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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
Geeze, I thought someone would have something to say about this little gem of ditty apparently describing a classic "hipster" love triangle -- that between a man, a woman, and that evil mistress known as heroin?
Myself, I have been in more a painting mode, than a writing mode, lately, so here?s an excerpt from an essay entitled, "Hot Licks and Rhetoric: Inserting the Burroughsian Dildo into the New Frontier," by Davis Schneiderman. I?m not sure that I totally agree with his interpretation, but it?s a good little read...
Quote: In the enigmatically scripted "Doctor Wu" which is more "jazz-pop" than "rock" will ever be, language disguises itself as a forlorn love ditty: "...You walked in/and my life began again. . . .all night long we would sing that stupid son/And every word we sang I knew was true." Initially, we are given the typical, hackneyed convention of the love song, but the lyric surprisingly alters at the chorus: "Are you with me Dr. Wu?/Are you really just a shadow of the man that I once knew?/Are you crazy?/Are you high?/Or just some ordinary guy...?" Dr. Wu is a personified non-sequitur of the stock Asian mischief character, escaped from the enigma of a Zen riddle. He boggles the song's narrator with seemingly unexplainable presence and purpose; his form is undefined, and causes the narrator to question the reality of his appearance. The simple love story dissolves completely by the first saxophone solo, and we roll through a second scenario of musical convention, the drug-wasteland: "I've been waiting for the taste you said you bring to me..."
We feel grounded, if not disturbed, by the apparent explanation of Dr. Wu as a junkie's hallucination, but it is only in the song's final moments that this position is questioned: "Can you hear me Dr. Wu?/Are you with me Dr. Wu?" repeats and disintegrates into bits of chopped phraseology, dropping the "Dr. Wu" tag, only to pick it up again several beats later, separated from context and, like the language used to both pacify the quiescent lovers or appease the strung-out loner, disconnected from its original intent.
Fagen and Becker exploit the semiotic possibilities of the pop song with "Dr. Wu's" establishment of two narrative frames and the subsequent dissolution of these same schemas. This is a relative anomaly when held up to the entire Steely Dan catalog, but only in the easily identifiable decomposition of expected signs. Where "Dr. Wu" makes explicit, with its atrophied ending, the precariousness of a listener's faith in the "truthfulness" of lyric, this effect comes to predominate the latter phases of the Steely Dan output in a more subtle manner.
You know "Steely Dan" was named after the metal dildo in the William S. Burroughs? novel, "Naked Lunch."
Donald Fagen is an extremely good lyricist, and chronicler, of the darker side of life... IMHO. And what?s so cool about it, is that all this thick, viscous, dark green, cynical, bile is hidden, lurking, and trying to gurgle up one?s throat, just behind very upbeat, contemporary, toe-tapping, pop-jazz music.
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