In this milieu I've been frequently exposed to a certain philosophy: that most men are sexually opportunistic and very easily turned to homosexual acts, given the right circumstances. Here's what someone said about that almost 100 years ago:
There is no friendship between men that has not an element of sexuality in it, however little accentuated it may be in the nature of the friendship, and however painful the idea of the sexual element would be. But it is enough to remember that there can be no friendship unless there has been some attraction to draw the men together. Much of the affection, protection, and nepotism between men is due to the presence of unsuspected sexual compatibility. [ Otto Weininger, Sex and Character(1903) ]
On and on it goes. The slaving meatwheel keeps turning round and round, you go back,Jack, safe in heaven dead... and 30 years after the beginning of Steely Dan, people are still trying to reconcile obscure lyrical references. Walter addressed the allure of this recently:
WB: I think there is something to be said for the idea that something can retain some element of mystery. That is very likable. And I think our new songs, generally speaking, are less obscure than they might have been at other times earlier in our career. [ PERFORMING SONGWRITER magazine, March/April 2000 ]
"....element ofmystery." Yep. And this element makes for fascinating and endless discussion about lyrics among the fans.
In RS837 [ Return of the Dark Brothers ] Donald gives us deep background on himself and Walter as a songwriting team: "[At Bard College] We clicked on every level as far as the kind of stuff we liked," Fagen says, "the way we defined ourselves--the way we were trying to, anyway. We listened to the same jazz stations. Weliked the same books. When he got there, I was writing essentially comic songs that combined pretty much all the elements that ended up being the elements, and Walter was doing the same sort of things. He was a little bolder maybe than I was in what he was willing to address in a song. Bolder in the sense that maybe my attempts were more in a fantasy realm, and he addressed things that maybe started from a more precise observation, even though they might veer into fantasy. I tended to be a little more insular, left to my own devices."
Sometimes Steely Dan lyrics just seem random to me--in the same way a Burroughs cut-up seems random, while making perfect sense and creating powerful images. In the PERFORMING SONGWRITER interview, Our Heroes reveal part of the process they sometimes use to arrive at what seems like a predetermined or actual meaning:
It's a stunning level of accomplishment they've achieved by being intricately involved with every aspect of the creative process, as consciously careful with each word of every line as they are with each beat of the kick drum and the snare. Though the ongoing brilliance of their seamless and soulfully singable songs might often seem to be the product of some kind of spontaneous genius, it's actually the result of a lot of hard work, as B&F explained. Take the flowing chorus of "West of Hollywood," for example:
I'm way deep into nothing special
Riding the crest of a wave breaking
just west of Hollywood
It's a singlesentence that evolved through a profusion of lyrical permutations beforethe ideal form was discovered. "One trick of writing is to use the mechanics of typing things over and over again as a way of exercising and developing an idea," Becker said. To illustrate this technique, he shared some ofthe variations he and Fagen generated for this line:
I'm way deep into nothing special...
...coming from a place of power just west of ...
...with a base of support located just west of ...
...in a matrix with its nexus just west of ...
...situated as I am in the crescent just west of ...
...having as my target the citizens just west of ...
...in a cluster franchise operation just west of ...
...and business is booming in the triangle just west of ...
All the songs on the new album went through this lengthy process of thought and revision, each the result of many pages of notes, character development, and explorations into the best ways to compel and conclude narratives. Each character emerged only after sessions of abundant B&F banter and discovery, resulting in a rich emotional subtext that serves as a foundation for all these songs. <end excerpt>
So in other words, the characters often emerge, rather than being fully formed and all growed-up before a single word hits the page. This Rubik's Cube they then toss out to us, challenging us to make all the elements match up somehow. And most of us have to ask others and discuss and read up on obscure stuff, because when it comes to knowing what lurks in the hearts of men, really, only the Shadow knows....
Curt (5/8/03): Through with Buzz of course to me seemed to be about drugs. I am through with my buzz, I am not going to use them anymore, followed by a long list of bad things having happened to him through their use.
In The Years, by Brian Sweet
Now, is this one of the best songs ever, or what? Brian Sweet reports: "On one occasion... Fagen was induced into explaining that the title song on'Pretzel Logic' was about time travel. 'When it says, "Istepped upon the platform/ The man gave me the news," we conceived the platform asa teleportation device. And there are other key lines like, "I havenever met Napoleon/ But I plan to find the time." What we're actuallysaying is that I plan to find the time that he lived in,' said Fagen. It was a logical explanation, but then again Fagen would easily have beenmaking it up as he went along." (RITY, p. 71)
I think the title refers to a Moebius strip, a one-dimensional figure you can makeout of a two-dimensional piece of paper, which occupies three dimensions. I once saw a wonderful stone sculpture of a Moebius strip by the mathematician/sculptor Max Bill. This song also makes me think of the amazing graphic artist M. C. Escher.
