At last! The STEELY DAN Album-By-Album Thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by ohnothimagen, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. audiotom

    audiotom Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans La USA
    do a word search on Babylon in this thread only - this was discussed in quite a lot of detail

    "San Francisco show and tell" is him visioning a little girl on girl action from his lovely young companions
     
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  2. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    Herington is good at putting his own twist on some of the 'classic' non-Becker guitar solos, though if I had my druthers I'd prefer seeing somebody like Larry Carlton onstage with them on a full time basis. Jon Herington does alright on the records (i.e. Morph The Cat) even if he is a little too reliant on the ol' wah wah pedal for my tastes on occasion.
    Not all- most of them in the 'modern' era, though. He plays all the leads on 2VN and EMG, of course, and quite a bit on the live dates as well- let's face it, it's pretty easy to tell Becker and Herington's soloing apart.
    Don't we all?
     
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  3. PretzelLogic

    PretzelLogic Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, England
    I've only recently (duh) drawn parallels between Becker/Fagen as Steely Dan and Tennant/Lowe as Pet Shop Boys. You don't know exactly what it is that Chris does (aside from doing 'the music' and the odd vocal), but he's as much a part of PSB as the frontman and lead singer, and Neil on his own would lose that balance. Walter was exactly the same.

    Having seen Steely Dan last week, it was obvious that as glorious as it was, something was missing - not so much musically, but more as a presence.
     
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  4. WilliamWes

    WilliamWes Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    I've been reading along and just more and more great comments from everyone. I like both 'Morph the Cat' and 'Circus Money' with "Downtown Canon" by Becker as my favorite solo track along with 'I.G.Y.' from Fagen. But I'm getting worn out writing reviews to be honest since I've done a few hundred this year between this forum and another on multiple artists. I'll still be around for the live material and outtakes though.
     
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  5. California Couple

    California Couple Forum Resident

    Location:
    Newport Beach
    Very good. Is that just YOUR take on it?
     
  6. audiotom

    audiotom Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans La USA
    I detected the El Supremo - he confirmed

    The kid will live and learn
    As he watches his bridges burn
    From the point of no return

    little slap on the wrist - big warning

    ymmv
     
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  7. Paul P.

    Paul P. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA, USA
    Lead guitar - technically yes. But - just to be precise - he doesn't take the lead solo on every track.

    Walter has credits for vocal, bass on Slang Of Ages; bass on Pixeleen and Lunch With Gina; and bass, percussion on Everything Must Go.

    That's because Slang Of Ages, Pixeleen, and Everything Must Go have sax solos, while Lunch With Gina has a keyboard solo.

    Of course, all other tracks credit Walter with Bass, solo guitar.

    Full credits here: Everything Must Go | Lyrics & Credits | Steely Dan

    Cheers,
    Paul
     
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  8. Paul P.

    Paul P. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA, USA
    As far as I'm concerned, yes. I don't get that from Babylon Sisters, for instance. Not at all. :)

    To me - the protagonist is having an affair with a younger married woman - maybe married to one of his best friends - since "love's not a game for three". That's the "Cotton Candy" he's "Burning His Bridges" for. It's the start of the affair - "This is no one night stand." He's talking about escaping to LA - maybe living on the beaches with the Showfolk. They might be from San Francisco - hence the "show and tell" of their affection.

    I've always had the sense that the Babylon Sisters were on the radio of the car they're driving in.

    That's the cool thing about Steely Dan lyrics. They can mean a lot of different things, depending on your perspective.

    Other wild interpretations are here: Babylon Sisters by Steely Dan Songfacts

    And - of course - there's always Steely Dan's interpretation: "Late-seventies L.A. noir. Apocalyptic. Burned out. Slide into decadence or healing regression? Cool beat."

    From: AIA Quick Read Song Notes

    Cheers,
    Paul

    P.S. I think we'll need to take a closer look at those Alive In America liner notes. They have some interesting insights into what the songs mean - even if they're terse. But - let's wait until we discuss that album. There's too much to unpack there right now.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
  9. Paul P.

