Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Diagonals Guide To Steely Dan Lyrics

I started writing this nonsense back in mid-May.  Just for me, really; That was a difficult time and when my head is not in a great place, I tend to retreat into music, humor, and often some form of OCD rears its head.  Steely Dan allowed for all of those.  When I was very young, as I assume is the case for many, what my parents listened to was what I listened to.  Often this was excruciating.  But my Father, who has a pretty good record collection, bonded with me over music.  My Dad lost an eye when I was 5.  He told me once years later that he felt bad that he wasn't able to do certain father-son things with me as a result.  I was never really into sports (I have very little competitive impulse) and what he gave me instead was music.  He'd been to more concerts than he could remember.  (Some of that was drugs, I imagine.)  He saw Pink Floyd perform Dark Side Of The Moon; He saw latter-70s Bowie perform (which apparently included a pre-show screening of "Un Chien Andolou"); He saw Zappa and Beefheart.  Etc.  He had a turntable that allowed him to turn the motor off while still activating the turntable and he played me Beatles records in reverse and scared me shitless. That was my first lesson - music need not be a three minute song with verse/chorus/verse structure.  It could be anything, and the idea of using non-musical sounds in music switched something on for me (for context, I would have been about 4).  I heard my share of what my Dad liked - McCartney and Lennon, The Who, Pink Floyd, Zevon, etc.  But the real schooling happened when I pulled out his LP of Steely Dan's Greatest Hits.  The surreal album cover painting and the almost menacing picture of the duo on the inner gatefold that looked like it was taken in the hotel from The Shining.  The music had to grow on me, but it became clear that these guys were fucking weird, and their lyrics were not typical.  I eventually got the albums and pored over those lyrics.  (I even remember being made fun of for listening to Steely Dan on the bus.)  Paired with that incredible music, it was truly unique - there's nothing out there quite like Steely Dan.  Steely Dan were responsible for my brief but memorable piano lessons.  (I was a bass player.)  I downloaded outtakes and unreleased songs on Napster.  Their writing, musically and lyrically, helped shape the way I approached music in general both as a listener and as a participant.

Those lyrics!  The wonderful subversion of pairing "safe" sounding music with weird and at times incredibly dark lyrics.  I once sat in a doctor's waiting room listening to a song about a man trying to lure underage teens to watch homemade porn.  I heard a song about Nazis in the grocery store.

I got the solo stuff, of course.  It was all good of course, and it probably did show what the two individuals brought to the table.  And I'm seemingly in the minority in liking Walter Becker's solo album more than Fagen's solo albums, at least until the early 2000s.  (As an adult, as we get to Morph The Cat, well, I think that album is sublime and impeccable.  I quite like Sunken Condos as well - so I probably like Fagen's solo 21st century albums more, but then again, Circus Money does have "Paging Audrey," which is one of my favorite pieces of music anyone associated with Steely Dan has ever released).

I think, judging by what I know, I'm much more Becker than Fagen.  Walter Becker did not seem to have his shit together.  He seemed to have darker places, nooks and crannies where the morbid and the bizarre hung out.  He also seemed to be quite, for lack of a better term, spiritual.  I see myself in a lot of Becker's songs - much more so than Fagen.  In the oft discussed Beatles divide, I liked McCartney more than Lennon.  (I probably have more in common with Lennon.)  With Steely Dan, I come down on the side of Walter Becker.  He seems to understand being lost in a way that resonated with me perhaps too deeply.

I was very sad to hear that Becker had passed away.  I have no doubt that Fagen will continue to, as he put it, keep Steely Dan's music alive.  But the Dan is a duo.  It'll never be the same.  I'm very happy to have been alive in a time when Walter Becker was making music.

I wasn't sure that I had any intention of posting this, but with Becker's passing, I changed my mind.


In my mind I started to truly obsess over their lyrics after reading an interview in which I believe Donald Fagen said about the subject matter of the song "Chain Lightning," "No one will ever touch that song." (Edit: Looking it up, the only source I see on a quick Google search is actually Walter Becker saying "No one will ever come close to “Chain Lightning.” No one will ever touch “Chain Lightning.” With Fagen then chiming in "Even the clue wouldn’t have helped. I’ll tell you what the clue was. In the guitar break just before the second verse I was going to say “40 years later,” but we decided it wasn’t a good musical idea." I don't remember reading that clue as a teen, but I'm a little surprised that they'd give that away, since it actually does help.) I took that as a challenge and sat down to figure it out, which I eventually did. From there, I tried to tackle all of their lyrics. And just for fun, I wanted to write them down all in one place as I worked my way through their frankly excellent catalog via a streaming service over the course of however long it takes me to do that. Trying to stick to the rule of making the descriptions short as possible, here are my interpretations of (most of) the songs of Steely Dan, in chronological order by release. I may even get into some of their solo stuff.  (In no way do I mean to suggest I have it "right" - these are just my interpretations.)

