My Old School

Album: Countdown To Ecstasy (1973)
Charted: 63

Songfacts®:

  • The "Old School" referred to in this song is Bard College in Annendale, New York, where Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met. The song is at least partially inspired by an event that occurred at Bard, where both Becker and Fagen, along with their girlfriends, were arrested in a pot raid on a party that was orchestrated by an ambitious young District Attorney named G. Gordon Liddy (hence the line "Tried to warn ya about Geno and Daddy G"). Despite the fact that California has not (yet) tumbled into the sea, both Fagen and Becker have returned to Bard. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    James - Lexington, KY
  • The "Wolverine" is the train that went to Annendale.

Comments: 24

  • Crushinator from PdxAnnandale-on-Hudson is really across a swampy bay and up the bluffs away from the Hudson, the village itself is based around the Sawkill Creek and aside from Bard has a mansion with cool u-pick orchards, and once had a confectionery factory. There’s no Annandale train stop (the NYC-Albany train line runs on a causeway from Barrytown to Tovoli). There was once a stop at both of these villages, but Rhinecliff is the closest train stop these days. The NYC-Chicago Amtrak does go via Albany and stops at Thinecliff.

    Went to Bard 87-91 and man there was a lot of Steely Dan blasting out the dorm windows.

  • Dan from Seattle"Take her down to Mexico" was a common slang term for getting an abortion.
    Fagen and Becker attended Bard College in the 60's.
    During the events described in this song, abortion was still illegal in the United States. Roe v Wade didn't pass the supreme court until 1973. Heck, until "Griswold" in 1965, even birth control, even for married couples, was still illegal in most states.
    It was easy to get around the law by crossing the border. Mexico was about the closest, and probably the cheapest. Before the United States cut off travel in the 60's, Cuba was also an easy trip from the east coast.
    This probably sounds like ancient history to people who weren't alive at the time.
  • Glenn from St Louie"Oh no Guadalajara won't do" refers to Donald spending only one semester at Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara - a Mexican medical school that a lot of Americans went to that couldn't get into an American medical school. I did 3 semesters at UAG, my friend found a toma with Donald's name in it. The classes are all in Spanish. All together not fun. I can understand why Donald didn't last. I transferred to Indiana University.
  • Jeffrey Reagan from Mount Hamilton CaliforniaI think Chino probably refers to California's largest low security prison, California Institution for Men. Getting mail to inmates may be difficult through the US mail. Getting a reply may be more unlikely, due to inbound mail censorship and limited outbound postage availability. Giving warnings about Chino would be appropriate to any newcomer in southern California, especially someone with a checkered past. Doing a stint with hoes (working girls) in any county lockup might well precede doing a longer stint in Chino. People in California surely prefer local weather to that of Annandale. Guadalajara might be preferred for year-round warmth and the availability of partyables (according to one source; for one quarter the price, possibly twice as strong). California falling into the sea might force our affluent elsewhere, like back to Annandale. Short of that, people appear beholden to our "fair" state. People only check into Hotel California. Most will never leave. I'm native to Palo Alto. I escaped to Anchorage. I was practically delivered back to California on a stretcher ten years later.
  • Butch from GaThe fact that oleanders are extremely poisonous is significant in the SD psyche and in the song; I have always liked that reference...
  • Gar from Philadelphia Pa"The Wolverine" was a premier named train of the New York Central that ran from Grand Central Terminal in NYC to LaSalle Street Station in Chicago via Detroit until 1967. Over the years (it began service in 1916) it had various station stops but it didn't go through Annandale and thus couldn't stop there. It DID, however, stop at Rhinecliff in the 1960s, when Fagen & Becker were at Bard. Rhinecliff is just 8 miles from Annandale.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 10th 1973, Steely Dan performed "My Old School" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #84 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and fifteen days later on November 25th, 1973 it peaked at #63 {for 1 week}and spent 9 weeks on the Top 100...