Has anyone read The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester? In it, teleportation ("jaunting") (through space, not time) becomes commonplace, with travelers stepping up on specified platforms to make their hops from one place toanother. This is a fifties sci-fi classic which holds up well. I also think of an early A. E. Van Vogt, The World of Null-A, whichrevolves around the foundation of society on the use of non-Aristotelianlogic, and a very interesting civil service system.
David (alt.music.steely-dan, 1/14/00): I still think Pretzle Logic (the song) must be one of the best 'I almost heard it right' blues songs. "He said, 'you must be jokingson, where did you get those shoes'" seems like a mondegreen of 'where did you get the blues'. Anybody withme on that one?
Roy.Scam (GB, 1/17/00): The platform in 'Pretzel Logic' is a guillotine platform. The narratorhas made an unfortuitous time-travel landing circa the French Revolution(just missed Napoleon by a hair). Since he's still wearing his clothesfrom another time period, he not only has to suffer the indignity of decapitationbut has to suffer his footwear being dissed.
Vancouver Murph (7/23/00): Pretzel Logic also refers to the D/E E/A C/D D/G changes to the chorus,where you wind up on the same chord where you started, but in a completelydifferent place due to the changing bass notes (this ties in w/Einstein& quantum physics/time travel stuff).
up on the platform,
Theman gave me the news..."
isthe way it's usually transcribed, but I always heard it like this:
up on the platform,
Theman gave me the NOOSE..."
Inthe first version, the lyric seems to be just three verses with no real story, sort of quasi-surrealism, but insert the word 'noose' for 'news'- and Boppo! the song describes the regrets of a man about to be hanged.And how about those shoes? Well, they may or may not save the poor guyfrom an untimely death - the use of the present tense in the first twoverses suggest that he indeed lived to tell the tale, and is now determinedto make his surreal dreams come true. On the other hand, if he is everto meet Napoleon, it would have to be in the Hereafter, as he (N.) is -as we know - long gone from this earth.
Cornelius Eady wrote a poem to Thelonious Monk which gives me a frisson of recognition with this song:
what to do with math.
Listen to this. It's
Arithmetic, a soundtrack. The motion
in these lampposts, it
Can be sung. I can lift away
Its logic, make it spin
orbital satellite, find
Gambling's true pitch.
It can be played:
the trying of
Patience, holding back, holding
Up, laying out, stop-time,
Space walking. It can be
the fine mesh
Of a second. Now I try
A few bars of what's next? Run
my hands, ignite it,
Make the fire sound like
April in Paris.
(from "The Gathering Of My Name", 1991)
(GB, 8/24/01): Again, in my book, Pretzel Logic, for the most
refers to Hegel's Logic, you know, the "sight of Napoleon entering Iena
on horseback" reference used by Hegel to illustrate the concept of the
end of History. That is, if you consider the admiration felt "he looks
so fine..." echoing Hegel's own and also the multiple references to
in there such as "find the time", "times are changing but I just don't
know" I've talked about this before but you know how it is... "these
are gone forever, over a long time ago"....
It doesn't apply to the question as to where he got those shoes, for example. He (whoever wrote the words) could have been reading it at the time as it was fashionable to do so - it was before the advent of cable TV and cable modems, people still read philosophy's major works or at least planned to find the time - and it somehow reflected in his/their songwriting. The philosopher's town had just been invaded by the French troops and all Hegel could feel upon meeting the man in charge was this admiration instead of the hatred one would assume he would have felt at the time. There's a famous passage from his correspondance to a friend illustrating this: "I saw the Emperor -- that World Soul -- riding out to reconnoiter the city; it is truly a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, concentrated here on a single point, astride a single horse, yet reaching across the world and ruling it..."
He looks so fine, that individual (lonely still and the emphasis on "single", repeated in the text)... I don't know. It's a personal thing, I guess but the reference just speaks to me. I see it as coming into play, regardless of the authors initial intentions.
Dan Fan (12/16/02): As I was listening to Pretel Logic recently, I began to believe the song is actually a comment on the trappings and inconsistencies of the entertainment/music industry. In the first stanza, the singer longs to tour in a musical show, record and be a star. When are you first drawn to the music industry, many artists believe they have a vision, intergrity or something to say even though you and your band may just be hacks. Those feelings tend to subside once you understand the music business, and after a while you long for the days gone by. It is noteworthy that Fagen and Becker use the word "love" in describing the singer's affection toward his/her desired musical careeer in a "traveling minstrel show." The reference to making a record and being a star which "makes them laugh" or entertains the crowd is what attracts many to the business and feeds the ego.
