Long before the term came to denote the shopping frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving, Steely Dan released this song about the original "Black Friday," when on Friday, September 24, 1869 a failed ploy left many wealthy investors broke. The investors tried to corner the market on gold, buying as much of it as they could and driving up the price, but when the government found out, it released $4 million worth of gold into the market, driving down the price and clobbering the investors.
As for how it became a retail reference, sometime in the '60s, the term was bandied about to indicate the key day in the holiday shopping season when the stores would be "in the black," meaning making money (black ink indicates profit, red ink indicates loss).
While the song is about events in the US, it mentions a town in Australia: "Fly down to Muswellbrook."
Muswellbrook is a rural town two hours North of Sydney that is full of kangaroos (thus the line, "Nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos"). It's possible that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen selected the name of Muswellbrook from an atlas, mainly because it worked well with the next line, "I'm going to strike out all the big red words from my little black book." They also wanted a place far away from Los Angeles.
Suggestion credit: Adrian - Sydney, Australia
Steely Dan used various guitarists on the Katy Lied album, including Rick Derringer, Hugh McCracken and Larry Carlton. On this track, however, Walter Becker played the solo. He did it using the Fender Telecaster belonging to another guitarist who played on the album, Denny Dias. Becker used it because he liked how Dias had it set up.
This was the first of two singles released from the Katy Lied album ("Bad Sneakers," which reached #103 US was the second). Like many Steely Dan singles, it had just a modest placing on the US chart, reaching #37. This was of no concern to Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who weren't concerned about how their singles fared. And like every Steely Dan album released before they disbanded in 1981, Katy Lied reached Gold status.
Mark from Los Angeles, CaAs Americans, I have no doubt that they referred to a cataclysmic event, such as the 1929 market crash (which actually occurred on a Tuesday), when men did, in fact, dive off the 14th Floor. I personally believe they chose a location in Australia because of the widespread belief in the 50s and 60s that everyone with money would flee there if a nuclear war was imminent, as it would be the only English-speaking country to survive (the movie, "On the Beach"). They said they looked at a map and just stuck a finger on the place that was farthest from New York. They did a lot of drugs - who really knows?
Patrick from Lakewood, OhGreat song, great artists. They let you ascribe your own meaning, so we all are correct.
David from San Juan Capistrano, CaWall street thief about to be caught in the 1869 criminal plot that crashed the market, grabs whatever cash is left (owed), hides out in Australia, changes his name, promises to become good (Archbishop), but if he can't be good he's OK with that (let it roll). Period. That's it. No secret aboriginal, coal, god, tombs, ressurections blah blah. Fagan and Becker always put random seemingly intense lyrics into their songs to create just what is happening here. They love to watch the sheep try to decipher lyrics written with really no massive controversial, religious or deep message.
Leo from Westminster 1, MdLike their Country/Rock L.A.-types the Eagles, the Jazz/Rock L.A. Misanthropes Steely Dan are one of Classic Rock's walking contradictions-Don't let the adult contemporary veneer fool you. Like Henley/Frey/Walsh, the tunesmiths Fagen/Becker's writing has a sharp tongue and bite. The hard rocker Black Friday is a perfect example of their acid-burn art rock. The song is a scathing attack of yuppies and corporate America and Black Friday proves that finance alone can never buy love or happiness, Americans must rethink their priorities. We can't just sit there gloating in greatness, materialism or self satisfaction-all of that is human greed, people!
Jake from Burke, VaBlack Friday can also refer to the day after Thanksgiving, when people crowd the malls to get an early start on holiday shopping.
Erin from Muswellbrook, Australiaok ppl, this is comming from someone who lived in Muswellbrook all their life, lots of investors do actually go to muswellbrook and have been for a while, Muswellbrook is surrounded by profitable mines many companies were looking for investors to help fund the mines (so you could link the black friday to black coal and the boon that was arising there if you really want to but i highly doubt it), and it still happens. Muswellbrook had no Mass murder of aboriginies and there was no aboriginal significance to the place. Muswellbrook was Named after a brook that ran through the middle of town that was once full Muscles that were Eddible the brook is still there but the muscles are all gone. it was once apon a time called musclebrook but later changed to muswellbrook, there is a tiny place just on the out skirts of muswellbrook called Muscle Creek. there is no aboriginal meaning to the name. dont you think it is possible that the saw this long name in the area that they pointed to and thought Hmm that looks like an interesting name? they could of easily picked singleton but with the american accent it would of been pronounced something like singlet on. it is chance that he picked Muswellbrook, i know that when i want to go on a road trip i open an point its so much fun try it some time! to the person who said that Muwsellbrook os pronounced wrong on the song, your not 100% correct there, locals do call it "musclebrook" but that is only due to the "lazy speech" i am guilty of it too, however when people ask where i am from or are writing it down i will pronounce it the same way it is spelt. locals also call it mussy or the brook.