Do It Again: Pretty self explanatory, really - the "wheel turnin' round and round" being, I suppose, the dharmachakra, or the Buddhist wheel of life, used to illustrate a character doomed to repeating the same mistakes (gambling, destructive relationships, etc.) over and over again and unable to break the cycle even though there are hints that the song's character knows he's in a repeating cycle. Lyrically almost a template for one of the most common of Steely Dan lyrical motifs with regards to human nature.

Dirty Work: Here is where I will say that, by the time I got back to their first album, I was so used to and enamored with Fagen's vocals that I was quite put off by the songs sung by whatever this guy's name is who sings this one. He's not bad, it's just "wrong."  This song is a catchy tune, though, and lyrically not that interesting and self-explanatory, I think - similar in a way to Do It Again, a person is constantly called upon by a "friend" for sex when her "man is out of town," as she (I assume) knows he will do it (and thus "do the job for free," saving her from having to pay a sex worker).  Perhaps the woman is a nymphomaniac, as there are no suggestions of any sort of emotional connection here.  The narrator feels a fool for falling for this / being unable to resist, and has some resolve to not continue, yet like the character in Do It Again, is clearly going to, well, do it again.

Kings: I actually love this song. The changing of the guard in terms or rulers; given the time in which it was written, could probably be applied to presidential politics; a bit of cynicism towards the idea that the citizenry gets their hopes up that a new leader will bring about change only to find that isn't the case? That interpretation would make this album so far of a theme: repeating actions resulting in the same results over and over. I don't feel especially compelled to go much deeper than that.

Midnite Cruiser: I don't care.

Only A Fool Would Say That: Another one I've come to love, but I don't know how much interpretation it requires.

Reelin' In The Years: I actually never liked this song that much; an argument between two people, one of whom seems to be "wiser" than the other? I'd say it was a bit "get off my lawn" but Becker/Fagen were kids when they wrote this. I always thought this song was a slightly more detached version of Pink Floyd's "Time."

Fire In The Hole: Another one I have never given a thought to.

Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me): Pretty straightforward. Never liked this one much either. 

Change Of The Guard: Don't care.

Turn That Heartbeat Over Again: Really don't care.

Bodhisattva: Pretty basic. A Western person wishing to be taken away from their way of living by a more enlightened person/way of life. (A bodhisattva is a Buddhist who has achieved or is capable of achieving Nirvana but remains in the world to assist others in their quests to achieve enlightenment.) The very basic and simply repeated lyrics suggest the narrator is only interested in this at a superficial level.

Razor Boy: Drugs.

 The Boston Rag: I've never been completely sure of this one. The verses seem to be about a guy who overdosed. I am not sure what the Boston Rag is. Considering the times, I've wondered if it is somehow about Vietnam. Is the "rag" the flag? Who cares, really - I usually just get lost during the swerve into tango-esque in the middle section with the guitar swells right back into a pretty good if unremarkable 70s rock song.

 Your Gold Teeth: Gambling. Compulsive gambling, maybe, if the title is taken literally. (I never said any of this was actually good or revelatory!)

 Show Biz Kids: Just what it says on the tin. I always enjoyed the line "I detect the El Supremo from the room at the top of the stairs."

 My Old School: Another one that isn't particularly cryptic. Take out the drug bust and it's more or less how I feel about my old school too. (And the drug bust was apparently a real thing that happened.)

King Of The World: This one is *amazing.* A top-10 for me. Everything about it just works. The beat is fantastic. The wonderfully reverbed guitar part - just enough that is kind of splinters out. The synths! The most synth-heavy Steely Dan song. Obvious subject matter - post-apocalyptic; a guy on a radio calling out to anyone else that might have survived in an attempt to find companionship before the inevitable radiation sickness kills him. An incredible and kind of very un-Steely Dan middle section full of synths, distorted radio voices, and an affecting and dark bridge lyric where the narrator comes to the conclusion that the human race may be better off dead.

 Pearl Of The Quarter: When I was a kid I thought this was about a prostitute. I usually skip this one, so I'll stick with that.