    Paul P. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA, USA
    Dug into this a bit further - some great analysis here:

    babylonsisters

    Cheers,
    Paul
     
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  10. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Some truly over the top analysis there. Really reaching when the song is completley obvious. First, let's look at the band's own description, from Alive In America:

    Late seventies L.A. noir. Apocalyptic. Burned out. Slide into decadence or healing regression? Cool beat.

    OK, so set in LA, kinda dark, and dealing with decadence and burnout. Hmmm...

    Then let's look a the lyrics:

    Drive west on Sunset
    To the sea


    So they're in LA, driving toward Santa Monica and the ocean.

    Turn that jungle music down
    Just until we're out of town


    The narrator has company in the car, and they're playing some kind of beat-heavy music, loud. Which he doesn't mind, because he's youthful in spirit if not in fact, but not in traffic (or, where it might draw attention to them).

    This is no one night stand
    It's a real occasion


    They're heading for a set destination, either pretty far away or pretty fancy, and likely slated to last more than a night.

    Close your eyes and you'll be there

    This implies it isn't too close to Santa Monica. Might be headed to Malibu, Santa Barbara, Monterrey or even San Francisco itself.

    It's everything they say

    They're visiting someplace the narrator has been before, but his guest(s) haven't been to.

    The end of a perfect day

    They're traveling in the late afternoon or evening. Which means it's unlikely they're going as far as San Francisco or Monterrey, since they wouldn't get there using the coastal routes until well after midnight (at best). This points to Santa Barbara or Malibu being the destination, and of the two Malibu is certainly more talked about than Santa Barbara as a fancy place to visit.

    Distant lights from across the bay

    It has to be Malibu. From the Santa Monica Bay side of Malibu you can see the distant lights of Santa Monica, Venice, the various beaches (Manhattan, Redondo, etc.), LAX and Long Beach "across the bay".

    Babylon sisters shake it
    Babylon sisters shake it
    So fine so young


    He's travelling with two young beauties from San Francisco. Hence why they haven't been to Malibu before.

    Tell me I'm the only one

    The two female backing singers emphasize he's got a pair coming with him to Malibu.

    Here come those Santa Ana winds again

    An ugly bit of LA intrudes on the scene, the reality outside his little adventure. Also sets the time of year - fall.

    We'll jog with show folk on the sand
    Drink kirschwasser from a shell
    San Francisco show and tell


    Again, makes it explicit they're going to Malibu, where the Colony is and where celebs routinely jog on the beach. They're going to a fancy hotel or resort of some sort and will be enjoying lots of expensive, indulgent adult beverages. Also emphasizes the girls are from San Francisco. He's going to be showing them a good time.

    Well I should know by now
    That it's just a spasm


    Emphasizes that this - while it may not be a one night stand - is still a very brief fling. It's not going to amount to anything.

    Like a Sunday in T.J.
    That it's cheap but it's not free


    This isn't expensive for him financially, but he's paying for it with time.

    That I'm not what I used to be

    He's getting older. The clock is ticking on his days as a playboy.

    And that love's not a game for three

    Well, there it is - he's definitely brought along two guests. And he realizes that this isn't bringing him any closer to finding a more permanent partner, which he clearly realizes he should be doing and perhaps wants to do.

    We then get a repeat of the chorus, and the "Santa Ana winds" bit, with the narrator injecting, "bad news". He's entering his fall. Those winds are the harsh reality reminding him another year is drawing to a close.

    Then there's the final verse:

    My friends say no don't go
    For that cotton candy
    Son you're playing with fire
    The kid will live and learn
    As he watches his bridges burn
    From the point of no return


    So here we have his buddies warning him that these flings with underage floozies ("cotton candy") are wasting time he should be spending trying to find someone to settle down with. He's burning thru ill-conceived relationships and rapidly running out of time to forge something more permanent.