    Between 1971 and 1981 the group had fifteen Top 100 records; with three making the Top 10, "Do It Again" at #6 in 1973, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" at #4 in 1974, and "Hey! Nineteen" at #10 in 1981...
    They just missed having five Top 10 records when "Reeling in the Years" {1973} and "Peg" {#1978} both peaked at #11.
  • Jake from Cleveland, InI'm a Bard grad. They named a couple of dorms after Fagen and Becker, but there's no train that goes to Annandale-On-Hudson. The only thing in Annandale On Hudson is Bard College, which is too tiny to be a stop. The closest station is in Rhinecliff, several miles away.
  • Gatecrasher from New York, NyHistorically, the New York Central Wolverine ran from Grand Central Terminal in NY through Detroit, and on to Chicago, nad stopped in Annandale-on-Hudson. So for the time period the reference is correct. Don and Walter would have boarded at Grand Central and rode the train to college.
  • Jim from Boston, MaJesus, a lot of the comments here seem only to illustrate how poorly many of the commenters listen to the music, and how ill-educated they are. The Dan would not be proud.
  • Richard from Tustin, CaJami, that is not Michael McDonald. This was 1973, prior to Michael, Larry Carlton, the Brecker Bros., and Steve Gadds' affilliation with Steely Dan. If you watch the video, you can see Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter, later to become a Doobie Bro, and Elliot Randall, both who made 'Reelin' In the Years' a hit, along with 'Rikki Don't Lose that Number', 'Josie' and 'Do It, Again'. I believe Steely Dan was still touring at that time, but stopped shortly thereafter. At which time they began focusing heavily on production and began their associations with the aforementioned studio musicians, out of which came 'The Royal Scam', 'Aja', etc. Annandale Rocks, Barnaby! Ricky, Tustin, Ca
  • Richard from Tustin, CaI just thought the Wolverine was 'A' train, as there is the Amtrak that goes from New York City to Annandale. I believe that it hits ALL the New York (SUNY) colleges, just about, along the way. The SUNY college system is largely established along the waterways of New York due to their age and the fact that you could only get there via water at one point in time. Bard is a beautiful campus, and only a few hours from New York in the Rhinebeck area, very close to White Lake and Woodstock. Ricky, Tustin, Ca
  • Henry from Bedrock, InSorry to tell all you loyal Tribesmen (and women) from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, but "My Old School" is not a reference to your alma mater. It is about Bard College, frequently referred to as "William and Mary-on-the-Hudson". Hence the shout-out to W&M.
  • Jami from Redding, CaIs that Michael McDonald in the background?
  • Steve from New York, NyAlthough the Wolverine IS a train, it runs between Chicago and Pontiac, MI, so I don't see how Fagen et al could have been riding it to Annandale-on-Hudson. Possibly they chose it because it scanned nicely.
  • Ashley from Carlisle, PaLove this song...I agree with Mike in that this song also reminds me of college...but I was in college 30 years after this song was released!
  • Murray from Liverpool, England, EnglandTo be complete you need to have the single version of this as the ending is quite different to the album version!
  • Jena from Leavenworth, KsGreat song!! Heh heh, I thought "Wolverine" was a play on "Greyhound"(bus service).
  • Mike from Stratford, CtI always thought the line "but I can't seem to get to you through the US mail" was "but I can see they get to you through the US mail," b/c the mail is so slow. I apologize to all postal carriers ;-)

    Interesting about Lyddy ... I always thought it was Annandale, Va, also, not knowing about the Bard connection.
  • Barnaby from Annandale-on-hudson, NyAnnandale-on-Hudson, NY. God bless.
  • Kevin from Omaha, NeOleanders are flowers...
  • Mike from Hueytown , AlThis song reminds me of college even though I was in college 20 years after this song hahaha
  • Jay from Atlanta, Ga"Oleanders growing outside her door" refers to Fagan having the mumps while he was in school.
  • Darrell from Eugene, United StatesI thought that this song was about Annandale, Virginia and some undisclosed but undoubtedly awful school.
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