Rikki Don't Lose That Number: I confess I never really cared for this song. Piano part lifted from an old Horace Silver tune I think? A guy obsessed with a woman.

 Night By Night: I think this one is pretty straightforward as well. A guy running drugs or some other activity with what is likely a delusional belief one day he will be able to leave this life. Musically I've always quite liked this song.

 Any Major Dude Will Tell You: One of the nicest Steely Dan songs, really. One person consoling another. I always thought the "demon at your door" is drugs. I'm not sure what a "major dude" is, but my probably overcomplicated idea when I was younger was that Major Dude = MD. A doctor consoling a mentally ill person or someone going through withdrawals?

Barrytown: Not one I like that much, and pretty straight ahead. Reminds me now of the time I lived in PA and worked in Philly and how provincial the PA and NJ people were even though all that separated them was some water.

 Parker's Band: Self-explanatory.

 Through With Buzz: Never cared for this one either; one person is finished with the other and names his reasons.

 Pretzel Logic: I love this one. It's about time travel. The narrator names things he'd like to do or people he'd like to see that are all "gone forever." He steps upon a platform wearing shoes that would be anachronistic in whatever time period he's traveling to.

 With A Gun: I never cared, really.

 Charlie Freak: Don't love this song; a destitute man sells his last possession and buys drugs/booze? Another in the long line of Dan songs about lost people who will never be found.

 Monkey In Your Soul: Another one that I can't say I care for. I'm not sure I had much of an interpretation of this. Listening to it now - which I'm trying not to do in writing this - perhaps it's about a beef with the record label and/or the band? This would be around the time Steely Dan became a 100% studio-based band. That's all I've got.

 Black Friday: Pretty self-explanatory. Stock market crash; stock broker listing all of the things he might do after going destitute. As a young man I liked to think that the narrator was responsible for the crash in some way; I don't think the lyrics really support that.

 Bad Sneakers: Mental illness; there's nothing more sort of upsetting than self-awareness and mental illness.  The narrator knows his mental state is deteriorating.  He's enjoying memories while he still can.  Contemplating suicide perhaps.  Looking out the window of a mental institution or a prison? I don't think this requires too much interpretation.

 Rose Darling: An affair going on while the woman being cheated on is in the room? Is it a perverted thing or is she dead? I actually always thought this was perhaps, let's say, a male version of "She Bop" - it may simple be about masturbation (hence the "rose").

 Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More: ...because he's dead. Pretty straightforward. I always loved this song and the great wordplay, and Fagen's delivery.

 Doctor Wu: A love story in which heroin is the third wheel, and then by the end the narrator has become the third wheel. The narrator was already on it (the line about meeting Katy while he was "halfway crucified," with that very specific phrase always evoking, to me, a needle in the arm), and either Katy cottoning on to the narrator in order to score drugs, or, my interpretation, the narrator gets Katy hooked on the drug and eventually loses her to it. I always loved the beautiful melancholy of this tune, and whether or not Dr. Wu is a real person - the dealer? - or a metaphor remained unsettled with me, though I always went for the former interpretation personally. A down-to-earth (pun intended) version of "Space Oddity," really, with the same sort of outro in which someone who has passed beyond our view is being called out for into oblivion.

 Everyone's Gone To The Movies: One of the darkest Steely Dan songs. It doesn't take much to figure out the gist of what is happening here. How dark the song really is hinges on whether or not you think the line is "Soon you will be eighteen" or "Soon you will be a teen." A bouncy tune about a neighborhood pedophile/hebephile who wants to show the kids some home made porn ("I know you're used to eighteen or more / Sorry we only have eight" is surely a reference to frames per second; he's showing them Super-8 films - how dark you want to go will depend on whether or not you interpret some lines as suggesting he intends to make more films). I heard this song playing in a CVS once years ago - how's that for subversive.

 Chain Lightning: For a song that no one would ever touch, it's actually perhaps not that hard to figure out. Start with the title and the rest follows. Chain lightning? A swastika. The rest is gravy after that, really. The first verse takes place at a Nazi rally (I read, years later, a fan claim that it was meant to be Nuremberg due to the line "Some turnout, a hundred grand" - I don't really care about the location) where the narrator is giving tips to his companion ("Don't question the little man" - little man is Hitler, etc.). The second verse takes place in the present day of the 70s (Fagen's "Forty years later" clue would not only be musically clunky, it'd give away the game a bit) where two neo-Nazis visit the site of the first verse in awe. Pretty dark stuff, and another song I've heard more than once in convenience stores or at the grocer's.

