Do It Again

Album: Can't Buy A Thrill (1972)
Charted: 39 6
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  • This was the breakout hit from Steely Dan's first album. Like many of their songs, it's hard to make sense of the lyrics, which seem to be about some combination of addiction, second chances and the inevitability of fate. It's an example of a Steely Dan song that doesn't make literal sense, but creates a mood.
  • The instrument used on the first instrumental break is an electric sitar, which was played by Steely Dan mainstay Denny Dias (who later became a computer programmer). This is followed by an organ solo, which was played by Donald Fagen. This was described in the album liner notes as "an inexpensive, imported plastic organ (an instrument which long ago fell into disuse in most rock circles)." This was later revealed to be a Yamaha YC-30 with something called a portamento ribbon, which could create the slide effect.
  • This was Steely Dan's first single. It became a hit in both the US and UK, earning the group a lot of press coverage. The group's sound was very unusual, and when asked to explain it, they sometimes described it as "smart rock."
  • In 1983, an Italian act called Club House released a mash-up of this song with Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," which was released as "Do It Again (Medley With Billie Jean)." It made #75 US and #11 UK.
  • On the original release of Can't Buy A Thrill, this song is credited as "Trad" (meaning "traditional," like many folk songs) in the album credits. This is a fairly typical Donald Fagen/Walter Becker prank. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Michael - Somerville, MA
  • Waylon Jennings, Falco, Tori Amos and Smash Mouth have all covered this song.
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Comments: 60

  • Bill from El Paso TxSaw the Brothers Dan perform this at the old coliseum in El Paso in '73 or ''74. They were second billed on a three act show. First up... Mason Profitt whose "Two Hangmen" got everything rolling. next... The Dan. Top billed? You ain't gonna believe this... Sha-Na-na. Those posers didn't even make an interesting freak show after the first two got done.

    But back to the Dan. Everyone was waiting for "Do It Again"... it was either charting or just fell off the charts at the time. Denny Dias played the sitar part on a Fender Strat detuning the strings while he played. More to follow...
  • Bruce from San Jose, Calif.For decades, I had thought this song was performed by Carlos Santana....

    Then one late night I was watching an infomercial for 70’s Pop Hits and saw a clip of Steely Dan performing this song....I had been mistaken all these years!
  • Ivo from Cali! Clearly who reviews these songs are not in touch with the terms of the time! steals your water, the opening line is about shooting dope! THAT sets the tone for the whole song.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm {09-03-2017}
    Walter Becker, guitarist and bassist and co-founder of Steely Dan with Donald Fagan in 1972, died Sunday (September 3nd, 2017) at the age of 67. He had been advised by his doctors not to leave his Maui, Hawaii home in July because he was recovering from an unnamed procedure. Walter and Donald first started working together at Bard College in New York. The two eventually wrote together and both toured as part of Jay & the Americans in the early '70s. Forming Steely Dan (named after a sex toy in William S. Borough's novel, "The Naked Lunch"), they signed with ABC Records and "Do It Again" from their debut album, "Can't Buy A Thrill", became a top five record in early 1973. Other hits followed-- "Reeling In The Years" (#11-1973) and Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (#4-1974)-- but the duo broke up the group in 1981. The two did reunite in 2000, hitting the album charts again with "Two Against Nature" and "Everything Must Go". All told, Steely Dan had ten top 40 records, but album cuts like "Dirty Work", "Aja" and "Bodhisattva" prove popular today on classic hits stations, as well. The duo wrote and recorded the theme song for the movie "FM" in 1978 and were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
    May he R.I.P
  • Scotland from South Lyon, MiSome really great comments here. I do disagree that the song is cryptic; I understand it just fine. The key is that it isn't literal. It is basically a cautionary tale. All the drug references are pretty clear. In addition, it is basically the following:

    As soon as you get a chance you are going after someone who wronged you to get revenge on the object of your blame, but then it backfires and blows up in your face and you get buried in disastrous trouble and you hit rock bottom, but then there is a miraculous save that gets you off the hook, and instead of learning your lesson, you go back jack and do it again. Etc...
  • Stacy from UsaIt amazes me that I actually find this band musically fascinating after hating it when young and my dad was listening. Best song while cruising and stuck in traffic LOL
  • Richard from London, UkGreat stuff. Loving it.
  • Dj Romie Borgdata from The Independent Nation Of The Conch Repulic In Key WestSimply, what happens in Vegas sometimes follows you home, like the vd and finding his gf and bff screwing, and falling back into the gambling addiction.
  • Richard Oster from Madison, WiAccording to Steely Dan's site sanguine is not used.

