What is your favorite Steely Dan lyric?

“Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the car!”

This is, for me, the best Dan lyric. Why?

On its face, it’s stupid, almost nonsensical. But once you know the context, it turns out to be brilliant.

If you had read interviews with Donald and Walter, they’ve said their goal when writing songs was to “crack each other up.” So, many of these lyrics are often obtuse to even a regular listener. This is because the joke was between them.

In the case of “Kid Charlemagne,” they have indicated that the song might resemble the person of Owsley Stanley III, aka “The Bear,” arguably the most outstanding LSD chemist ever. For several years he was a fugitive, and he was caught by running out of gas in a chase with the FBI.

Hence the ironic and brilliant lyric, “Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the car.”

They were originally published here on Quora. 


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