The Steely Dan Dictionary: A

Listing 12 entries:

Every A-Frame had your number on the wall / You must have had it all
Song: Kid Charlemagne   Album: The Royal Scam

An A-shaped house or building, typically having triangular front and rear walls and a roof reaching to the ground.

Although the A-frame is a traditional design dating back centuries, it enjoyed particular popularity in the US between the 1950s and 1970s. Its ease of construction made it a popular choice for affluent Americans building vacation homes during the postwar economic boom.

Link: Bring Back the A-Frame

Alsatian wine / Playing records way past four / Making some crazy soulful love on the hard wood floor
Song: Downtown Canon   Album: Circus Money

Referring to wine made in the Alsace region of France — more commonly referred to as simply "Alsace wine" (or Vin d'Alsace in French).

Located along the border between France and Germany, control of the region of Alsace has ping-ponged between the two countries over the centuries, so it's no surprise that wine from the region is Germanic in style: 90% of production being white wine, dominated by Germanic grape varieties like Gewurztraminer and Riesling, though usually drier than their sweet German counterparts.

Link: New York Times: Alsatian Wines Strike a Balance of Dry and Sweet

(No lyric — appears only in song title)
Song: The Caves Of Altamira   Album: The Royal Scam

A set of prehistoric cave paintings, near the medieval town of Santillana del Mar in northern Spain.

Discovered in the late 19th century, the scenes of bison and deer are described as "the Sistine Chapel of Palaeolithic art" and have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

Sadly, the cave is no longer open to the public due to the damage caused by decades of visitors, however a full-scale replica of the cave and its paintings have been built in a nearby museum.

Link: UNESCO World Heritage List: Cave of Altamira

She's wearing Ambush and a French twist / She's got us wild and she can tell
Song: New Frontier   Album: The Nightfly

A brand of women's perfume.

Launched by the French perfume company Dana in 1955, Ambush is a sharp, oriental, woody fragrance with a blend of lavender, jasmine, oakmoss, sandalwood and patchouli.

It is still available nowadays, though the formulation has apparently changed in recent years — much to the dismay of those who remember it fondly from the 50s and 60s.

Link: Buy Ambush (classic formula) at

I'll just have to make it work somehow / I'm in the amen corner now
Song: Almost Gothic   Album: Two Against Nature

Part of a church occupied by fervent worshippers.

More specifically, in Protestant churches, also refers to a place (usually at one side of the pulpit) occupied by those leading the responsive "amens" of the congregation.

"Amen Corner" is also the nickname for a section of the Augusta National Golf Course (home of the Masters tournament) which contains the 12th tee — rated by many players as the toughest hole in golf.

Link: How Amen Corner got its name

So far so good / I'm building the Andrea Doria out of balsa wood
Song: Things I Miss The Most   Album: Everything Must Go

Italian luxury ocean liner which collided with the MV Stockholm near Nantucket, Massachusetts in July 1956, with the loss of 51 lives.

Named after Andrea Doria, a 15th century Italian sailor, navigator and compatriot of Columbus who is credited as the first man to discover how to sail against the wind.

Interestingly, although the Andrea Doria itself sank after the crash, the MV Stockholm survived — and in fact is still sailing today (renamed as the MV Astoria), making it the world's second-oldest active oceangoing passenger ship.

Link: The Sinking of Andrea Doria

California / Tumbles into the sea / That'll be the day I go / Back to Annandale
Song: My Old School   Album: Countdown to Ecstasy

Annandale-on-Hudson, a neighbourhood of the town Red Hook in upstate New York, about 100 miles north of New York City.

Most notable as the location of Bard College, where Donald Fagen and Walter Becker first met while attending college there in the late 1960s.

Link: Bard College

We come in on the morning scan / All the way from far Arcturus
Song: Hat Too Flat   Album: 11 Tracks of Whack

A star in the constellation of Boötes (The Herdsman).

Arcturus is 37 light years from Earth, has a diameter 25 times that of our sun, is 70 times more luminous and is the 4th brightest star in the sky.

Link: The Cosmology of Arcturus

Your beloved white Aries / Is fair game for the vandals up on Makapuu Street
Song: Surf And/Or Die   Album: 11 Tracks of Whack

The Dodge Aries, a cheap, reliable family car produced by Chrysler from 1981 to 1989.

Known to enthusiasts as "K-cars", along with the Plymouth Reliant and the Chrysler LeBaron, which all shared the same basic architecture.

To make you feel all warm and cozy / Like you heard a good joke / Like you heard an Arlen tune
Song: Morph the Cat   Album: Morph The Cat

Harold Arlen (1905-1986), considered one of the greatest composers of 20th century popular music.

Born Hyman Arluck in Buffalo, New York, he composed over 400 songs during a lengthy career, including such standards as "Stormy Weather", "Let's Fall in Love", and his most well-known song, "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz, which earned him the 1939 Academy Award for Best Song.

Link: Official Harold Arlen website

The Audi TT / The house on the Vineyard / The house on the gulf coast / These are the things I miss the most 
Song: Things I Miss The Most   Album: Everything Must Go

A popular model of 2-door sports car, produced by German carmaker Audi from 1998 to the present day.

The car takes its name from a motor race: the Isle of Man TT (short for "Tourist Trophy"), held annually on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. It is one of the oldest races in the motor-racing world — and one of the most dangerous, having caused over 140 fatalities since it was first held in 1907.

Although it's an odd choice of event to name a sports car after: the TT is in fact a motorcycle race!

Link: Official Audi TT website

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

Type of self-service restaurant where customers purchase food via coin-operated vending machines.

Once hugely popular in New York, the rise of fast food outlets led to their complete disappearance by the 1990s — however, they remain popular in the Netherlands, where they are called automatiek. Both the English and Dutch names obviously come from the same root as "automatic", namely the Greek word automatos ("self-acting") referring to the self-service nature of the restaurant.

Link: The Rise and Fall of the Automat