    It is:

    And the mourners are all singin'

    http://www.steelydan.com/lyrthrill.html
  • Ken from Highland Park, NjMark, great theory thanks.
  • Ken from Highland Park, NjVerse three could refer to gambling. Example: you find you're back in Vegas with a handle in your hand - it could be a slot machine. But there are some great ideas here about the reference to the song thanks to everyone who posted.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 27th 1973, Steely Dan performed "Do It Again" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Two months earlier on November 12th, 1972 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on February 4th it peaked at #6 (for 3 weeks) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    It was track one of side one on the group's debut album, 'Can't Buy A Thrill', and the album reached #17 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    One other track from the album also made the Top 100, "Reelin' In The Years", it peaked at #11...
    R.I.P. drummer Jim Hodder (1947 - 1990).
  • Mike from Houston, TxI'd also like to thank everyone for their interesting comments. Isn't it nice to find a site where we can share our thoughts without some idiot calling us names and putting us down (see YouTube)? Art in all its forms is subjective (for example, I think much of Jackson Pollock's work is nothing more than splattered paint). Sharing our opinions helps us see things through a new perspective and that's the point of art in the first place. Well done to all.
  • Mike from Houston, TxA handle is the needle, spoon, flame, etc. used for shooting heroin, which Fagan struggled with for many years. Also called hardware, as in "break out the hardware, let's do it right" from "ASA." So, he swears to get clean in Vegas and won't gamble with his own life, but he finds himself back there doing dope again. "Your black cards can make you money, so you hide them when you're able, in the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table." My interpretation is that we all have vices and tricks that can help us get ahead so we hide them and keep them to ourselves. However, in America (land of milk and honey) and in life, they are inevitably revealed and can come back to haunt us. Thanks to all for your insight.
  • Mike from Houston, TxSD has a strong drug theme throughout several of its songs. "man who stole your water" could be another name for heroin (I've heard it called "water" before). So, he's hunting the man who stole his dope, guns him down, gets caught at the border, etc. "The mourners are all sanguine" is a bit of an amusing stretch to me. I hear it as "Sanging" as in "singing" with a kind of soul twang, which would make sense when rhyming with "hanging." I like everyone's insights for the second verse about how women do us wrong and string us along. Unless the third verse's lyrics are that way on the liner notes I would propose that they are not "Now you swear and kick and beg us that you're not a gambling man" but are instead "Now you swear to kick (as in get sober)in Vegas, that you're not a gambling man (with his life)." "a handle in your hand" is a clear reference to shooting dope.
  • Bruce from San Jose, CaFor YEARS I always thought this song was by Santana......(you gotta admit, it has that "Santana-esque" Latin street sound to it...)

    Learning recently this was by SteelyDan made the song fresh again for me, so I listen to it and re-appreciate the music.
  • Jeff B from Boston, MaIn the 40 years I've listened to this song, I never once read the actual lyrics. I always thought the chorus was "Blackjack, do it again," and thus thought the whole song was about a loser in Vegas (mainly because of the last verse, particularly the line that I thought was "Your black cards can make you money"). Reading the real lyrics--and people's comments here--totally changes my view of it. In any case, does anyone think that Fagen sounds different here than almost every other SD song? His voice seems to be lower, fuller, and free of his usual lisp. It makes me wonder whether someone else was double tracking with him.
  • Jack from Mesa, Azthat makes sense if sanguine means "hopeful/optimistic," since i suppose the mourners of the dead guy are hopeful/optimistic the killer gets hanged
  • Percy from Melbourne, AustraliaJerry, Miami, FL :: SANGUINE is a current word that means "Optimistic / hopeful" not bloodthirsty.
  • Tina from Norcross, GaSmooth jazz musician Paul Hardcastle has also covered this song.
  • Steve from Trabuco Canyon, CaIt has always been my understanding that the Steely Dan "Can't Buy a Thrill" album was about all of the bad things in the world and "Do it Again" was about recidivism which is a relapse into criminal behavior. I thought that "Reelin' in the Years" was about getting old, "Dirty Work" was about prostitution, and "Midnite Cruiser" was about growing away from friends.
  • Ron from Berkeley, CaI think "Do It Again" is about sex addicts--both men and women. Well, it's definitely about addiction at the very least. Anyway, to me, the first verse is about a girl who kills a guy for getting her pregnant ("stealing water") and not taking responsibility for it. And the authorities are of no help because they allow him to go "back on the street" to get another girl pregnant without taking responsibility for that either. The second verse is about girls--or nymphomaniacs--who cheat on guys. The third verse is about a man or woman who claims that they're not addicts, but in the "land of milk and honey" (or heaven), it will be decided that they are. In conclusion, to me, "Do It Again" is a song about addicts who take advantage of people over and over again. It was definitely written in the style of the Beat Generation, such as Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al. Excellent song
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn 1968 The Beach Boys released a completely different version of "Do It Again", it peaked at No. 20...
  • Jerry from Miami, FlListen closer. It's not "the mourners were all SINGING as they drag you by your feet" it's "the mourners are all SANGUINE as they drag you by your feet."