The next stanza regarding Napoleon seems to be a comment upon the attitude music stars suffer from after reaching stardom. These types develop a Diva mentality or "delusions of grandeur" when they are overcome by stardom. The line about meeting Napoleon could be a reference to the "stars" ego about himself, placing himself in the same category of Napoleon even though the star is only a little man in the big picture. The singer's importance is shown in the line about not knowing (has never learned) about Napleon, but he plans to find the time. As if he plans to find the time!!!! He is too self-important. Looking fine on the top of the hill (acheiving sucess) is great but being on top the hill is a lonely place. Lonely still for Napleon given the way history now views him in a gegative light. In acheiving stardom in conquering the workd, the singer is no in the limelight, but wants to separate himself from everthing he yearned for in the early days and be left alone.
The chorus sees the now past-his-prime star approaching the platform (not a stage anymore because he is over the hill) and the announcer giving him to news (or Noose) about his shoes (clothing). After a time in the limelight, the star is no longer relevant and attempts to keep up with the times by dressing in tune with the times (what he sees on TV and the movies). But clearly the time has passed on our aging musician, which for him/her "Those days are gone forever" and were "over a long time ago." I recently watched a TV award shows which had actors/musicians dressing outrageously in an attempt to keep in the limelight or try to appear hip or cool, but in fact come across as out of touch or pathethic. They complain about the tough road it took to get where they are, but now they have acheived it, they complain about wanting to have a normal life and be left alone.
And that's the Pretzel or convoluted Logic referred to in the song. You can't have it both ways. It is extremely difficult for an artist to maintain the integrity of the craft without selling out or getting lost in the trappings of stardom and becoming a Little Napoleon. You want the adoration of fans but want to be left alone. Given Becker and Fagen's adversity to publicity and outsider attitude within the music industry, it seems the song is their ode to the craziness and lunacy that is the music industry. As WC and Grocho put it, Becker and Fagen probably would not want to be members of any club who would have them as members. To think this song was written in 1974 and is as relevant today as it was then is just amazing. Great song.
Reelin' In The Years, byBrian Sweet
M. C. Escher: there are numerous collections of his work around,and you can barely buy a tie nowadays without an Escher print
Max Bill: If anyone can find me a book of photos of his work, I'dbe much obliged
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
The World of Null-A, by A. E. Van Vogt, long out of print, I believe
Virtual Light, by William Gibson. In which one of his characters asks,"Where did you get those shoes?"
'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy , the first of a series of hilarious compendia of misheard lyrics, called "mondegreens." Read it to see why.
"With A Gun"
AM Rush (11/9/01)
for posting about this song!): This may be a reach, but this song
may be the Dan's statement to the occasional musical act contemporary
and earlier that had plagiarized/were plagiarizing The Beatles, both in
sound and in style. Potential references include
- the title (a nod to Revolver?)
- the chorus ("...leave him lyin' in the rain" - how is "he" left lyin' in the rain if the shooter was seen runnin' from [presumably inside] the store?)
- the line in the chorus "You will be what you are...just the same" (From the rest of the tune one can't necessarily deduce what the shooter IS to begin with, other than "...the founders of the clinic in the hills..." - the word "clinic" perhaps being a contemptuous reference to the act of plagiarism)
- the line in the bridge "...war to the one who does it wrong...", implying a disdain for unoriginal Beatle knockoffs - along with their afforementioned "fingers in the till", capitalizing on the success of the Beatles
And all presented in a 'Rocky Raccoon'-like storyline and country-western music aesthetic.
Don't Live In That New York City No More" for another
Daddy G(GB, 3/31/00): such a great song. Reminds me of John Steinbeck's Winter of Our Discontent, where Danny Taylor trades Ethan Allen Hawley his family property (suitable for an airport) for $1,000, with which Danny can either buy a cure or enough booze to kill himself. Both men know which choice Danny will make.
