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Steely Dan — The Royal Scam
Album: The Royal Scam
Avg rating:
7.2

Your rating:
Total ratings: 2531









Released: 1976
Length: 6:18
Plays (last 30 days): 1
And they wandered in
From the city of St. John
Without a dime

Wearing coats that shined
Both red and green colors
From their sunny island

From their boats of iron
They looked upon the promised land
Where surely life was sweet

On the rising tide
To New York City did they ride
Into the street

See the glory
(See the glory of)
Of the royal scam

They are hounded down
To the bottom of a bad town
Amid the ruins

Where they learn to fear
An angry race of fallen kings
Their dark companions

While the memory of
Their southern sky was clouded by
A savage winter

Every patron saint
Hung on the wall, shared the room
With twenty sinners

See the glory
(See the glory of)
Of the royal scam

By the blackened wall
He does it all
He thinks he's died and gone to heaven

Now the tale is told
By the old man back home
He reads the letter

How they are paid in gold
Just to babble in the back room
All night and waste their time

And they wandered in
From the city of St. John
Without a dime

See the glory
(See the glory of)
Of the royal scam

See the glory
(See the glory of)
Of the royal scam

See the glory
(See the glory of)
Of the royal scam
Comments (411)add comment
 Queue wrote:
Every time I listen, I hear something new.  So many layers to this.  Today it was the drums that stood out.   That hi-hat work!
 
So many layers. Today I heard a tuba/bass-trombone buried down in the chorus (right when the girls echo: "see the glory of"). Who does that? ...hide something for people to find 45 years later...
Meghan Markle's theme song.
Merry Christmas

www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWgApS...
 neptunejeff wrote:
Another outstanding "9" tune from the 
mighty Steely Dan....
 
I succumbed to the peer pressure and boosted my rating from 8 to 9.
Love me some Steely Dan.
Another outstanding "9" tune from the 
mighty Steely Dan....
 maboleth wrote:
I can always tell if it's 70's music... It's endless, tedious and boring, band trying to showcase everything they know in a single song.
 
That is a fascinating opinion, however shallow and myopic it may be.  Nevertheless you are entitled to it.  I just had to add to the backlash from my fellow SD devotees.
 NelsonBlack wrote:
I know I've written this sort of thing before on RP comments: "good song, but hearing this song makes me think of the superior "Kid Charlemagne" with its hyperkinetic lyrics and guitar work."

Actually, I think that's one of the things that makes me enjoy RP. There is an endless chain of musical associations that the mix always brings to mind.
 
The arc of this song is devastating. It is an immigrant's song. It reminds me of my family leaving Europe when I was a small boy, my father arriving in the new world, scared and hopeful, but "without a dime", and into a north-east "savage winter". Mostly it was Walter Becker's words that always made SD edgy and inscrutable. Still don't know what the "royal scam" is, but maybe something to do with the British and their Caribbean departments, no idea. But it's not necessary to get the portent of disappointment and further struggle, the promises broken. An infinitely fascinating song. 
Steely Dan is the litmus test for intelligence and erudition. 
 maboleth wrote:
I can always tell if it's 70's music... It's endless, tedious and boring, band trying to showcase everything they know in a single song.
 
Then you must hate Steely Dan as they do that in every. single. song.

Hear the glory... of the royally talented Dan.
I know I've written this sort of thing before on RP comments: "good song, but hearing this song makes me think of the superior "Kid Charlemagne" with its hyperkinetic lyrics and guitar work."

Actually, I think that's one of the things that makes me enjoy RP. There is an endless chain of musical associations that the mix always brings to mind.
 maboleth wrote:
I can always tell if it's 70's music... It's endless, tedious and boring, band trying to showcase everything they know in a single song.
 
ha! Grow Down....! ha!
 Queue wrote:
Every time I listen, I hear something new.  So many layers to this.  Today it was the drums that stood out.   That hi-hat work!
 

Bernard Lee "Pretty" Purdie (born June 11, 1939) is an American drummer, and an influential R&B, soul and funk musician.[1] He is known for his precise musical time keeping[2] and his signature use of triplets against a half-time backbeat: the "Purdie Shuffle."[3] He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2013.[4]
I can always tell if it's 70's music... It's endless, tedious and boring, band trying to showcase everything they know in a single song.
 Helchat wrote:
jasonv wrote:
It's music like this that keeps me from dating older women anymore...
That's hysterical! Regardless of the music, I have to think you had been dating the *wrong* older women... :lol:

LOL... I'll suggest it's the good ones that listen to this!!!  imho.
 

Brilliant tune from a brilliant LP.
Way too long. There's really not enough happening to justify such a length.
 On_The_Beach wrote:

Both [Steely Dan, Alan Parson Project] 1976; go figger.
 

O_T_B and Proclivities are two among other fine and appreciated modern music historians on this website.   

That has to be a draw.  Congratulations to the Goldmans for turning the song comments into a tasty attraction.  
I never would have thought when Steely Dan gave us this classic I'd live to see the Royal DC Scam at this scale.   Like timeless literature, this piece of art will outlive us all.....thank you Walter and Donald.
Every time I listen, I hear something new.  So many layers to this.  Today it was the drums that stood out.   That hi-hat work!
Just bumped from 9 to 10, it just doesn't get any better to my ears. 
Bummer.