    Like a lot of Dan characters, this guy is kind of an operator, but also kind of pathetic. And this one is smart enough to be aware of it, which makes it all the more sad.
     
  11. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    Interesting "Babylon Sisters" interpretations, fellas...that would have been a funny song to analyze back in high school English class:laugh:
     
  12. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I want to add, "Babylon Sisters" kicks off a very common theme on Gaucho - men who are old enough to know better making fools of themselves in love (and other things). "Hey Nineteen" could almost be the successor to "Sisters", the same guy, this time with some barely legal conquest. "Galmour Profession", with the big shots gettin' their drugs and their "Eurasian bride", again the same guy could be on that boat with his buddies. These are men slipping into middle age - or about ready to slip out of it - and adapting poorly to the adult world (or not adapting at all).

    The title cut - same business, only gay. A guy who just cannot admit his trick is completely inappropriate. "Time Out Of Mind", another guy who can't grow up, hooked on drugs. "My Rival", about a middle-aged guy who caught his young bride with some other pathetic-sounding middle aged guy (which means our narrator must be really pathetic), and who's out to get one or both of them. And "Third World Man" - well, there are a lot of theories about that one, but suffice to say this sounds like yet another maladapted man in his middle years.
     
  13. PretzelLogic

    PretzelLogic Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, England
    Wanna know what grinds my gears? That Don & Walt were barely thirty when they wrote those lyrics. It's almost unfair that they can capture that regret that comes with experience and age while they probably had three grey hairs between them.

    The guys in these songs seem 50+ - I always think of an ageing George Hamilton type as the protagonist in 'Babylon Sisters', or Jackie Treehorn from The Big Lebowski.

    And even if it would be slightly unusual today, a 19-30 age gap romance is hardly May to December.

    Damn them for being so brilliant...
     
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  14. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    I sorta get the idea that Becker and Fagen were older than their actual years. They lived a lot, and presumably saw/experienced a lot- particularly Becker. Their maturity is certainly reflected in their lyrics. Living hard will take its toll indeed.

    Now, having said that...

    Am I the only one who feels that the older they got, the more immature their lyrics became? I can't imagine the world-weary Becker and Fagen of the Gaucho era writing something like "Cousin Depree" for example.
     
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  15. jkauff

    jkauff Forum Resident

    Location:
    Doylestown, PA
    I don't agree. I think they lightened up and decided to have more fun with the lyrics after a 20 year break from "meaningful" SD lyrics. They continued their fascination with people living on the edges, but with less "message" to them. "Gaslighting Abbie" and "Negative Girl" are hardly immature. They're brilliant portraits of weird people. "Cousin Dupree" was another in a long line of songs about losers, but this one is basically comic.

    Lightening up and having more fun are things that happen to guys as they get older, especially if they become fathers as WB did. But the sharp observations and wicked wit are still there.
     
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  16. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    That is true- speaking from personal experience, I used to take things so seriously in my younger days...I have definitely mellowed out in my semi-old age and I admit my kids are partly responsible for that.

    Obviously the older B & F got, the less serious they took themselves- can't really fault them for that, I suppose. In the seventies they took things so seriously it ended up damaging their relationship for decade or so...
     
  17. audiotom

    audiotom Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans La USA
    Babylon Sisters

    great song and so many different journeys you can take on this one...

    half of this song is the lustful and totally unrealistic visions in his head
    "here come those Santa Anna winds again" is when reality hits (ain't gonna happen) and he gets slapped out of it.

    I picture the view from Venice to Malibu where Sunset meets the sea

    "San Francisco show and tell"

    back in the 70s the gay culture was much more underground
    San Francisco was perceived as the epicenter.

    he visualizes some girl on girl action with his young 'along for the joy ride' companions.
    'love's not a game for three' - doesn't look like he will be joining in if it happens, but he will sure enjoy the show
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
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  18. audiotom

    audiotom Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans La USA
    took things seriously?

    they took the scope, craft and meticulousness of their songs seriously

    but their intention in so many songs was a well placed deep seeded high brow joke that only they were in on..

    try Chain Lightning for instance

    Becker's drug habit is what burned the relationship
    that and struggling to get through an album
    further drawn out by some 80s writers block



    those royalty checks from the cd era meant they didn't have to chase a pay check
     
  19. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    Indeed, "Chain Lightning" may be the ultimate example of a Becker/Fagen inside joke run amok lyrically.

