Lyrically evocative (4)

I have always loved the music of Steely Dan. The distinctive American vocals of Donald Fagen, the jazz influences, and perhaps most of all, the unusual lyrics. In the mid 1970s, I bought their fourth album, ‘Katy Lied’. It was all good, but the last track on side one stood out, and I must have played it ten times in succession the day I brought the record home.

I also featured this song in the ‘Significant Songs’ series, but the lyrics deserve a feature of their own.

I have never been a heroin user, but I got the drug reference. I have never been to Biscayne Bay, but I could picture those ‘Cuban gentlemen’ asleep all day. But I have been lied to, and anyone who has can relate to the line ‘Katy lies, you could see it in her eyes’. The Internet is awash with explanations about those lyrics; personal theories, and quotes from the writer too. But none of that matters, as just listening to this song evokes memories, places unseen, and broken hearts betrayed.

Here are the lyrics.
Katy tried
I was halfway crucified
I was on the other side
Of no tomorrow
You walked in
And my life began again
Just when I’d spent the last piaster
I could borrow
All night long
We would sing that stupid song
And every word we sang
I knew was true
Are you with me doctor wu ?
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew?
Are you crazy are you high
Or just an ordinary guy?
Have you done all you can do?
Are you with me Doctor?

Don’t seem right
I’ve been strung out here all night
I’ve been waiting for the taste
You said you’d bring to me
Biscayne Bay
Where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day
I went searching for the song
You used to sing to me
Katy lies
You could see it in her eyes
But imagine my surprise
When I saw you

Are you with me Doctor Wu
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew
She is lovely yes she’s sly
And you’re an ordinary guy
Has she finally got to you
Can you hear me Doctor
Are you with me doctor

And here is the song.

27 thoughts on “Lyrically evocative (4)

  1. My husband and I are big Steely Dan fans. We’ve seen them live a few times. Great show. Very smart and suave lyrically. Their stable of backing musicians is spot on and interchangeable. It’s all about Becker and Fagen and rightfully so.
    To me, Dr. Wu is euphemism for china white or heroin. Katy is his girl who said she’d stick with him but either left him or overdosed and died. That’s my thoughts on it. Great song; album; band.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pam. I never got to see them, but bought everything they ever recorded and released.
      Your interpretation of the song is a popular one, though there is a lot of ‘evidence’ that Dr Wu was actually a real doctor who attended Donald. I just stick with my mid-70s memories of one of the best modern songs ever. And if my circumstances ever change, I may well go to Biscayne Bay one day. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. They have managed to stay in my top ten even now, and Fagan’s solo work was very good too.
      There is some debate online as to whether or nor Dr Wu or Katy is the actual drug reference but this is the line that is unmistakable,
      “I’ve been strung out here all night
      I’ve been waiting for the taste
      You said you’d bring to me”
      I just love the song, and its evocation of places and a time. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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