 Your Gold Teeth II: I really don't know about this one. It's a great little tune; its relation to the tune with which is shares a name seems to be simply, perhaps, that the authors liked the phrase. A bit metaphysical/existential, I was always happy to let this one be, really.

 Any World (That I'm Welcome To): Another one that I found straightforward as well as relatable. "Any world that I'm welcome to / Is better than the one I come from." What outside-looking-in type hasn't related to that sentiment? I always added a sci-fi element to it in my mind - the narrator is literally talking about trying to find another world, perhaps an alternate universe. That's likely just me.

 Throw Back The Little Ones: A street grifter explaining his outlook on his trade, perhaps having taken someone under his wing.

 Kid Charlemagne: The story of an expert drug maker, from rise to fall. LSD at the time, I'd suppose - today in the age of Breaking Bad it could be anything.

 The Caves of Altamira: A lonely child finds solace and imaginative companionship in cave drawings he discovered. Really kind of a lovely song with a more positive sentiment (in the Steely Dan world at least).

 Don't Take Me Alive: A man has barricaded himself inside his home with weapons and explosives and has no intention of making it out alive. Contains some pretty incredible lyrics; I've always quite liked "Can you hear the evil crowd / The lies and the laughter / I hear my insides / The mechanized hum of another world / Where no sun is shining / No red light flashing / Here in this darkness / I know what I've done / I know all at once who I am." Up to you whether or not "I crossed my old man" means he killed him. I always thought so.

 Sign In Stranger: (Misheard lyrics: "Do you have a dark spot on your pants." Of course it isn't pants, it's "past."  But I still chuckle when I hear it.) A song about another planet in which criminals or those on the run for whatever reason can escape and be "born again" e.g. start over. I suppose it could be a prison planet - The Twilight Zone episode "The Lonely" comes to mind in that case, though of course with more than one person and likely set up by the criminals - but it sounds rather pleasurable. Instead of escaping to some tropical island as is cliche in crime fiction, these individuals escape to another planet; some lyrics, to me anyway, seem to suggest this is only one of possibly many (but at least two) such places.

 The Fez: A 1970s song about safe sex. Fez = condom. Not much needed to interpret this one. Fabulous little bit of music though; the swerve into the guitar solo always really got me. Next.

 Green Earrings: A thief goes into a reverie when he steals an item that reminds him of the past, perhaps a woman he knew who wore the same earrings. Or he stole her earrings and other jewelry and the earrings send him into a reverie.  I can't say I gave this one too much thought.

 Haitian Divorce: Exactly what it says on the tin. In the days before no-fault divorces, a woman treks to Haiti to get a divorce and her celebrations go a bit pear shaped due to a bit too much imbibing. The last verse seems to suggest she reunites with the man she went there to divorce (I can't really be bothered to look up whether or not a divorce in Haiti would be held to in America at the time this was written), and is then pregnant, and the baby is clearly, let's say, not going to need a paternity test to find out where and with whom it was conceived. A fun song, showing off what would later seem to be Becker's love of reggae, with one of the best outros in the Steely Dan catalog.

 Everything You Did: A dark one. A man discovers his girlfriend cheating. The evolution of the lyrics suggest that he wants to hear everything she did because he gets off on it. Eventually he's asking her to show him everything she did. A song that was always just the other side of the line into perhaps too creepy for me, though not a bad tune by any means. Contains the reference to The Eagles.

 The Royal Scam: Pretty straight forward lyrically; musically very interesting. A song about very well-meaning immigrants from Puerto Rico ("from the city of St. John" = San Juan, of course) coming to America for a taste of the American Dream to find out it not only doesn't really exist, but that they will find nothing but exploitation, destitution, and predation. Written almost in Bible-esque verse, one line at a time, with a church choir as backup on chorus. Manages to do in a matter of minutes what it took Genesis and fucking Peter Gabriel and his ridiculous "Slipperman" / "Rael Genesis" nonsense of "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" a whole album, and does it much more bitterly and is far more affecting and biting. Sadly a song still timely in many ways today.

 Here In The Western World: A man goes to a brothel. (This song is an unreleased one that falls here in the chronology on the Citizen Steely Dan boxed set. It isn't one I ever really took to.)