Gabe (4/5/01): Charlie Freak
Freak had but one thing to call his own
Three weight ounce pure golden ring no precious stone
Five nights without a bite
No place to lay his head
And if nobody takes him in
He'll soon be dead
- A man out on the street, who only has one possession left because he sold everything else just to keep himself alive. He hasnt eaten in 5 days, and if no one takes care of him, he'll die.
street he spied my face I heard him hail
In our plot of frozen space he told his tale
Poor man, he showed his hand
So righteous was his need
And me so wise I bought his prize
For chicken feed
- while wondering the streets, he saw a mans face and called him over. By his 'house', he told the man of how he lost everything. Charlie then showed the man his ring and asked if he could get some cash for it. The man said okay, and bought his ring.
cash soon begs to smash a state of mind
Close inspection fast revealed his favorite kind
Poor kid, he overdid
Embraced the spreading haze
And while he sighed his body died
In fifteen ways
- As soon as charlie got the man's money, he went to buy wome weed. He kept using it and using it, until he got to the point when he got extremely high. Every puff he took of it, his body died in 15 ways.
heard I grabbed a cab to where he lay
'Round his arm the plastic tag read D.O.A.
Yes Jack, I gave it back
The ring I could not own
Now come my friend I'll take your hand
And lead you home
- The man heard about charlies death someway or another, so he took a cab to the morgue. There, he found charlie with a D.O.A. tag on his arm. Feeling sorrow, the man gave charlie his ring back that he shouldnt have bought in the first place.
Curt (5/8/03): On
Charlie Freak, I have always felt that the meter of the song somehow
me of Charles Dickens. I don't know why, but it seems appropriate
to a song about poverty, desperation and degradation and death through
"Monkey In Your Soul"
Okay, this is pretty left-field, but when I listen to this song, I feel like a flyon the wall of a Steely recording session, where a hapless musician istrying to keep up and figure out what his taskmasters want of him. He complains, "I got one hand, you want four"--how can I play somethingso complex with only one hand? "I can't keep up with you no more/And have you treat me like it's a sin...." He says, you can't forceme to stay here forever and do this--"no thank you, my friend!" Isee the "monkey in your soul" as Messrs. Fagen & Becker's inimitableobsession with the perfect sound; "monkey" is often used to referto an addiction. The singer's (funny infolding, with the culpritsdoing the singing) a little scared of the intensity of their vision, andafter complaining about various aspects of the music, including how hisown contributions are sloughed off, he decides to call it quits.
stevevdan (GB, 8/5/98): "I got one and you want four" i.e. the 'Dan had one album complete whileABC Records still demanded 3 more...
PretzelLogician (GB, 5/31/99): Monkey InYour Soul's about philistine taste.
Wyvern Rider (4/13/02):
Just thought I'd post a quick interepretation of "Monkey In Your Soul",
since it's one of my favorite SD tunes and it's been virtually ignored
the site. I think that directly the song refers to F & B 's quarrels with the recording company, but in a broader sense I think it refers to any time when an activity begins to overwhelm you.
Just as a short example, I used to play basketball for my school. I was a pretty good player, and everyone in the organization expected me to play throughout my high school years. However, you can't just play a sport during its season now, you have to go to camps, clinics, leagues, etc. Basically, I was forced to practice basketball year round, and after a few years I was getting really sick of it.
About that time I first heard "Monkey", and it immediatly struck a chord.
"I got one and you want four" - For me, I wanted to devote one season to the sport, and the institution wanted all four seasons. Describing any activity requiring more time than you want.
"It's so hard to help you" - Even if you work hard, you still can't please your superiors.
"Can't keep up with you no more" - It was fun when you got involved into it, but it's gone now.
"And you treat me like it's a sin" - You're giving your best, and you still get treated like dirt.
Now is when the narrator takes his stand . . .
"But you can't lock me in" - Asserting than you can go against the grain and quit.
"You want me here with you right to the end- no thank you my friend" -For my situation, they wanted me to play all through high school, but I realized that I was done with it. "My friend" shows that you're trying to part on good terms, even though you know it's unlikely.
"I fear the monkey in your soul" - You're afraid of whatever it is about this activity that once attracted you but now sickens you . . .
"Won't you turn that bebop down . . . I can't hear myself think" - Bebop is characterized by extreme randomness and unpredictability. You're trying to get your priorities straight and this dominating activity keeps clouding your vision.
"Where's that fat back chord I found?" - The "fat back chord" is what you're looking for, some satisfaction in your life, but you may have temporarily lost it.
"Honey don't you think it was wrong . . . to interrupt my song?" - Trying to reason, don't you think it's unfair to keep me so busy, interrupting my life [song]?
"I'll pack my things and run so far from here . . . good bye dear" - A final reminder that this is it, you're quitting, leaving, whatever. Again, you're trying to be friendly, but in that way when it's easy because the other party has no say.
Well that's it . . . sorry for delving into junior high memories, but I do have a certain fondness for these lyrics. (Not to mention some sweet funk riffs) Hopefully that sheds some light on this gem of a song.
Pleasevisit Edd Cote's illustrious deconstruction of this tune