Wayback Wednesday

Steely Dan – Kings (1972)

Any 70’s hipster worth her weight in, well, records will admit to owning at least one or two Steely Dan albums.  You can check the boxes in my basement and find Can’t Buy A Thrill, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, and Aja.  So, I own four, plus the cd box set.  Ok, you got me. I had more than a teensy obsession with their jazz-based sound and snarky lyrics.

The lyrics of Kings, track 3 from Can’t Buy A Thrill, have always puzzled me.  There is mention of good King Richard and good King John, and I had always conjured up a mental picture of men in armor, hoisting a mug of ale to toast the memory of King Richard the Lionheart, who led the Third Crusade.  John was Richard’s brother, who inherited his throne.  There is speculation, however, that the Richard in question is Nixon, but I cannot fathom how he would have been a “good king.” In 1972, Nixon was already reviled by many, especially artists with left leanings.  John, in this alternate imagining, was the last great President, Kennedy, whose presidency was flawed, yet glorified by his murder. Who knows.  Becker and Fagen don’t really seem to enjoy explaining their tunes in interviews.

Doesn’t really matter, though. I love the song, no matter what it means.

Steely Dan – Kings

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One thought on “Wayback Wednesday

  1. Holly A Hughes 04.28.10 / 6:04 pm

    And even if you think it’s about Richard the Lion-hearted and King John of England, it’s hard to imagine being thrilled that a despot like John was taking over. But then, there are some dark key modulations there, which always made me think the song was subtly ridiculing the public for mindlessly cheering whomever’s in power.

    It is a wonderful track, however. Yeah, I ‘ve got those Steely Dan albums in my basement. Audiocassettes, even. Their sound was so unique, so unlike anybody else before them, and it hasn’t dated one bit, either. I still love to listen to them (hence the huge and expensive CD box set….)

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