Mark-leon from Sydney, AustraliaI misspelled Muswellbrook. Probably because of the way it is actually pronounced. As far as I know, there was no specific uprising of aboriginal people in the Muswellbrook area that would signify the "Black" in this song. Nothing like the massacres of the Tasmanian aborigines or the "Stolen Generation" issues.
Why would a wealthy American gold investor "fly down to Muswellbrrok", Australia as the gold price crashes? I can understand that he desires to get as far away from New York as possible and go to a slow paced, rural town to sit and feed kangaroos but, why that particular place? Why not, say, Dunedin, New Zealand or Durbin, South Africa? The plot thickens...
Mark-leon from Sydney, AustraliaTom, you raise some very interesting suggestions about this song. Very thought provoking. I am still puzzled by the inclusion of Musselbrook, NSW in the lyrics. I just can't believe Donald Fagan sat down with an atlas and randomly picked a tiny country town in Australia. There has got to be a reason for choosing such an obscure town. It's a lovely part of Australia but, what is it's significance to the Black Friday crash in the US or to Donald or Walter?
Hugo from Philadelphia, PaInteresting thoughts, Tom. Very interesting. You might be onto something. I'll have to remember what you've said and think about it the next time I listen to this!
Tom from Pittsburgh, PaThere's GOT to be more to the reason for Muswellbrook being mentioned in this song. The first verse is obviously about the market crash. "Black Friday" has sort of been used lately to refer to the day after Thanksgiving for several years now.
The third verse puzzled me for a long time, until I started getting the Christ imagery: "Gonna dig myself a hole/Gonna lay down in it til I satisfy my soul," refering to Good Friday, the day Christ was killed and buried.
The pronunciation of: "...if he don't come A-CROSS..." refers back to the cross, of course, and then: "I'm gonna let it roll," seems to refer to rolling the stone away from the tomb; the resurrection.
I can't help thinking that there must be some more complex reason behind using Muswellbrook as a location; and I'm suspecting that it might have something to do with aborigonies, hence the "Black" of the title. Would there have been a massacre on that site at some point in Australian history? Some sort of cruel colonial bookkeeping that necessitated a striking-out of big red words?
Ian from Paddock Lake, WiI'll complete the story.
It is told from the vantage point of one of the investors ruined by 1869's market crash. The "strike the red numbers from the little black book" refers to going to Muswellbrook (middle of nowhere) and forgetting about city life and finance completely. Taht's the hole in the gound thing too. The archbishop thing might be him retreating to one of those monk places.
Fredrick from Tampa, FlIt's Satan having some fun in bad times; collecting souls that are owed him, and checking out of town before he can be blamed. Then taunting; he will be back; re-anointed as the Anti-Christ ("the Archbishop gonna sanctify me") for another even worse round of playtime.
Steve from Sydney, AustraliaMusswellbrook is actually mispronounced in the song. Having lived in Sydney for more than 20 years and visited the town, I can tell you that everyone calls it "Musclebrook".
Tom from Boston, MaAdam - Ive always believed that the "gray men" refers to men wearing suits, i.e. business professionals, jumping from their office windows (suicide) when they learn of their financial collapse.
Baz from Johnson, VtMy previous comment about what guitar Becker used for the solo came from a Jeff Porcaro intervew. I see Walter says he used Denny Dias's Fender Telecaster.
Baz from Johnson, VtThe guitar solo on this tune is played by Walter Becker, on an old Fender Mustang.
Aaron from Muswellbrook, Nsw, AustraliaI'm actually from Muswellbrook. It's about 4 hours to Sydney from here. There are alot of kangaroos around the town, but are no more common than anywhere else in country Australia. Only the dumber and injured ones get a little way in town. I heard this song playing in a shop and thought "that's pretty cool, I like this". My mother was with me and said that Muswellbrook was in this song. I though she was going mad and ignored it. I was obviously wrong but what a way to get introduced to a great band.
Tom from Ann Arbor, MiWho plays the kick ass lead on this song?? is it rick derringer? or I think two other players are listed in the credits on the "best of" I have. I am also getting into skunk baxters chops.
Johnny from Los Angeles, CaDoesn't sound like Steely Dan except for the voice, they are more of a jazz band.
Adam from Wolverhampton, Englanddoes the line "and catch the grey men when they dive from the fourteenth floor" show the depression in the investors or summat?
Eli from Birmingham, AlAlso Jim Hodder played drums on all of Can't Buy a Thrill and Countdown to Ecstasy.
Eli from Birmingham, AlJeff Porcaro played drums on every song on Katy Lied except for Any World (That I'm Welcome To) which the drums were played by Hal Blaine.
John from Wilmington, NcJeff Porocaro was not the only drummer on Katy Lied. There has only been one album where they used only one drummer and that was Keith Carlock on last year's "Everything Must Go."
Ken from Leicester, NcJeff Porcaro on drums and in fact played on all of "Katy Lied" seldom done if at all with Steely Dan...