steely dan gaucho lyrics

steely dan gaucho lyrics

Gaucho

Steely Dan
Just when I say, “Boy, we can’t miss
You are golden”, then you do this
You say this guy is so cool
Snapping his fingers like a fool
One more expensive kiss-off
Who do you think I am?
Lord, I know you’re a special friend
But you don’t seem to understand
We got heavy rollers, I think you should know
Try again tomorrow
Can’t you see they’re laughing at me?
Get rid of him
I don’t care what you do at home
Would you care to explain?
Who is the gaucho, amigo?
Why is he standing in your spangled leather poncho
And your elevator shoes?
Bodacious cowboys
Such as your friend will never be welcome here
High in the Custerdome
What’d I tell you back down the line?
I’ll scratch your back, you can scratch mine
No, he can’t sleep on the floor
What do you think I’m yelling for?
I’ll drop him near the freeway
Doesn’t he have a home?
Lord, I know you’re a special friend
But you refuse to understand
You’re a nasty schoolboy with no place to go
Try again tomorrow
Don’t tell me he’ll wait in the car
Look at you
Holding hands with the man from Rio
Would you care to explain?
Who is the gaucho, amigo?
Why is he standing in your spangled leather poncho
With the studs that match your eyes?
Bodacious cowboys
Such as your friend will never be welcome here
High in the Custerdome

 

What do the lyrics of Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” mean?

Many song bloggers have made compelling arguments that the Gaucho is Walter Becker. That Becker was awkward and creatively unique, with some possibly aberrant behavior when on drugs: lsd, coke, heroin… If you listen from that perspective then this song is a collection of “all the things” people said to Fagan to discourage his friendship and creative partnership with Becker. Many song bloggers have also pointed out that Gaucho is their 7th album and their last before Fagan goes off to work on solo projects, and they suggest that this song is Fagan explaining to Becker why he needs to part company… I disagree.

I don’t think Fagan is making a statement here explaining a breakup. I think he’s putting his arm around his friend’s shoulder and reflecting on how they triumphed against the adversity presented by the overly conventional, conservative industry machine. If there’s a statement being made it’s that true friendship and collaboration is all that matters when you’re trying to create groundbreaking, unique, amazing music that the entire world loves and enjoys commercial success. That you should stick by your friends and trust your gut about people regardless of what outsiders may say. That those who judge a book by it’s cover often miss out on real value, joy, and brilliance in the world.

I think the song is not a single conversation from one individual to Fagan or Becker but rather a strung-together collection of various comments by various people: the industry executive who doesn’t want Becker at the party because he’s popping on drugs and dressed ridiculously, a parent who is yelling out of frustration that Fagan is cohorting with such a freak and NO he can’t sleep on the floor. These are memories. Things said in their early days when Fagan was trying to defend Becker. The song might be a gift to his friend Walter, saying ‘now, looking back, do you remember, can you believe, all the push-back and criticism about us? Look at what we did. We recorded some of the best alt blues jazz rock music the world will ever know and our names will never die. We proved everyone wrong, didn’t we?!’

People say Donald Fagan is not a nice guy. I’m sure the people that feel that way are the gnats that buzz around the music industry for whom Fagan has no time or energy to waste. I’m sure Donald Fagan is a brilliant person and has a true appreciation for other brilliant talented stars in the stratosphere. If you agree with this interpretation of the song meaning, you can feel the bird being flipped to the music industry and all the nay-sayers who might have squelched the creative partnership between Donald Fagan and his friend Walter Becker. It’s exceptionally delivered musically and lyrically, in typical Steely Dan style. Amazingly articulated, yet not obvious. The album was released in 1980 and here we are over 40 years later still chewing on the meaning. And for over four decades you’ve been dumbstruck and electrified from the first note of saxophone, drumroll, and vocal mastery. How great is it that we are not spoon-fed and spoken down to, but rather we are allowed a peek into our heroes thoughts and feelings and memories and left to consider them from all of the various perspectives and historical knowledge we’ve gained of the band. And if you listen to the song and think about the band reflecting back on their years and work together just before taking a break and making some changes, this song sounds like an affectionate retrospective from one band mate to his closest collaborater.

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