Monday 2 April 2012

Steely Dan: What A Shame About Me

I was grinding through my day gig
Stackin' cutouts at the Strand
When in walks Franny from NYU
We were quite an item back then

We talked about her films and shows and CDs
And I don't know what else
She said yeah Hollywood's been good to me
But tell me how about yourself

I'm still working on that novel
But I'm just about to quit
'Cause I'm worrying about the future now
Or maybe this is it
It's not all that I thought it would be
What a shame about me

She said, talk to me, do you ever see
Anybody else from our old crew
Bobby Dakine won the Bunsen Prize
Now he's coming out with something new

Alan owns a chain of Steamer Heavens
And Barry is the software king
And somebody told me in the early 80's
You were gonna be the Next Big Thing

Well now that was just a rumor
But I guess I'm doin' fine
Three weeks out of the rehab
Living one day at a time
Sneaking up on the new century
What a shame about me

What a shame about me
I'm thinking of a major Jane Street sunrise
And the goddess on the fire escape was you

We both ran out of small talk
The connection seemed to go dead
I was about to say, hey, have a nice life
When she touched my hand and said:

You know I just had this great idea
This could be very cool
Why don't we grab a cab to my hotel
And make believe we're back at our old school

I said babe you look delicious
And you're standing very close
But like this is Lower Broadway
And you're talking to a ghost
Take a good look it's easy to see
What a shame about me
What a shame about me


Published on May 2, 2012 by Bower Wilkins

The Graham Weekly Album Review #1189 - Mar 2000
Steely Dan: Two Against Nature by George Graham
In interviews, Fagen and Becker acknowledge that their audience is Baby Boomers, and many of their characters are of their generation. What a Shame About Me is a song about a middle aged guy who meets an old college sweetheart and learns about how successful all his friends had been, except for him. Musically, the piece is an excellent example of why Steely Dan are held in awe by many a musician.

Wikipedia: Two Against Nature
Two Against Nature is the eighth album by Steely Dan, released in 2000. The album won the group four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year, and marked the first Steely Dan studio album in 20 years, following 1980's Gaucho. It has been certified 2x platinum in the US.

Two Against Nature marked Steely Dan's long-awaited debut for Warner Bros. Records - through a sub-label, Giant Records. They intended to release Gaucho on Warner Bros. after their longtime label ABC Records merged with MCA Records, but MCA claimed ownership of the master recordings. As a result, the band was forced to release Gaucho on MCA (which has since been absorbed into Geffen Records, ironically once associated with Warners). It is also famous for beating The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem and Kid A by Radiohead for Album of the Year at the Grammys, which led to much criticism.

Wikipedia: Steely Dan
Steely Dan is an American rock band; its core members are Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The band's popularity peaked in the late 1970s, with the release of seven albums blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Rolling Stone has called them "the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies."

The band's music is characterized by complex jazz-influenced structures and harmonies played by Becker and Fagen along with a revolving cast of rock and pop studio musicians. Steely Dan's "cerebral, wry and eccentric" lyrics, often filled with sharp sarcasm, touch upon such themes as drugs, love affairs, and crime. The pair is well-known for their near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio, with one notable example being that Becker and Fagen used at least 42 different studio musicians, 11 engineers, and took over a year to record the tracks that resulted in 1980's Gaucho — an album that contains only seven songs.

Steely Dan toured from 1972 to 1974, but in 1975 became a purely studio-based act. The late 1970s saw the group release a series of moderately successful singles and albums. They disbanded in 1981, and throughout most of the next decade, Fagen and Becker remained largely inactive in the music world. During this time, the group steadily built and maintained "a cult following." In 1993, the group resumed playing live concerts; later Steely Dan released two albums of new material, the first of which earned a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. They have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001.

official web site: Steely Dan
[latest news, concert dates, lyrics to all songs]

official web site: FAQ: origin of the name
Since both of [Fagen and Becker] were avid readers of 1950's "Beat" literature, they decided to name the band "Steely Dan" after a dildo in William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch."

Some personal notes
I have to smile reading along with the lyrics while listening to the song. What a curse we are all given when we're young, the curse of potential and promise. Yes, it's sad but it's also funny. Looking forward we can be full of anticipation about the supposed wonderful things to come but then later on, we look back and wonder about what happened, what went wrong. Oddly enough, we can work very, very hard and still fail. Of course not working hard almost guarantees we fail but still, the randomness of life, the luck of the draw may mean we claw our way to the top but find the door shut or we work our whole life then stick out our hand for the brass ring only to discover there is none. As I amusingly observed years ago, for every lottery millionaire, there are nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine losers. We do our best and hope that our best is good enough. Regrets? I've had a few (My Way by Frank Sinatra). But at the end of the day, we all have to accept our lives for what they are, good or bad. What a shame about me.


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