Steely Dan: “Kid Charlemagne”

ALBUM: The Royal Scam

YEAR: 1976

WRITERS: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen

Peaked at number-82 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have said that their lyrics to “Kid Charlemagne” were inspired by the adventures of LSD chemist Owsley Stanley. But when we asked Becker about the song, that’s not what he wanted to talk about. “I was in a cab in New York City and the cab driver picked me up in front of the rehearsal hall, so he knew who I was, right? And he started telling me, ‘Yeah, those Steely Dan, y’know, those guys wrote the stupidest line of any song I ever heard.’ And I said, ‘No kidding, what was that?’ And he said, ‘Y’know, in “Kid Charlemagne” where the guy goes “Is there gas in the car?/Yes, there’s gas in the car.”’ I guess that’s quite a distinction for us, to have written the stupidest line in any song that’s ever been written.”

Steely Dan’s fifth album, The Royal Scam, which features “Kid Charlemagne,” was certified gold for half a million sales 40 years ago today (September 15th, 1976).


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