 Black Cow: The one the rappers really like. Not hard to see why. Skip Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz (I'm not going to look that up but I'm pretty sure I'm at least close there); MF Doom samples this to much better effect. Another one of a group of Dan songs in which the narrator is chiding some other party, which we'll hear again. Narrator sees someone he knows - an ex? - out, and calls them out on being high among other things.

 Aja: A wearier version of Bodhisattva, perhaps, in a way. Narrator fantasizes about going to be with a woman he may see as some sort of salvation once he is finished with his life in the Western world. As a young man I thought this one was a bit of a snooze for some reason; it's a very nice tune and quite complicated musically. I think the lyrics are completely secondary here.

 Peg: You're gonna be a star! An agent for a female actress (which, of course, I assumed was a porno actress - it'd have to be in a Steely Dan song, right?) who may or may not also be buttering her bread to get into her skirt. Michael McDonald reigns supreme. A fun tune that's flirting with disco in all the right ways.

Deacon Blues: A wonderful song.  A "loser" thinking on his life, and fantasizing about, as Becker put it, becoming a musician as a "state of loserdom he might aspire to."  The most obviously autobiographical-ish Dan song at that point.

Home at Last: Homer's Iliad.

I Got the News: A criminal informant?  At some point perhaps beaten to the point that he may be paralyzed.

Josie: A group - perhaps a gang or some sort - anticipating the release and homecoming of Josie, who sounds like trouble.  Fagen would later revisit a similar theme in the song "H Gang" from Morph the Cat (just make Josie a member of a rowdy girl group).

Babylon Sisters: Two guys on their way across the border where legalities need not be a concern.  The narrator seems to be experienced in this, his passenger going along for the first time perhaps.

Hey Nineteen: A man laments a generation gap between himself and a girl he's into.  The use of social lubricants comes to mind to the narrator to possibly ease that gap.  I hear people cite this song as creepy.  Of course it's creepy.  Though, wise beyond their years they may have been, Becker and Fagen would have been about 30 when they wrote this - hardy a May-December romance.  That in and of itself isn't at all creepy to me.  (The creepiness comes in where it appears the narrator, lamenting he has nothing in common with the girl, still wants to pick her up out of lust and a good tequila might do the trick.)

Glamour Profession: Drug dealing.

Gaucho: A gay couple, one an older man, having a spat.  The narrator seems to be chiding his lover not necessarily for bringing home another guy, but for having bad taste in friends/lovers, citing some sort of OTT flamboyance as his issue here.

Time Out of Mind: Drugs.

My Rival: This one is a head-scratcher.  It has a wonderful lyrics - the details employed by the narrator as he observes his surroundings as he awaits his rival set a very evocative scene.  At one point in my youth I thought it was about two elderly people preparing to do battle.  I think now that those details - the rival having a scar across his face and needing a hearing aid - suggest this guy has had the shit kicked out of him before.  I'd stop there, but the line "I remember when I first held your tiny hand in mine / I loved your more than I can tell, but now it's stomping time" throws me completely.  The best I can muster there is the narrator's rival is either a woman or someone he/she knew as a small child.  Maybe his/her own child?

Third World Man: The discovery that someone - a neighbor, it would seem - is possibly a terrorist.  Some perhaps implied racism in the piece - if the "fireworks" line is literal, perhaps it is a foreigner (an Arab, I'd guess) who scares people not because he is an actual terrorist, but because of his cultural connection is assumed to be one.  And "he's become a third world man" might suggest that this distrust has radicalized him.  Or maybe it is simply just a neighbor who turns out to be some sort of terrorist.

I'm not going over every "New Era" Dan song, but I'll pick a few:

Gaslighting Abby: If you know what gaslighting is, the song needs no explanation.  Husband and mistress gleefully make the wife, who they want out of the picture, think she's going insane.

Two Against Nature: This to me is pure Walter Becker.  A song about voodoo.  Name-checks actual voodoo people.  Take that out of it and it's probably a metaphor for being older and fighting "nature" in that way.

Janie Runaway: Pretty straightforward.  Dark as hell.

Jack of Speed: Drugs.

Almost Gothic: A pretty heartfelt song, really.  Not much analysis needed.

Negative Girl: See above. The subject of the song might as well be the same girl in both.

West of Hollywood: One of my top 10 favorite Dan songs.  The narrator losing his grip on reality.  The good times have crashed and what is left is growing madness.  Also the guy is in therapy.

Blues Beach: The songs on Everything Must Go are perhaps the most straightforward, at least most of them.  Post 9/11, post-apocalyptic (or pre-apocalyptic might be a better way of putting it).