    After all, as they said:
    "If we write a song and we're not rolling around on the floor laughing by the time we've finished, we've failed somehow."
    Hell, Walter Becker gladly admitted as much. They found themselves in the lucky position that they could choose to make music if they wanted to, not because they needed to.
     
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  20. audiotom

    audiotom Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans La USA
    Fagen - "thank God for the compact disc, people went out and bought our music yet again,"

    [​IMG]
     
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  21. California Couple

    California Couple Forum Resident

    Location:
    Newport Beach
    Reading those 3 reviews gives us different takes on what the songs mean.

    I see it more as a STORY where the songs are tied together.

    Like the guy with the dynamite is hiding in the cave where he used to hang out when he was young.

    In Caves the narrator says:

    I recall when I was small
    How I spent my days alone

    With a candle in my hand
    I'd hide inside a hall of rock and sand

    In Alive the narrator says:

    I know you're out there
    With rage in your eyes and your megaphones

    Got a case of dynamite
    I could hold out here all night

    Where no sun is shining
    No red light flashing
    Here in this darkness

    I see it as the same person in the same place. The darkness is inside the cave.

    You might remember that a Grotto is also a small picturesque cave.

    In Divorce the narrator says:

    At the Grotto
    Sits the Charlie with the lotion and the kinky hair

    Some babies grow in a peculiar way
    It changed, it grew, and everybody knew
    Who's this kinky so-and-so?

    In Everything the narrator says:

    Where did the bastard run
    Is he still around

    I'm gonna get a gun
    Shoot the lover down

    I see this as the same person. The wife cheated with the guy with the kinky hair and out pops his kid and the husband wants to kill them both.

    Caves:

    A wooly man without a face
    And a beast without a name

    Stranger:

    They don't even have policeman one
    Doesn't matter where you been or what you've done
    Do you have a dark spot on your past
    Leave it to my man he'll fix it fast
    He will make your mug shots disappear


    Once again the same person. The guy hiding in the cave is now on the run.


    Divorce:

    She drinks the zombie

    Stranger:

    Zombie I can see you're qualified

    Walk around collecting Turkish union dues


    Fez:

    No I'm never gonna do it without the fez (Turkish hat) on


    Scam:

    He thinks he's died and gone to heaven



    Fez:

    I wanna be your holy man



    Caves:

    Memory rush over me



    Divorce:

    Day by day those memories fade away



    Are these coincidences or are the Dan telling us a story?
     
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  22. GlamorProfession

    GlamorProfession Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tejas
    i don't know, in Haitian Divorce the kinky so and so kid's father is obviously from a fling Babs had with a Haitian. and in Everything You Did, the "lover" is someone who has been in the narrator's home. sounds like different stories to me.
     
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  23. PretzelLogic

    PretzelLogic Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, England
    It’s a good thought, but don’t think there’s enough to tie them together; for one, ‘Altamira’ predates most of the other songs by a long way.

    Furthermore, it’s unlikely there’d be ‘luckless pedestrians’ around a cave.

    I’d say that there was a lexicon and themes that they fell back on (whether consciously or not) that informed most of those songs, without having a common concept.
     
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  24. California Couple

    California Couple Forum Resident

    Location:
    Newport Beach
    I REALLY like your album covers. Aja is The ONLY cover of theirs I like. No need to redo Aja but you still did a great job with it. Cab you post your covers for Gaucho, Two and Go?
     
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  25. California Couple

    California Couple Forum Resident

    Location:
    Newport Beach
    Is this where you came up with the idea of hostages? (your post circa page 66-72)
     

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