The Geography In The Steely Dan Discography

For a band that eschewed touring during its commercial peak in the seventies, Steely Dan sure did do a lot of traveling in their songs. Not only do Donald Fagen and Walter Becker mention many cities in their home country of the United States, but they also refer to various places around the world.

Naturally, the group makes mention of New York and California, two of the most popular states when it comes to song titles. “Daddy Don’t Live In New York” is a track from the Katy Lied album, and California is referenced in the classic “My Old School” from Countdown To Ecstasy.

A more specific reference is also made in that song, as the band identifies Annandale, a town in the Golden State. Then in the last verse, they cross the Southern border with a mention of the Mexican city of Guadalajara.

Other places in that part of the world can also be found in Steely Dan songs, including “Haitian Divorce” from The Royal Scam. Both Bogota and Barbados are mentioned in “Glamor Profession” from the Gaucho album, while Colombia is mentioned in “Pixeleen” from the last album Everything Must Go.

Across the Atlantic other lands are included in the Steely Dan discography, mostly in Europe. The Netherlands and its most famous city Amsterdam appear in Gaucho’s “Slang of Ages” and Spain is referenced in “Night By Night.” A town in that same country, famous for its prehistoric art, is the subject of “The Caves of Altamira” from The Royal Scam.

Geographical references go beyond the Western Hemisphere, where Fagen and Becker wrote songs about places in Asia. Both China and Japan make up the chorus of “Bodhisattva” from Countdown To Ecstasy, and Peking is identified in “Dr. Wu” from Katy Lied.

Most of the sites occurring in the lyrics can be found right here in the United States, even besides the aforementioned New York and California. The latter’s northern neighbor Oregon is the home of the desperate fugitive in “Don’t Take Me Alive” from The Royal Scam, and Alabama is identified as the Crimson Tide in the chorus of Aja’s “Deacon Blues.”

Midwest metropolises are also included, such as Kansas City in Pretzel Logic and Chicago in “Your Gold Teeth.” Medicine Park, Oklahoma appears in “Blues Beach” and New Orleans is the subject of “Pearl of the Quarter.”

Most of geography regards California or New York, the stated where Steely Dan was first formed and later developed its successful recording career. “Brooklyn” is the title of a song from Can’t Buy a Thrill, and “Parker’s Band” mentions 52nd Street. Pretzel Logic contains a song focusing on “Barrytown.”

California locations found in Steely Dan lyrics include Hollywood from “Reelin’ in the Years” while “Babylon Sisters” names both Santa Ana and San Francisco. The West Coast is one of “Things I Miss the Most”, according to Fagen in the opening song from Two Against Nature.