Friday, September 4, 2009

Steely Dan Countdown to Gayness #3: Chain Lightning

One of the greatest. With Katy Lied, Fagen and Becker fully made the move to studio musicians. In many ways Katy Lied is a more polished version of Pretzel Logic, a lot of the same ideas, just with more time, shine, gloss, and money thrown into the mix. Such perfectionists, Becker and Fagen refused to listen to the final version of the album, claiming something went wrong in the mastering process and ruined the sound. They even included an apology to the listeners on the back of the album.

Who cares. Take this track, Chain Lightning. It's only three minutes long, but it packs a lot of song into those three minutes. Two verses, no chorus, a great, lazy guitar solo, all punctuated by the electric piano which then vamps off on it's own at the very end leaving you begging for more. It's a study in economy. It gives everything you need even though you want it to keep on going.

Lyrically, there's a lot of debate over this joint. Apparently, on an earlier version of the song, between the verses, Fagen whispers, "thirty years later," and this convinced a lot of people on the Internet the song is about fascism. General idea is they need to be part of the brotherhood, blah blah blah, and thirty years later they go back to where they heard their fallen leader speak. So there's that, the other theory is the song is about plain old heroin addiction.

In general, all Steely Dan songs have two interpretations, something lofty that doesn't really make too much sense and is equivalent to when your high school English teacher told you that Bigger Thomas cut the woman's head off in Native Son because to cut someones head off is to decapitate them and the word decapitate is kinda like "no to capitalism" and Wright was a big communist so when he cuts off her head he's actually committing a a pro-Communist act. And then you think, or he cut her head off because he cut her head off. After all, he was a an unstable guy with viloent tendencies in terrible circumstances in a racist Chicago and had just killed this poor liberal woman and had to dispose of her body and she wouldn't fit in the furnace, which is kinda like the other meaning behind most of Steely Dan's songs, b) drug addiction.


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