The Steely Dan Dictionary: Q-R

Listing 9 entries:

What exactly does he want / This Rabelaisian puff of smoke
Song: Morph the Cat   Album: Morph The Cat

Characterised by coarse humour or bold caricature — from French writer and satirist François Rabelais (1484-1553).

Rabelais wrote only 4 complete novels in his lifetime, all of which earned him popularity and controversy in equal measure, due to their grotesque and bawdy humour.

For example — an entire chapter in his second novel Gargantua concerns the protagonist's search for the ideal material to (how can I put this delicately?) wipe his ass. In case you're wondering, the answer is... a goose's neck (!)

Link: What Does It Mean To Be Rabelaisian?

Stompin' on the avenue by Radio City with a / Transistor and a large sum of money to spend
Song: Bad Sneakers   Album: Katy Lied

Radio City Music Hall, New York City — the largest indoor theatre in the world.

Located on Sixth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets, Radio City was built in 1932 and is famed for its sumptuous Art Deco architecture and world-renowned "Rockettes" dance troupe.

Link: Radio City Music Hall official website

If you can't dance by now / The Raelettes will show you how
Song: What I Do   Album: Morph The Cat

Girl group, best known for their role as backing singers for Ray Charles (hence their name).

Released a few singles under their own steam in the 60s and 70s, but their most enduring musical legacy is their vocal contribution to Ray Charles classics such as "Hit the Road, Jack".

The Raelettes toured and recorded with Ray continuously (though with many personnel changes) between the early 60s and his death in 2004.

Link: Ray Charles Video Museum: The Raelettes

Stranded in Red Hook / I check in the black book / For anyone's cave
Song: Dog Eat Dog   Album: You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It

A small town in upstate New York, population 11,000.

Contains two neighbourhoods of interest in the Steely Dan canon: Barrytown and Annandale-on-Hudson, home of Bard College.

The name of the town comes from the Dutch word hoek, meaning "peninsula".

Link: The Town of Red Hook official website

She serves the smooth retsina / She keeps me safe and warm
Song: Home At Last   Album: Aja

A distinctive-tasting Greek wine, flavoured with pine resin.

The resin was originally meant to help preserve the wine on long voyages. It also makes retsina an acquired taste, which many people liken to that of turpentine! (Still, it beats drinking Bud)

Link: Retsina: Greek Wine of the Gods

Call your doctor / Call your shrink / Western science she strictly rinkydink
Song: Two Against Nature   Album: Two Against Nature

A derogatory adjective, applied to something considered old-fashioned, unimportant, insignificant, makeshift, worn-out, or poor-quality.

Dropped on the streets of Roppongi / Soaked through on the floor of a noodle shop
Song: Pixeleen   Album: Everything Must Go

A district of Tokyo, whose name literally translates as "six trees" in Japanese.

Roppongi is probably best known for its lively nightlife, with all that entails (drunkenness, prostitution, etc.) making it popular among tourists and expatriates, but controversial among many Tokyo citizens.

Link: Roppongi: Tokyo's Most Controversial Night Spot

Even Cathy Berberian knows / There's one roulade she can't sing
Song: Your Gold Teeth   Album: Countdown to Ecstasy

In opera, a vocal embellishment consisting of a rapid succession of several notes sung to one syllable.

A variant of the more common melisma (also known as a "vocal run"), the difference is that a roulade is done at a varied tempo or during a musical pause.

Examples of roulades in classical music can be found in Handel's oratorios or the operatic works of Bellini and Donizetti.

Link: YouTube: Aris Cristofellis singing roulades from Vivaldi's L'Olimpiade

In the corner / Of my eye / I saw you in Rudy's / You were very high
Song: Black Cow   Album: Aja

Rudy's Bar & Grill, a popular drinking establishment in New York City.

Rudy's is located on Ninth Avenue and 44th Street in the heart of the formerly-infamous (but now-gentrified) Hell's Kitchen district of Manhattan. It is a lively and informal "dive bar", best known for its cheap drinks and free hot dogs, and hence regarded by many as the perfect place to get legless after work.

Link: Rudy's Bar and Grill official website