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Don't Take Me Alive by Steely Dan

Album: The Royal ScamReleased: 1976
  • "Don't Take Me Alive" is the third track from the fifth Steely Dan album the Royal Scam. Co-fronties Walter Becker and Donald Fagen are the writers of same, naturally.

    Leaving no mystery to the lyrics, "Don't Take Me Alive" is about a violent criminal holed up with "a case of dynamite" telling the cops to shoot him, in the tradition of playing "suicide by cop." He also appears to have committed patricide. That's our Steely Dan - the darkest lyrics sung to the most cheerful tunes in rock 'n' roll!
  • Long before O. J. Simpson led police on a slow-speed chase through its streets, Los Angeles had been host to a number of unusual crimes and high-profile apprehensions - flipping on the TV in LA, you can often see a crime unfolding in real time.

    Natives of the city are used to it, but Becker and Fagen were transplants from New York, so to them it was really bizarre. In writing this song, they drew on some of these stories that inundated the city.
  • That's Larry Carlton doing the guitar solo. He's usually content to be a session musician, but he took his day in the limelight winning a Grammy (Best Pop Instrumental Performance) for playing on the theme to the hit TV series Hill Street Blues. See, you've loved him all your life and never knew it.
  • While their next album, Aja, was their most successful, the true hardcore Steelies usually agree that The Royal Scam is the point where Steely Dan really distilled themselves into their perfect form.

    Since you Steely Dan fans always bring it up in the comments anyway, yes, Steely Dan got its name from Naked Lunch, a novel by William S. Burroughs. Both Becker and Fagen were beat-generation literature fans. However, "Steely Dan" is not a character in that book. It is a strap-on dildo, whose full name is "Steely Dan III from Yokohama." If that shocked you, well, you should have seen that coming when you saw the title Naked Lunch.
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Comments: 6

This song is about Charles Whitman and the University of Texas at Austin shooting where, over an approximate 90 to 95-minute period, he killed 14 people and wounded 32 others in and around the Tower.Joe - Nj
Larry Carlton didn't write the theme to "Hill Street Blues", he played on it. Mike Post wrote the theme.Michael Seiff - Las Vegas
Never did drugs, but I must have an addict's personality, because Steely Dan is my favorite band and this song is one of my top picks (Black Friday, Home at Last). Mike is probably right about the "old man" crossed was the drug dealer, because all of their songs seem to relate to drug use, especially when one of their "catchiest" songs, Kid Charlemagne, lionizes the guy who devised a process for mass producing pure, "safe" LSD and thereby led to the frying of milions of brains (Kid Charlemagne).Mark - Los Angeles, Ca
I don't think patricide is the meaning. To me "Crossed my old man back in Oregon" is referring to ripping off his drug dealer. Since the dealer is coming to kill him anyway, he has the "don't take me alive" attitude. There are numerous drug references throughout their music, so when in doubt, assume that's what they are talking about:)Mike - Houston, Tx
I always believed the song was inspired by the Al Pacino movie "Dog Day Afternoon".George - Las Vegas, Nv
waco,ruby ridge,columbine.seems like our "sick" boys saw that comming years before they happened.gotta love 'em.Tim - La Grange, Tx
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