The Last Mall: See above.

Everything Must Go: See above.

Godwhacker: A hitman on a quest to kill God.  A strange song.  I actually think it is maybe not about literally killing God, but someone who thinks he is God.  A cult leader or evangelist perhaps?

Slang of Ages: Drugs.

Green Book: Virtual realty interactive porn.

Pixeleen: Similar to Negative Girl/Almost Gothic - a gamer girl who lives out at least a large part of her life online.  What I like about this and the other two songs mentioned is that there is absolutely no judgment there.  They are positive portrayals of perhaps quirky and perhaps volatile women.  The songs signal almost a celebration of these women.  (That may be Fagen's influence; Becker, god love him, seemed to have more problems with women.)

Lunch With Gina: The song that refutes what I just wrote.  Though it seems to be more about the narrator's anxiety about seeing Gina.  A clear reason isn't given.  But yes, a song about someone waiting for the titular Gina to show up and not looking forward to said lunch date.

Solo stuff:

Fagen's The Nightfly is nearly entirely straightforward.  He even put a blurb in the liner notes explaining it.  The Goodbye Look stands out as the odd one out.  It sounds a bit like a Jimmy Buffet song for my tastes so I've not given it a close reading.  I may be the only person who does not particularly like this album.  And the same goes for Kamakiriad.  Very weird concept - a guy sets out on a journey in a futuristic car that runs on hydroponics.  Tomorrow's Girls is a little problematic for me.  Snowbound is fabulous.

Morph the Cat: Fagen still in post 9/11 mode. "Morph" seems to be some sort of physical or metaphysical representation for perceived spiritual and psychological numbness that has overtaken the city and it's dwellers.  A song I always took as perhaps a bit political.  Wonderful song, one of Fagen's best, and a very pleasing stop-start musical structure.

H Gang: Rowdy woman and former girl group member just released from prison plans to put together the old band ("five chord" always makes me chuckle - I love that detail).

What I Do: Narrator having a conversation with a dead Ray Charles.  (I didn't figure out the Ray Charles part on my own; I heard that in an interview.)

Brite Nightgown: The Grim Reaper.

Security Joan: Post-9/11 airport security as romance.

The Night Belongs to Mona: A woman has post-9/11 agoraphobia ("the fire downtown") and her friends muse on her social anxiety which has driven her to do or rather not do things and wonder during the times she goes quiet if suicide is in the cards.

Mary Shut the Garden Door: An alien invasion.  At one point I thought it was about someone who sees people he considers scary (aliens in the foreigners from another country sense) moving into the neighborhood and his resulting paranoia.  I later read that it was about the Republican National Convention coming to New York written as an invasion narrative; I was at least partially correct.

The only song on Sunken Condos I'll note here (I like that album, I just don't know that it requires analysis) is Memorabilia: A song apparently about nuclear war fetishists who enter a shop with a back room that contains "memorabilia" from nuclear bomb testing.  The song name-drops quite a bit of nuclear bomb history.  I don't know if Fagen will ever put out another solo album, but this song is a nice bookend to New Frontier, which was from the point of view of someone in the 50s who had a bomb shelter.  I might even like to think it is the same guy - once musing on how the bomb might end it all and having a bomb shelter party, now looking at the accouterments of that time.

Becker's solo stuff also doesn't need a lot of analysis.  Who knows how much of it is truly autobiographical - they've always maintained they don't write strict autobiography, but I think Becker comes pretty close.  His two albums are a lot of lost people (Becker, again, seems to truly know what it is to be lost, as well as the feeling of sadness and regret felt towards other lost people), regrets, betrayals, some biting commentary on show business, a song about aliens - this time the space kind - who very nearly fit in if not for their hats being too flat (Hat Too Flat is a great song), a song that might be directed toward Fagen among others (This Moody Bastard - the most sentimental Becker got, and it's quite so), and a lovely little song about his son (the 12th track on 11 Tracks of Whack, so the only song on that album that isn't "whack.")

Becker's outtakes from 11 Track of Whack are much more interesting lyrically: Medical Science is frankly kind of horrifying - apparently a song about either a very sloppy coroner's office or some sort of illicit body disposal service / human experimenting.  Sympacu is possibly the weirdest thing any one of these guys ever did - it's musically almost straddling the Scott Walker line.  It's bizarre and really, that should have made the album in my opinion.

Well, that's it for this out of nowhere, out of character for this blog post.  RIP Walter Becker.

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