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Artist: Steely Dan
Album: Royal Scam

Agents of the law
Luckless pedestrian
I know you're out there
With rage in your eyes and your megaphones
Saying all is forgiven
Mad Dog surrender
How can I answer
A man of my mind can do anything
I'm a bookkeeper's son
I don't want to shoot no one
Well I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don't take me alive
Got a case of dynamite
I could hold out here all night
Yes I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don't take me alive

Can you hear the evil crowd
The lies and the laughter
I hear my inside
The mechanized hum of another world
Where no sun is shining
No red light flashing
Here in this darkness
I know what I've done
I know all at once who I am



by anfernee on 5/13/2008 4:09pm
the white man is crazy
by damarust on 9/23/2008 5:18pm
but good crazy
by macrathgar on 9/28/2008 3:36pm
damn good song.
by susan on 10/15/2008 5:30pm
what is this song about?
by Galley on 10/31/2008 7:55am
Oregon? It sounds like he threw an extra syllable in there.
by Daniel on 11/2/2008 5:05am
Its a beautiful song about the inner privacy of a mans heart, and the audacity that anyone else outside of his heart has the right to judge him..... he's not crazy .... everyone else is .... he is holding fast to his position out of courage that will ultimately define us all. Cool
by jon on 11/10/2008 5:33pm
this song can be interpreted different ways

he's basically in a situation where he's being persecuted by the law. he's done something violent, in which the law is trying to apprehend him and make him surrender. imagine robbing a bank and having the police all around the building trying to negotiate with you. that's the type of situation the character of the song appears to be in.

the chorus is saying that he's an ordinary man who wants to die, and he doesnt want to shoot anyone - meaning he wont use the gun he weilds against anyone, just using it as suicide by cop.

that's basically what it can be interperted to be
by T.rex on 1/9/2009 6:05pm
I kind of assumed by the "crossed my old man back in Oregon" to mean the he killed his dad.
by BCee on 2/19/2009 11:09am
Katy Lies (You can see it in her eyes)
by Terry C on 3/25/2009 11:43am
One of my favorite Steely Dan songs along with Deacon Blues, Bad Sneakers, and Everyone's Gone To the Movies.

by Neil Gorman on 4/29/2009 5:43pm
The song's about a robot. Go listen to it again. Then read the interview with Donald and Walter.
by sam on 6/6/2009 10:04pm
It's a song about a sniper and his personal rationale to his actions.
This has gotta be based on a true story- if it's not, then the bookeeper and oregon things are random as hell. Anybody know.
by drewo on 8/8/2009 12:45pm
At the Beacon show in NYC last week, Fagen tweaked the line to "...with rage in your eyes and your iphones".
by Perspectives on 9/16/2009 9:29pm
Anyone ever heard of Ruby Ridge?
by bluetunesdotcom on 10/22/2009 12:51pm
song is about that guy that went nuts with a rifle atop university tower in austin, texas in mid early sixties
by Ragman. on 10/23/2009 8:17am
Fagen wrote this song one night when he was pissy drunk. Like most Dan songs, it's catchy and means absolutely nothing.
by KuroKona on 11/22/2009 10:19pm
I thought he was saying "I crossed my old man, and I reckon don't take me alive."

...yeah. Couldn't make sense of it.
by Gordon Wagner on 2/20/2010 4:29pm
the lies and the laughter

this one's for Joe Stack. this week, anyway.

