Rikki Don’t Lose That Number

“It wasn’t written for Rickie Lee Jones. It was just a pop song.”Walter Becker (416)

Two Against Nature

“We made it the title because we thought it was descriptive of our condition at the present time. Because when you start to get older, you really are fighting nature all the time. And musically you’re fighting nature, trying to organize the atoms of sound. You’re trying to manipulate or overcome obstacles in nature.”Donald Fagen (417)
“”You’ve got to grok the shape of things unkown” – “Grok” is from “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein. “To grok” meant to understand something, to see its deeper meaning, at an intuitive level.”Walter Becker/Donald Fagen (418)
“It’s about the songwriters’ invocation of their own powers to overcome the natural and supernatural forces arrayed against them. They’re offering to help their audience prevail in the face of all sorts of mysterious and frightening beings.”Walter Becker (843)

Gaslighting Abbie

“The slang word “to gaslight” is something I’ve only heard used in New York City. The word “gaslighting” comes from the film Gaslight, where Charles Boyer tries to convince Ingrid Bergman that she’s crazy. So it’s a kind of synonym for mind-fucking. A certain kind of mind-fucking, where the method by which this was accomplished was by manipulating the physical reality in such a way that the person would be cold all the time, or by lowering the gaslights all the time making it so that the rooms were getting darker and darker. That sort of thing. Stealing clothes and things like that. Or denying that something happened that actually did happen.”Donald Fagen/Walter Becker (419)

Jack Of Speed

“That one represents the personification of a kind of demonic obsession.”Donald Fagen (418)

My Old School

Becker: It [Annandale a specific reference to Bard College – Ed] was one of your basic beatnik colleges which they have in America. There’s a couple of them strategically situated throughout the country. Everybody there, just about, was a beatnik, except for the people who were in the religion department. Fagen: They’re progressive schools. You don’t get as much foundation material as I would have liked to have gotten, actually. They emphasize creative aspects of learning rather than basics, so it turns out that if you want to get some kind of formal education you have to do a lot of reading on your own. So the system is basically a failure. Becker: In the winter they sent you off for a coupla months to go out into the world and achieve some kind of meaningful relationship with humanity at large, which was a general license to take a coupla months off and go to San Francisco and sleep on the floor under your Jimi Hendrix poster. [And ‘My Old School’ is not about a drug bust at Bard? – Ed] Becker: Not that I know of, no. Which is not to say that there was never a drug bust at Bard College. Which is not to say that I was not rounded up at that drug bust. Which is not to say that I was never even attending the school at that time. And which is not to say that the school didn’t have the decency to bail me out.”Walter Becker/Donald Fagen (844)

Kid Charlemagne

“[Could that be about a Leary or a Manson? Am I in the right direction? – Ed] Fagen: You’re on the right track. I think it would probably be about a person who’s less of a celebrity than those people. [Did you have a definite person in mind? – Ed] Becker: Well, there is a particular individual, whom we naturally can’t name…Fagen: For legal purposes. Becker: …who hovered over the creation of the song like a sword of Damocles, like Hamlet’s father. Basically, it’s a chef.”Walter Becker/Donald Fagen (844)
“It was kind of an Owsleyesque figure that existed in our minds eye. I think he was based on the idea of the outlaw-acid-chef of the 60’s who had essentially outlived the social context of his specialty, but, of course, he was still an outlaw.”Walter Becker (845)

The Boston Rag

“[How about the phrase “Lady Bayside”? – Ed] Aah! In Queens, New York, there is a community called Bayside, where I culled numerous members for my first rock and roll band, and Bayside had a particular character to the community, which ranged from politically, rabidly conservative to absolute congenital mind-damage among its younger citizens. So the young women growing up in this community had a particular kind of character.”Walter Becker (844)

Sign In Stranger

“[That’s almost like a school for gangsters? – Ed] That’s true. Of course, it does take place on another planet. We sort of borrowed the Sin City/Pleasure Planet idea that’s in a lotta science fiction novels, and made a song out of it. But, indeed, you’re right.”Donald Fagen (844)

The Royal Scam

“[Is ‘The Royal Scam’ about Puerto Ricans trying to settle in New York? – Ed] Because the interpretation is so accurate I wouldn’t even want to comment any further.”Donald Fagen (844)