The Steely Dan Dictionary: S

Listing 12 entries:

Here come those Santa Ana winds again
Song: Babylon Sisters   Album: Gaucho

The seasonal Santa Ana winds are hot, dry and strong easterly gusts which blow across Southern California between September and February.

"Santa Ana" is Spanish for "Saint Anne" and refers to the Santa Ana Canyon near Anaheim, where the winds were thought to originate (however, in reality they come from near the Rocky Mountains).

A boon to surfers but a nemesis to firefighters and homeowners, the hot winds are said to fuel aggression and can even foretell a coming earthquake — the so-called "shake and bake" syndrome.

Link: What Makes The Santa Ana Winds Different From Regular Old Wind?

Savoy sides presents a new saxophone sensation / It's Parker's band with a smooth style of syncopation
Song: Parker's Band   Album: Pretzel Logic

Savoy was a New-York based record label which was home to Charlie Parker between November 1945 and September 1948.

Parker's time at Savoy is regarded as the peak of his creative powers — though it also included the 6 months he spent in Camarillo recovering from an alcohol and heroin addiction.

In case you're wondering, "sides" is simply a jazz slang term for "records".

Link: Birka Jazz archives: Savoy Records

Sweet things from Boston / So young and willing / Moved down to Scarsdale
Song: Hey Nineteen   Album: Gaucho

A town located 25 miles north of New York City, population 18,000.

Scarsdale is considered to be among the most upscale towns in Westchester County, which in turn is the most upscale of the areas surrounding NYC.

The town is probably most notable for being the hometown of Linda McCartney and the former residence of Yoko Ono, not to mention lending its name to 1970s food fad "The Scarsdale Diet".

Link: Scarsdale Village Government

And as she clings to the roof of the speeding train / The Double A down to Sheridan Square 
Song: Pixeleen   Album: Everything Must Go

A small public plaza in Greenwich Village, New York, close to where West 4th Street meets 7th Avenue. Named after General Philip Sheridan, a hero of the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Lends its name to the nearby Christopher Street / Sheridan Square subway station — although, despite the song lyrics, the (now-defunct) AA train didn't stop there. However, it did stop at West 4th Street / Washington Square station, less than half a mile away.

Link: The History of Sheridan Square

Maybe it's the skeevy look in your eyes / Or that your mind has turned to applesauce
Song: Cousin Dupree   Album: Two Against Nature

A slang term meaning "shady or unsavoury".

Depending on who you ask, the word either comes from the Italian word schifoso, meaning "disgusting, revolting", or the Japanese sukebei, meaning "a lewd or lecherous person".

Link: The meaning of "skeevy"

Yes we're gonna have a wingding / A summer smoker underground
Song: New Frontier   Album: The Nightfly

A dated North American slang term for an informal social gathering.

More than one dictionary further clarifies the definition as "an informal social gathering for men", though this gender-specific meaning seems at odds with its use in the song, with the protagonist hoping to get introduced to a Tuesday Weld-esque "big blonde".

The etymology of the term is unconfirmed, but it's not hard to imagine it deriving from the copious amount of smoking that would have happened at such a gathering in the 1950s.

Have you ever seen a squonk's tears? / Well look at mine
Song: Any Major Dude Will Tell You   Album: Pretzel Logic

A mythical woodland creature, originating in Pennsylvania.

First mentioned in the 1910 book Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by William T. Cox, squonks are described as being very ugly creatures who spend much of their time crying due to their appearance. When captured, they are able to dissolve completely into a puddle of tears.

A mere 2 years after the release of Pretzel Logic, Genesis dedicated an entire song to the squonk (appropriately called "Squonk") on their 1976 album A Trick of The Tail.

Link: Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods

Stanyan Street looking like that third world war / You come up blazing like an open sore 
Song: Junkie Girl   Album: 11 Tracks of Whack

A street in San Francisco.

Running north-south for approximately 1 mile through the centre of the city, the street forms both the western boundary of the Haight-Ashbury district and the eastern boundary of Golden Gate Park.

Named after Charles H. Stanyan, a city supervisor in the late 19th century, the thoroughfare has also been immortalised in the title of Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows, a 1966 poetry collection by American poet and singer-songwriter Rod McKuen.

Link: Stanyan Street poem by Rod McKuen

They got the shapely bodies / They got the Steely Dan T-shirts
Song: Show Biz Kids   Album: Countdown to Ecstasy

A type of (fictional) Japanese dildo, mentioned in William Burroughs' infamous 1959 book Naked Lunch.

See the following excerpt:
Mary is strapping on a rubber penis. "Steely Dan III from Yokohama," she says, caressing the shaft. Milk spurts across the room. "Be sure that milk is pasteurized. Don't go giving me some kinda awful cow disease like anthrax or glanders or aftosa...."

Link: Buy Naked Lunch from

I was grinding through my day gig / Stackin' cutouts at the Strand
Song: What A Shame About Me   Album: Two Against Nature

The Strand Bookstore in New York, located on the corner of 12th Street and Broadway.

Founded in 1927 and specialising in remaindered and bargain books, the Strand is reputedly the largest second-hand bookshop in the United States, with 18 miles of shelves.

Link: Strand Bookstore official website

Drive west on Sunset / To the sea
Song: Babylon Sisters   Album: Gaucho

Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles — a 20-mile long street which runs from Central LA to the ocean, via Hollywood.

Nicknamed "The Boulevard of Dreams", it was originally made famous worldwide by the classic 1950 Billy Wilder movie Sunset Boulevard. In more recent years, it also gained infamy as the site of Hugh Grant's 1995 liaison with hooker Divine Brown.

Link: Famous Hollywood Streets: Sunset Boulevard

He's all the talk in shops and schoolyards / Sutton Place / The automat
Song: Morph the Cat   Album: Morph The Cat

A neighbourhood in New York City, located in midtown Manhattan, alongside the East River.

Sutton Place is a small and elegant neighbourhood, considered to have some of the finest architecture in New York. Also notable for containing the United Nations Secretary-General's official residence.