The Steely Dan Dictionary: Your Guide to the Lyrics of Rock’s Most Abstruse Band


Ever wondered what a bodhisattva is? Or how to gaslight somebody? Then this website is for you! You’re looking at an A-Z glossary of over 120 obscure words, people and places — all taken from the lyrics of Steely Dan songs.

The creative genii behind Steely Dan (Walter Becker and Donald Fagen) have long been fond of peppering their lyrics with arcane literary and cultural references, the meaning of which can be murky at best (given the duo’s legendary reticence). After searching in vain for an explanatory lexicon, I decided to create my own — the result being this website, which was first launched in June 2000.

Some examples from the site:

California / Tumbles into the sea / That’ll be the day I go / Back to Annandale
Song: My Old School   Album: Countdown to Ecstasy
Most notable as the location of Bard College, where Donald Fagen and Walter Becker first met while attending college there in the late 1960s

Piaster is also the name of the fractional currency used by several countries today, including Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Syria.

Jungle Jim
Crashing the backboard / He’s Jungle Jim again
Song: Glamour Profession   Album:Gaucho

Nickname of Jim Loscutoff (1930-2015), a former basketball player for the Boston Celtics.

Born in San Francisco, Jim’s NBA career lasted from 1955-1964 as a forward on the legendary Bill Russell-led Celtics team, which won 8 consecutive NBA Championships.

Jungle Jim was never a high scorer but had a reputation for scooping up any rebounds Bill Russell didn’t retrieve, hence “crashing the backboard”.

Black Cow
Drink your big black cow / And get out of here
Song: Black Cow   Album:Aja

A type of soda.

Depending on who you ask, a true black cow consists of either Coke or root beer mixed with either milk or ice cream (with optional chocolate sauce). There’s even an alcoholic version, containing Grand Marnier and cold coffee.

Doctor Wu
Are you with me Doctor Wu / Are you really just a shadow / Of the man that I once knew
Song: Doctor Wu   Album: Katy Lied

Dr. Jing Nuan Wu (1933-2002), an acupuncturist and artist formerly based in Washington D.C.

Emigrated from China to the United States at a young age and graduated from Harvard to become a Wall Street venture capitalist, finally setting up a Taoist clinic in Washington in 1973.

Apparently he helped one of the band to overcome drug addiction in the mid-70s, hence the lyrical tribute.



…and one reference that is missing from the site (via

Cobalt Cigarettes
Specific cigarette type smoked by the protagonist of the Steely Dan song “King of the World,” which is about life after a nuclear war. Loosely based on the film “Life in the Year Zero,” the song concerns a lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust spending his time driving through the ruins of his home town and searching the airwaves with his HAM radio for any signs of survivors.
The cigarettes themselves are very deadly (forms of cobalt are highly radioactive) and the smoking of them by the main character is meant as a commentary on his current state and lack of hope. Heard in the far backround of this song is Walter Becker mumbling scary little phrases such as, “I think my face is on fire.”
(Thanks Karen Gottschall and Bob Cyphers)

Was ‘Weird Al’ the Real Star all Along?


(via Washington Post) Geoff Edgers

LOS ANGELES — One day last summer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, on break from “Hamilton,” stopped by neighbor Jimmy Fallon’s house in the Hamptons. They both love music and Fallon has a listening room in the basement, so it wasn’t long before they were downstairs sharing another passion: “Weird Al” Yankovic.

“I said, ‘Do you know “Polka Party!”?’ ” Fallon says. “He’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I know it word for word.’ ”

Fallon threw Yankovic’s 1986 record on the turntable, and the Broadway phenomenon and the late-night TV star sang along to an accordion-driven medley that covers 12 songs in three minutes, from Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” to Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach.”

“Picture Jimmy Fallon and I sitting in a basement laughing our asses off singing, ‘I’m gonna keep my baby, keep my baby, keep my baby,’ ” Miranda says.

“We were crying, laughing and singing,” Fallon says.

They’re not alone…

Read more:

All My Loving


One day, a boy named Jonathan brought the Beatles’ “Blue Album” to school and changed my life

(via purple clover) by Marisa Cohen

In 1977, I had the good luck to land in Mr. Rosen’s fifth-grade class in my Long Island elementary school. Mr. Rosen, who had a beard and a funny, nasal voice, was considered one of the few “cool” teachers at our school, which was otherwise staffed by middle-age women with starched hairdos and polyester pantsuits.

By far the coolest thing that Mr. Rosen did was let us bring in record albums from home to play during independent work time. At age 10, I was still woefully in the dark about good music: I listened to the cast album of “Annie” until it broke (remember when records cracked?) and had ordered some Barry Manilow and Boston albums from the Columbia Records Club account I shared with my brother (12 albums for 1 penny!), but my taste was as yet unformed.

One day, a boy named Jonathan brought in the Beatles’ “Blue Album” and it changed my life…

Read more:

Video of the Week: Lady Gaga Sings ‘Born This Way’ for Mexican Foster Home

Video of the Week: The Only Reason We’re Alive

Spoken word poet IN-Q dedicates this piece to everyone in love and for everyone looking for love.

Songs You May Have Missed #610


Blue Rodeo: “Long Hard Life” (2016)

From 1000 Arms, the 2016 release by this Canadian roots-rock institution and multiple Juno Award winners.

Blue Rodeo’s two main singers and songwriters, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor have been playing together since 1977.

Every Grammy-winning Record of the Year


(via msn entertainment)

Grammy Record of the Year, one of the most prestigious musical awards, honors artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence.

For 2017, Adele, Beyoncé, Lukas Graham, Twenty One Pilots and Rihanna have received the nomination, and one of them will win the award on Feb. 12. Let’s take a look at the songs that have won the honor in the past.

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