by Mark Claflin on 6/20/2010 1:03pm
I've got a boner !
by Jackel on 8/23/2010 12:29pm
This song throws we back twenty plus years...Just GREAT!
by Kevin on 11/12/2010 4:59pm
The old man is a "bookeeper", keeps books, makes book = he is a bookie. The singer "crossed his old man back in Oregon", probably stole some $$$, etc, which is why he doesn't want to be taken alive - if the old man catches him it will be a fate worse than death.
by anshuman sinha on 3/14/2011 12:49am
this one's loosely based on Owsley "bear" Stanley once you get that into perspective the lyrics will appear a lot clearer.
by Ash on 6/7/2011 4:26am
Correction: Owsley "bear" Stanley relates to the subject of the title track of The Royal Scam, "Kid Charlemagne"
by Adam on 1/25/2012 3:05am
This song, played back to back with 'Kid Charlemagne,' has me thinking of deeds with bad intentions. And it just kills me when I see more recent pictures of Becker. He looks like a math teacher at a middle school in Wisconsin.
by Muddy on 1/31/2012 7:23pm
This guy needs to learn how to pronounce Oregon, or just use another state which fits better.
by morris solow on 3/24/2012 9:30pm
The "White Man Still Remains Sane."
by Cornelius on 4/17/2012 2:22pm
When I first heard the Royal Scam, this was my favorite song. I had a lot of anger in 1974 and this song helped me understand how some folks have to strike out and do violence just to get rid of those demons. If nothing else, it's a great insight into the mind of a suicidal person who's done great harm and can do more if he's not handled by very experienced negotiators. Every police department should play this song and discuss it among their new and experienced officers.
by Mojo on 8/24/2012 4:47pm
Outstanding guitar licks, Walter Becker can flat lay it down
by Mojo on 8/24/2012 5:16pm
My bad...that was Larry Carlton
by DrDeb on 1/20/2013 4:00pm
I think his "old man back in Oregon" refers to the government, which is very strick in some ways in Oregon and very lax in others.

Steely Dan's memes are more often than not metaphoric rather than literal--why I love them so! Gotta be deep to get it!
by Luftweg on 2/6/2013 3:23pm
@anfernee: What do you mean by "the white man is crazy", please elaborate.... Otherwise, it stands as the racist comment, from an apparent racist, that it is....
But maybe you have a deeper analysis to share.... Or do you 'hear' that in every song?
by skeeter548 on 2/13/2013 2:47pm
What is so cool about a great song is that the meaning of the lyrics more often than not are left up to the interpretation of the listener. Different people can get different things out of it. My take is that this is a man cornered by the law after committing some horrific act. The fact that he "crossed his old man back in Oregon" makes him particularly desperate and a man who has nothing to lose. So he doesn't care to be taken alive. This could be the story of many people who have committed similar horrendous acts like Charles Whitman,James Huberty,George Hennard,and Chris Dorner.
by Manny1969 on 4/9/2013 2:45pm
The fact that those of you who care how he pronounces OR-E-GON is why you are the listener of creativity and not the creator. Its' a great song played by some of the best musicians of their time and might not mean a thing but, if you like it then shut up, sing it and move if you feel it.

Either way, I'm almost positive that Fagan or Becker don't care either way.
by Kay2ThaLay on 4/14/2013 1:28am
I think he's saying Aragon, as in Spain. I like the robot theory. I instantly thought of Waco the first time I heard this song (last year). Skeeter's right; Steely Dan's lyrics are usually suggestive of multiple inference; and sometimes refer to inside stories altogether.
by Lee on 7/10/2013 6:12am
Like Terry C's post I love these SD songs like Take me Alive, Deacon Blues, Bad Sneakers, and Everyone's Gone To the Movies.

so many possibles with this song, it seems to point how lonely one can fell vs the outside world, possibly even more so if one had committed a murder or something.

... the last verse lyrics.....whoa


by Jan Page on 8/23/2013 4:08am
This song was used in the Ryan Gosling film, "All Good Things", he was a man who had killed his wife - OR HAD HE? They could never prove it as she was never found, just missing....The song suited the film well. Brilliant track by the every brilliant Donald Fagen.
by A.Star on 10/9/2014 9:25am
Smugglers always like this song
by Paul Nugent on 1/22/2017 4:56am
Yes I think using the song in 'All good things' was fitting. The husband who nobody could prove killed his wife was a bookkeeper. Its a true story by the way and the missing person case on his wife is still open. He hated his father and his mother committed suicide by jumping off the family house roof.
by Cam on 9/14/2021 2:54pm
The main character here may be an artist, musician or someone else who is trying to breakaway from societal conventions and apparently the will of his father to follow his vision. To "cross" someone simply means to defy them or to go against their will. He is now struggling, anxious and feeling the pressure to give up his dream and return to the luckless, pedestrian world that he came from.

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