Friday, March 18, 2016

‘Cipherin’ The Song
Many songwriters refuse to offer the meaning of their lyrics, instead preferring to allow the listener to come up with his/her own interpretation. And surprisingly, some songwriters admit that they don’t even know the meaning of their own song, citing some type of “stream of consciousness” thing going on at the time it was penned. I’ll admit I’m not very good at deciphering song lyrics. I’ll sometimes think I know, but usually find out either through the author’s explanation or someone else’s more logical interpretation that I was way off. But that’s not gonna stop me from occasionally takin’ a crack at it here. Let me know while you’re laughing at me how far off I am. Or, I may be so befuddered by a song that I’ll have to back off completely and hope someone in the comment section comes up with something that makes sense.

Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – Steely Dan
Some accounts say this song is about a girl Donald Fagen had a crush on when he was in college. So maybe this song is just simply about a guy giving his phone number to a girl named Rikki. Why not? Well, for one, Steely Dan don’t do love songs. If there are any at all you can count ‘em on one hand, and the ones you do count are borderline. For two, the Dan had a penchant for ironic use of “double meaning” lyrics. And the word “number” certainly lends itself to the format…could be a phone number, but then again it could be a joint, could be a song, could be just a single number, coulda done a number on her, etc. And for three, it isn’t until late in the song - “you tell yourself you’re not my kind”- that the author refers to solely himself as the addresser; the first couple of verses are presented as though he’s speaking for more than himself – “We hear you’re leaving”, and he mentions a friend before suggesting “we can go out driving”. I guess my skepticism speaks to the Dan’s flair for tricky lyrics, ‘cuz honestly I can’t come up with anything different than a guy giving  his phone number to a girl named Rikki.
(Btw, I always get a kick out the “I don’t know” after the “We could stay inside and play games” line. I guess he kinda needed it to squeeze the rhyme in, but it just sounds so, I dunno, slang in a song, although not so much in every day conversation… “We could stay inside. Hell, I don’t know, I’m just spitballin’ here”.)

Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
Steely Dan

We hear you're leaving, that's OK
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart

Rikki don't lose that number
You don't wanna call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don't lose that number
It's the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

I have a friend in town, he's heard your name
We can go out driving on Slow Hand Row
We could stay inside and play games, I don't know
And you could have a change of heart


You tell yourself you're not my kind
But you don't even know your mind
And you could have a change of heart


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