"Slang of Ages"

Neil Strauss, "They went back, Jack, to do it again," NY Times, 6/21/03:
[Strauss]You do, however, sing, "Let's roll with the homies" on the new album.

Becker: That's exactly right. We may not be in the mainstream of musical thought, but we're willing to co-opt any catchy expression that comes along, however silly.

luckless pedestrian (GB, 6/10/03):  what is the following reference in slang of ages: "these tabs look iffy you say they're good"? drugs? apparel?

Robin (GB, 6/10/03):  I took the Slang reference to tabs as drugs ...

Steveedan (GB, 6/10/03):  It could also be refering to music notation. Tabs could be connotative of guitar tablature. Let's roll with the homeys - knock on wood. There could be a doubt as to whether the chord changes in some song were accurate, or whether the chord progression was even a good one. Let's hope for the best (knock on wood) ... count it off ... 1,2,3,4 ...

duncan (GB, 6/10/03):  [UK translation]  tabs = cigarettes

Blaise (Blue Book, 6/11/03):  "I can tell by the planes on your face that you're from out of State" carries on the "I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown", tolerance theme.

DACW (GB, 6/12/03):  I'm thinking of Slang of Ages (something timeless) as  a continuation of a SD thread, music itself...Monkey in your Soul and Throw Back the Little Ones were veiled commentaries on the contract with ABC-Dunhill and the record producing then tour merry-go-round...done in an ultra sly way - here it seems like a commentary on the musical generation gap, but frankly, I'm less assured about the meaning of this song than any in the Dan collection...

Roy.Scam (GB, 6/12/03):  I thought it might be about music bridging gaps of communication. But my son listened to the album and said," I think that Becker song is about drugs, probably acid." I suppose when you start seeing the planes in people's faces, you're either at a Dali exhibit or headed for Groovetime. -- The opening phrase "let me put it this way..." reminded me of another favorite song of mine that Walt started with, "In case you're wondering..."

Hutch (GB, 6/14/03):  The character in the song says, "These tabs look iffy, but you say they're good". Since I think this song may be about an older guy hooking up with a younger girl and going to a dance club then I take it to mean that she gives him some pills to take.  Perhaps it's LSD or maybe Ecstasy. He's not sure, just by looking at the pills, if it's safe to take them. They look "iffy".

DACW (GB, 6/15/03):  Becker tries to pick up "fresh meat"...Instead of dancing - they trade fours...the Slang of Ages is music and tabs a chords/vocings...however, the young buckette shows him a thing or two, and he's left hi and dry as stunned as Ronny Cox in Deliverance (OK, that's a bad analogy)...hi hat Too Flat...

steviedan (GB, 6/20/03):  seems to me that the tune is about the ageless ritual nature of the drug deal, the routine edginess. a career man who's seen, snorted, shot it all... in places it has that lotus blossomy, pentatonic asian feel like parts of "countermoon". for me, it's the most effective medium for walter's voice ever, and i really liked 11tow. kinda primes me for another becker solo effort. damn nice work...

YGK (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  I think it's Walter's "Hey 19".  He's trying to relate to a younger thang, and then she disappears......

Man with no face (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  Slang of Ages also seems to be a metaphor about music wrapped up in a tale of the older guy trying to relate to the young doll in the club scene. "These tabs...", "Roll..." and "Opened up my head" sure sounds like he's talking about MDMA, but tabs could easily be tablature. Commentary on the famous Dutch jazz scene? Duke (Ellington) and Earl (Hines)? The chorus sounds like just pure love of music. Almost like he's imagining playing with his revolutionary jazz     heros. Jamming can be very "Be Here Now". Very Zen like.

Peg (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  The narrator in Slang of Ages is a guy from some science fiction story..(those wierd sound effects in it are a nod to Tribbles, those critters in that Star Trek episode, and don't say they aren't!!!) Slang is referring to jazz/music throughout...there's even a reference to (guitar) tabs in it...