    "Singing" does not rhyme with "hangin'". "Sanguine" does (close enough).

    Sanguine is an obsolete word meaning blood-thirsty.
  • Mark from Grand Rapids, MiI think Becker and Fagen are not writing about any one person in particular. They are telling the stories of three different people in three versus to describe the darkside of the human condition. We are driven by revenge, lust and greed. And the lesson is that humanity doesn't learn from our mistakes. If they were to rewrite the verses today, perhaps they would be inspired by George W. Bush (revenge)... think Iraq in the first verse. William Jefferson Clinton (lust)... think Monica, Paula, etc. in the second verse. And "insert nearly any politician here" (greed)... think payoffs, bribes, kickbacks, backroom deals, etc. in the third verse.
  • Dave from Lawrenceville, NjKyle,

    Great analysis, but let me throw out something I always felt about the song - with the desert/western theme that seems to run rampant in this song (at least to me) - stealing water was no menial crime, it could mean life and death. I still agree that the irony is there, after all, what's the more serious crime? If you were in the right why are you running for the border?

    Also a quick note that I believe the posted lyrics have one correction needed - It's "No black cards can make you money".
  • Gary from Denver, Coguess it goes to show what the desert can do to you!
    Spend some time there, 120 degree heat, nights filled with visions, and whatever else you need to feel you are alive!
  • Kaleo from Los Angeles, CaKyle from Kansas city, that is a spectacular analysis of the song. It makes alot of sense though. I had a more vague, simplistic explanation, but you actually cited specific word usage like the water, which actually give more depth to the meaning. I always thought it was something like this:

    first theme: guilt (not paying the consequences for your crimes/actions, ill fated compulsiveness, getting off the hook - not necessarily relating to murder, but any act which my confer guilt; the border/lynch mob/hangman theme could be a composite metaphor for one's conscious torturing him, but since the hangman isn't hanging, the mind dismisses/rationalizes the whole thing, perhaps by sinister internal dialogue)

    second theme: dignity (lack of self confidence, compromise of self worth/self image/pseudo masochism/short changing oneself, allowing oneself to be abused by a second party)

    third theme: vice/addiction/obsession/compulsion (being out of control - not necessarily as related to a gambling problem, rat race, ends justifies means, indescriminate opportunism, failure to restrain compulsive tendencies, gross mismanagement of resources)

