September 21, 2006

Steely Dan's "The Boston Rag" -- Free Misinterpretation

Steely Dan's lyrics are often oblique or even, let's face it, incomprehensible. Here's my attempt to assign meanings to the few words of The Boston Rag. I failed, but let's not just leave it at that. ____________________________________________________

Let the Boston Rag image refer to Old Glory, the US Flag. Say the song was written in ~1970 to 1972. (I dunno, but say it was.) Think back to what was on those dim blue tubes 30 years ago!

Any news was good news, and the feeling was bad at home

1970: The US was rife with dissent and misinformation. President Richard Nixon announced the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Four students protesting that invasion killed by National Guard at Kent State. link

I was out of my mind and you were on the phone

Nixon inattentive to domestic concerns ("on the phone"). Or maybe the author’s girlfriend was inattentive (perhaps likewise to domestic concerns).

Lonnie was the kingpin back in nineteen sixty five

Plainly a reference ot Lon Nol, the (quixotic & often-deposed) nationalist ruler of Cambodia.

I was singing this song when Lonnie came alive

Ok, this can probably be forced to fit current events of those times, if only because there seem to be so many different accounts of so many events.

CHORUS Bring back the Boston Rag,

Get the USA out SE Asia, it sucks over there.

Tell all your buddies that it aint no drag

Peace with Honor! Declare Victory! Whatever!

Bring back the Boston Rag

You were Lady Bayside, there was nothing that I could do

Well this maybe weakens my case for ‘you’ being the fed. gov.

So I pointed my car down Seventh Avenue

There certainly was nothing Fagan and Becker could do about the war, Kent State, Agnew, Nixon, etc. etc. So let’s go score some pills.

Lonnie swept the playroom and he swallowed up all he found

Lon Nol did in fact run wild, albeit on diplomacy & guns rather than (or at least in addition to) drugs.

It was forty eight hours till Lonnie came around

But the Cambodian leader’s binge was not without personal consequences. (In fact – though still in the future when "The Boston Rag" was released – Lon Nol was finally deposed in 1975. He fled to the U.S.)

Note. I posted most of this there some years back. If you're a Dan fan at all, it's well worth checking out for crazy stuff. My "analysis" is barely even moderately whacked-out by their standards. And thanks to those guys for keeping it on their site all this time, especially since I lost the original file.

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Comments:

I don't want to toot my own horn here, but I stand back and I'm breathless at the baffling and irritating thing that I have wrought.
 
Nice one. Now try Bodhisattva...
 
Heh. I actually tried that, but it falls together TOO well. Call it a big ironic Thank You to all those who are kind enough to defer their own enlightenment in order to help the rest of us find our way. Then there's nothing else to say, it all pretty much supports that. Maybe it's actually the right reading, which is very bad for interpretation.

I wrote one up for Black Friday, but by Steely Dan standards that's another almost painfully literal song.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Waaaaaiiiiit a minute. Deconstructing Steely Dan lyrics? Aaaagh! Aaaagh! It's a trap! Hippies! HIPPIIIIIIIEEESSSSS!

It's too late for me. Run - run while you still can. And don't look back...
 
Noooo, duuuude, staaayyy a while and be mellow with us!
 
I knew a guy named Lonnie and he fit the lyrics perfectly. His nickname was "Cosmic Debris".

PW, I'd like a to hear a similiar of "Careful with that Axe, Eugene" if you have the time. Thank you.
 
Cool!

Hrmmm. That could be a tough one. Ok, say Eugene is the writer Evgeni Zamyatin. And the "axe" may be Zamyatin's anticommunist novel "We" ... its eventual publication got the author kicked out of the USSR. After that he could only look at the "stars screaming" from his dreary exile.
 
Next assignment, 4′33″ by John Cage. Fifty words or less, please
 
"Fifty words or less, please"

Sure! Here's my first draft: ""
 
'lonie' rafres to lonnie donegan teh skipfle dipshit.
 
Arlington points out that "Lady Bayside" may refer to the United Nations, located in Turtle Bay.
 
At least that's what I think he said.
 
u mightght concedar asdign tot ti teh psot mr hypercredentiels.
 
Oh. I imagined there was maybe some kind of ethic among you "real bloggers" not to edit a post after it appeared.

Needless to say, my own blog is revised every few minutes for maximum lafs by a proprietary hardware-based "Humor Engine" built from 512 cutting-edge field-programmable gate array chips.
 
wel u can putta thign tahts says 'updapt!1!' er whateevar if ur fxxign a erer u might wana later on clame u never made. imean thas the gentlmenly thign to do in that kindna case.

but im not saayign a gelntlaman wouldn stoup to usign fgpa's!
 
i say - thanks and excellent job.
 
boston rag was the group of fellow students that W and D hung out with at Bard. Lonnie was a drug dealer.
 
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