Only a fool (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  I'm pretty sure the "tabs" in Slang refer to drugs, not guitar tablature.
     Also, one of the first sounf effects (right before the words start) sounds like somehting alien. But it also sounds like a whistle (wolfing a lady walking by). The lyrics that follow also match this.
     I see "Slang of Ages" as a juxtaposioning of 3 favourite Dan themes -
     1. Drugs (Tabs, hit me with the Slang of ages, etc.)
     2. Young women (all my deraming... end of my life so far... something half-way in between..)
     3. Sci-fi (out of state... skipped dimensions... oppened up my head)
     So, it looks like the pratagonist is hitting on a young lady when he notices that she is an alien and decided to get some unworldly drugs from her instead.

Duke of Earl (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  I am thinking maybe the tabs are the way that the alien experiences sex, and so does the narrator. Or at least he's convinced she's an alien (Netherworld, opened up my head which would mean read his mind).
     OK...so my theories on what the Slang of Ages is:
     A) the drug-related high the narrator gets from the pill he's given, or
     B) a sexual experience he and the alien receive from the pill,
     C) a combination of both, where maybe it's something halfway in between.
     One way that would make C) intriguing would be if this were the case:
     "Are you all part of the dreaming" - his drug induced high
     "Or the end of my life so far" - a lot of times, sex can be looked upon as maybe a change in your life...an epiphany
     "Or something halfway in between" - maybe it's just both...it's a drug induced high that creates a sexual experience.

John (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  re: narrator in Slang of Ages
     I agree with Peg's perception of the narrator as an "alien" or, at the very least, that the song is an extended diversion into science fiction. Alien could be extraterrestrial, or it could just be someone who's out of step with the rest of the world.
     The musical cue is there in the sound effects. He perceives the woman to be from "out of state" (which sure sounded like "outer space" until I listened closely). Out or state is reminiscent of the Coneheads who are from France (not). The woman "skips dimensions." And of course the whole song sounds as if it's kin to "Hat Too Flat" from 11ToW.

Peter Q (Blue Book, 6/21/03):  Re - Slang of Ages - Groovetime, if I'm not mistaken, is a very distinguished radio program in Holland about American jazz, thus linking the narrartor's desire to be "dropped off" there (cars again!)and showing that the girl is either lying about being from there, because she doesn't know what Groovetime is, or else she's too young to know, which is even worse for our narrator because he keeps making bufoonish gaffes like calling her "doll" and "babe". (The desperate whining line, "You oughta know, you oughta know" suggests that she oughta know what Groovetime is if she is who she says she is.) Slang of Ages may refer to, as I read in one British newspaper that I unfortunately lost the link to, sleazoid chat-ups. However he has no substantive, concrete knowledge of how to approach women other than to use     cheap pickup lines which is why, upon noting her disgust at his behavior, he begs "Show me how it's done."  Doubtlessly appalled by a gent in his fifties who needs to be shown, she "skips to other dimensions", dimesnions in this instance meaning other men of a younger generation - which in fact the narrator understands, because "Be There  Now" unveils his desire to strip away the effluvia of age, generation gap, difference of interests between folks of vastly different backgrounds, and connect on an as it were metaphysical plane, have their "souls" get together. An example of a socially inarticulate fellow yearning for real human contact.

Isa (Blue Book, 6/21/03):  Re:Groovetime
     Groovetime is indeed a distinguished radio program about jazz music.
     The first broadcast was on Radio 1 at the 13th of may in 2001