    I think that its no coincidence that the (relative) protangonist in the first theme (guy who gets gunned down) is a mirror of the antagonist in the last theme (the desperate gambler, for whom the consideration of petty theft would not be an inconceivable option when he runs out of money (hence, stealing someone elses water/small change). That would certainly tie the first and last themes, thematically consistent with the overall cyclic tone of the song.
  • Dan from Winthrop, MaQuite simply its about the seductive power of addiction.The song also features two lengthy solos
  • Ian from Paddock Lake, WiI think it's about a border coyote/smuggler. Has money and is addicted to gambling and kills without repentance, is frequently in tangles withthe law, like a border mafia. Or something.
  • Marcus from Alexandria, VaThere's are so many alternative views and many levels to this song, that's why it resonates with so many has so many interpretations that make sense and so filled with such irony - the basic identity of the song is the patterns we are all caught up in and how that's an essential aspect of life - the willingness to get up and do it again is considered a virtue in most circumstances - in fact sometimes the only thing we can do if we are to continue living - gamblin' being just a extreme metaphor for how uncertain life is and we are all caught up in the game. The wheel turning round and round is the world itself and it keeps doing so no matter what we do. And how can we walk away? We all go back and do it again every single day of lives - at work, in love, in our hopes - at once absurd and yet exhibiting a raw courage and a desperate hope - both hope and courage are, ironically, sustained by denial of experience.
  • Shauna from Seattle, WaKyle , from Kansas , I believe you are 100% correct about this , well put ! I couldn't have said it all any better.
  • George from San Nicolas Aruba, OtherBecause of its rythm and blues roots it can be related to white men killing black men, especialy in the days of segregation in the USA, because in the first verse it´s about a man (presumably a white man) with a gun protecting his property and another stealing his water(a black poor man?).then he kills him and goes on the run but is caught on the border(mexico?) but not put on trial,he´s back on the streets to kill again .then the rest is even more hard to make any sense out of it. it can also be about a loser addicted to gambling, but in that sense it would be more symbolical. even so I think it´s about life and it´s different counteracting circumstances and its vicious circles.
  • John Settle from Wakefield, EnglandI think this song is just about a loser addicted to gambling (the wheel could be a roulette wheel) and he's squandering his money for card games. Terrific song though. Love the electric sitar solo! The Dan have to be one of the greatest bands (if not cults) ever.
  • Andrew from L.a., CaAH-I LOVE THE AFRO-LATIN RYTHEM!
  • Julian from Minneapolis, MnThis song is essentially Buddhist in it's view, in that it's about the difficulty of completing a righteous life, of attaining enlightenment and moving on after death to Nirvana. Those who don't can't escape the Mandala, the Wheel of Life, they return to the mortal world to try to get it right another time. They keep screwing up, and at the end, Wheel turning 'round and 'round, they go back, Jack, do it again...
  • Chuck from Houston, TxThis song was used in a few movies that came out in the 90's. One was in the Movie "Air America" starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. Which dosen't make sense considering the movie was set in 1969 and the song was not made until 1972.
  • Gary from Seattle, WaActually Fagen and Becker's first release was for a low budget thriller in 1971 called You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It.

    Be safe,

    Gary
  • Jay from Atlanta, GaComedian Steve Martin played banjo on the bridge in this song.
  • Tye from Edmond, OkOk... my ma always told me the first lyric was about a girl getting pregnant. (the man who stole your water) The rest man..... maybe just about how you can't resist some things/how gullible you are to keep doing it again.
  • Elizabeth from Miami, FlHmm, I'm pretty sure this is a song about a murderer being let out of prison only to murder someone else. It was a real life story Steely Dan picked up from the papers and penned a song out to it.
  • from New York, NyThis song was used as the opening theme to the 2003 NBC Drama 'Kingpin', about a Mexican crime family and their journey to reach the top of a billion dollar drug empire. The critically acclaimed show only lasted one season. I loved the show and having this song as an opener really set the tone.
  • Kyle from Huntington, NyA brilliant song. Lyrically genious combined with awesome guitar and keyboard work.
  • John from Millersville, MdKyle from Kansas, that is awesome. I've always thought those same things about this song (there's a public education doing its work...I can't not analyze=P) and it's good to see someone agrees.
  • Mitch from New York, NyYea.... its about a uy with a gambling problem.... NOTHING ELSE!!!!
  • Liam from Liverpool, EnglandI'm pretty sure, (although the irony reference has a certain amount of truth to it, definately), the whole song is actually about the falseness of life in L.A. The 'Land of Milk and Honey' is not a reference to Heaven, but probably to California. 'Do It Again' I think is probably just a reference to the mundane and wholly 'plastic' and fake way of life that Fagen's describing
  • Kyle from Kansas City, KsHere is a more precise in depth translation of every line in the song.
    The first verse's theme is irony. The guy gets his water stolen (critical that it's WATER being stolen, the most abundant resource there is) and shoots the guy who stole it. This is a very harsh and irrational decision...

    The cops catch him at the border and bring him to justice. He gets his trial and all those who love and miss the dead guy are singing, cause they guy is being brough to justice. However, since he only shot the man due to him being a thief, "the hangman" (a metaphor for the justice system as a whole) isn't hanging, and they put him on the street. A man commits such a petty crime like stealing water, and pays for it with his life; another man shoots a man and goes free. Irony.

    The second verse is about discord in relationships. The guy finds out his girl "is no high climber" (doesn't have high standards) and finds his best (only!) friend in a room with his girl, having an affair. He lost his only friend and his girl, and he's sure he's near the end (of his rope? patience? sanity?)

    He rebounds with a girl who is very high maintenance. She goes crazy with him and his belongings, when in the end she's only using him. She doesn't give him what he wants (a relationship here, not sex) yet he keeps getting strung along and playing into her game (all the time you know she's smiling)... in the end, she will betray him just like the first girl did (you'll be on your knees tomorrow)

    The third verse is about the "bad guys" in the world. Gambling is used as a metaphor here. You swear and kick and beg us that you're not a (lying/manipulative/cheating/etc.) man, then you find you're back in Vegas with a handle in your hand. This basically says that all people have some elements of "darker natures" in them, or some form of a vice, and as much as they deny it, it is still there and they are still a slave to it

    "Black cards" refer to all the sins and "dark talents" you may have -- abilities you have which can get you an unfair advantage over others... However, in the Land of Milk and Honey (a common term used for Heaven) you will be judged on them.

    All three verses share a common theme of things repeating themself. Crime perpetuates in the first verse, a man's unlucky streak with love in the second, and cheating/vindication in the third (as a man will cheat, but then be cheated at the Pearly Gates). However, as all three verses hint, there is nothing we can do about it; the first verse, the guy gets off due to a legal loophole; the second verse, the guy is doomed to live a loveless life; and in the third verse, you may swear you have no vices, but in reality, you're "back in Vegas with that handle in your hand."

    What else would we expect, though, with a song titled "Do It Again?" History repeats itself. Bottom line. =)
  • Kyle from Kansas City, KsIm sure im probably wrong on this one but i have always thought the song was about an illegal immigrant
    "And you fire till he is done in but they catch you at the border"
    "But the hangman isn't hangin' so they put you on the street"
    "You go back, Jack, do it again"
  • Jeanette from Irvine, Cawell it makes sense to be about gambling then. to go back and do something insanely again and again expecting a different result. thats like gambling.
  • Scott from Columbus, OhGood point Jay (NYC)! Actually a quote of Einsteins is: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" (or something close to that).
    This song has one of the best intro's ever and it means to me being intrigued, obsessive or addicted to that which is dangerously questionable. Curiosity killed the cat syndrome...so to speak.
  • Kevin from Carteret, NjWhat a great song with such cool lyrics
  • Seth from Toronto, CanadaI've always liked the lines

    "Then you loved a little wild one, but she brings you only sorrow
    All the time you know she's smiling
    You'll be on your knees tomorrow"

    Who among us hasn't loved someone that you KNEW would only break your heart. I might be wrong with the lyrics and he's talking about cards or something
  • Martijn from Helmond, NetherlandsJeff Baxter got the nickname "skunk" because he farted a lot.
  • Jay Wm. from Nyc, NyWell, if you look at the facts, Jax, John has the "feeling" for the song correct, as an obsession can be very detrimental to one's well being. There's a term for something we do, always expecting a different outcome...mmm... irrational thinking, bordering on insanity...
  • John from Wilmington, NcIvy is correct Windle. Listen closer next time.
  • Jack from Boston, MaActually, Ivy's correct about the lyric. In fact, this is one of my favorite rhymes: "beg us" and "Vegas"
  • Windle from Montgomery, Alto ivy in los angeles....the lyric is "So you swear your kicking vegas and your not a gambling man.
  • John from Wilmington, NcI think this song is more about people who don't learn lessons the first time around and therefore keep doing things even when they know that the outcome won't be to his/her benefit.
  • Ivy from Los Angeles, CaA song about compulsive gambling. "Now you swear and kick and beg us that you're not a gambling man but you find you're back in Vegas with a handle in your hand...." also the reference to the black cards, and the wheel spinning round and round, referring to the roulette wheel
  • John from Boca Raton, FlDonald Fagen used a primitive keyboard called a plastic organ for his solo.
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