oleander (Blue Book, 6/21/03):  I think "Slang of Ages" is about… slang. But inasmuch as a Steely Dan song is rarely about one thing, it’s also about music and the art of pick-up and put-down. Mr. Becker is an aficionado of argot, a practitioner of patois, a virtuoso of vernacular, which you can hear on "11 Tracks of Whack" from the title on in. I think he’s doing a little tribute to the richness and malleability of the language; the tune is one slang phrase after another, from various times and places.
     Slang isn’t just popular catchphrases. It’s the incubator of linguistic change. It’s the reason a language doesn’t die.  Think about Orwell’s "1984," in which limiting language is one of the tools of oppression. Big Brother’s goal is to whittle Newspeak down to as few words as possible, so that each word has only one meaning and each meaning only one word. If people don’t have the language to express ideas, then they won’t have the ideas, which are dangerous to the status quo. And while you have that thought in your mind, take a momentary digression and think about the Bush administration’s "No Child Left Behind" and "Clear Skies" initiatives (not to mention the many other Orwellian aspects of his reign).
     So Mr. Becker spins a situation in slang. He’s simultaneously trying to pick up his conversational partner and assuring that he can’t. This is how I imagine Zaphod Beeblebrox chatting up babes at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, or Han Solo a few decades down the road at the space lounge on Tatooine. Mr. B is trying his pick-up lines while putting her down, scratching through her veneer of sophistication—"If you grew up in Amsterdam, then I’m the Duke of Earl." She cops to his scorn and splits—then he’s all "Hey—where’d she go?" His version of "piss off, then" is to offer to "make it right"—right all right, by telling her to "Be There Now," i.e., get lost—and ending with the classic hitchhiker drop-off line, "This is where I turn." This is the kind of guy I love to run into in bars.
    This is also a tribute to jazz and rock’n’roll, the slang of music, always rich, layered, mutable, surprising. Just as styles in language change, so they do in music. If you’re lucky, someone in the know, like Mr. B, will show you how it’s done. The tabs—guitar or pharmaceutical—may look iffy, but he’ll tell you which ones are for real. Or maybe someone like Gene Chandler or Eddie Floyd will, who get a tip of the Steely hat for their "Duke of Earl" and "Knock On Wood." Soul survivors. Like the Dan. Soothe me! Slang me!

Bill (Blue Book, 6/22/03):  This description of Slang of Ages sounds like another similar semi sci-fi tale, told in the third person, Wet Side Story:
     >>An example of a socially inarticulate fellow yearning for real human contact.
     Also, I'm glad someone else was reminded of the work of the late great Douglas Adams, whose trademark combination of sci-fi and odd humor is very compatible with Don & Walt's despite its intense Britshness - for me it was the concept of the Last Mall that recalled this particular eating establishment:
     >>This is how I imagine Zaphod Beeblebrox chatting up babes at the Restaurant at the End of the Univ

Gina (GB, 6/21/03):  ... read the notions in both yellow and blue about these lyrics ... to me a main frame is communication between "Walter" and this girl, or his thoughts and impressions in a monologue, like thinking out loud .. he's telling the story and questioning as well as filling in the blanks .. describing events happening, she's showing him a new world in a way but the funny thing is he did tune into her world by describing in the same kinda vague way that makes you feel the illusive nature of it all ...
    can't help but feel something very sweet which is also present in Book of Liars ... music and melody wise ... as far as lyrics and/or story is concerned, both Slang of Ages and Book of Liars sound like they're about this gender trap and maybe even attempts to understand the other sexe but it's clear there's a distance and from the storyteller's point of view he couldn't really care less in a way ... like in Lunch with Gina an example of attraction or contact between a man and a woman and how this can differ depending on the nature of the relationship, expectations or knowledge and sentiments, fantasy, imagination involved ...

bway Steve (Blue Book, 6/27/03):  I think Slang Of Ages refers to the word "fuck" .I keep trying to make something more out of the lyric but always come back to this.Do you think Walter is trying a little too hard to sound buzzed ? LOve the chorus melody.

wormtom (GB, 7/4/03):  worst DAN lyrics ever
    "roll with the homeys and knock on wood"
    like the song but I cringe every time I hear that one
    reminds me of some dreadful "look I'm hip" dr evil verbosity

Rajah of Erase (GB, 7/4/03): The cliche lyrics suit the narrative; we witness an older man on the make, about 7 years behind the curve, spout with bravura, "let's roll with the homeys and knock on wood". That trite couplet samples vernacular usage of English, as spoken by Americans, from maybe 1958 through 1993. It's satire, it's funny, there's TONS of it this record...or whatever.

Midsummer in New York (GB, 7/5/03):  (I *finally* got my mind wrapped around these lyrics a bit tonight. From what I can tell Walt is looking for a band to sit in with, perhaps it's after hours on tour, and he's being given a tour of the nightlife by one or two of the locals. I'm thinking "Groovetime" is a jazz or blues nightclub, or maybe the groove of the late night jam; the "slang of ages" those well known time honored jazz or blues cliches that musicians use to communicate)

"Godwhacker""Green Book"