I just came to the site to rate this song a 10, only to find that I had already done that.
One of the best American bands ever.  Thank you Walter for all you gave us!
Build a wall on the border with Puerto Rico and make Lin-Manuel pay for it! (Sarcasm.) 
Bugger it - changing to a 10. Nothing but outstanding work all round.
Music at it's best
In 6 yrs of comments only one negative, I guess when it comes to SD (not sexual disease), your outnumbered RDO.
 thewiseking wrote:
Brilliant singer songwriters. Obsessive about using the best studio musicians they could get their hands on. The results, for somewhere around 10 years, were outstanding.
 

.......And the production was always a work of art especially for the times. With RP allowing FLAC streaming, it is possible to spot a Steely song in mere seconds by the clear recordings of the instruments... 
That is some seriously mean trumpet...Meanest I've ever heard, but hard to focus with the phenomenal drumming pounding out that crazy beat.  My brain is going back and forth between all the talent here {#Headache}
OUTSTANDING!{#Notworthy}
Never paid attention to the lyrics before. They read like poetry.
bumping to 9
Brilliant singer songwriters. Obsessive about using the best studio musicians they could get their hands on. The results, for somewhere around 10 years, were outstanding.
 TerryS wrote:
 I heard he has very long arms.
 
Gravity is — or can be — your friend.
 westslope wrote:
RP can simply not play enough Steely Dan.  
 
Hear, hear!!
RP can simply not play enough Steely Dan.  
 On_The_Beach wrote:
R.I.P. Walter Becker.
You will be missed.
https://soultrain.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/steelydan2.jpg

 
Some major dudes there. Nice photo, Beach.

{#Clap} for the Dan.
R.I.P. Walter Becker.
You will be missed.
 
https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-490etiZgfYw/Waw8wA9BVbI/AAAAAAAACe0/zh7JxKxLxgcPSLuS9RxYSGLkyOocOtHVwCLcBGAs/s1600/steelydan2.jpg
 fraserji wrote:
Go gently into that good night, Walter Becker. RIP. 

 
We're going to miss him greatly.
Go gently into that good night, Walter Becker. RIP. 
Walter Becker .... R.I.P. dude
Not above criticism, but refreshingly different for the last forty years. Love them
Perfect for the current moment in history. 
Nice transition from Norah Jones Burn there, Bill.  :-)
 Dave_Mack wrote:
Dang, that trombone player is hitting some loooooooow notes.

  I heard he has very long arms.


Dang, that trombone player is hitting some loooooooow notes.
 countyman wrote:

I see this comment is from nearly four years ago.  Hopefully you've changed your opinion or better yet, have been forgotten yourself.

Saw them last weekend.  Not cheesy at all.



 


 countyman wrote:

I see this comment is from nearly four years ago.  Hopefully you've changed your opinion or better yet, have been forgotten yourself.

Saw them last weekend.  Not cheesy at all.



 
I'd say if anything, Steely Dan has always been just about the opposite of a cheesy act. They're actually pretty classy and very particular about their sound and arrangements. Any major dude who's worked with Walter or Donald will tell ya. {#Wink}

By the way, always liked the drum work on this one.
 rdo wrote:
Cheezy 70s act that shud have been forgotten LONG ago. 

 
I see this comment is from nearly four years ago.  Hopefully you've changed your opinion or better yet, have been forgotten yourself.

Saw them last weekend.  Not cheesy at all.


I'm 20 years old and living in Pacific Grove California. I ride my motorcycle to Ft. Ord every morning and arrive with minutes to spare for a bleary eyed formation wearing olive drab. Music brightens my day. The seat on my time machine stays warm long after the motorcycle and olive drab and Ft.Ord are long gone...
seminal wind
Yes!  One of the best "thinking person's songs" from one of the best "thinking person's bands" of all time... For sure, references 'Ricans coming into The Isle of Manhattoes, but also allegorizes every time it's ever happened. The Royal Scam, man — same as it ever was...
 ottovonb wrote:

Great idea. That Pyramid album was terrific.

 
I second that motion. Pyramid was fantastic! I had the LP and wore out the grooves. Wore out most of my Dan LPs as well.
 Proclivities wrote:
Same era, though I believe this album's release preceded that of the APP's first album.
 
Both 1976; go figger.
 bexhillos wrote:

I wish Bill would play some Alan Parsons Project, maybe off Pyramid or Turn of a Friendly Card, used to listen to them until the tape wore out and the heads. That dates the Project.

 
Great idea. That Pyramid album was terrific.
The Royal Scam. 

The fact that a family can literally put themselves over their fellow man and 'rule' them. 

Disgusting.

In my particular case the rotten to the core house of WIndsor (they were called German Saxe-Coburg-Gotha 100 years ago but changed their German names due to WW1) should be charged with treason and incarcerated for crimes against the country. 

It makes my skin creep to see them breeding uncontrollably and creating new tiny lizards.

/rant. 
 WaxHorse wrote:
The first chords of this one immediately struck me as Alan Parson Project! 

 
Same era, though I believe this album's release preceded that of the APP's first album.
Nice segue from end of Take Five to opening notes.
I've never been a Steely Dan fan, but I like this better than most SD tunes.
Would be great to pair this with the Immigrant Song.
One of my all time favorite songs.
 bexhillos wrote:

I wish Bill would play some Alan Parsons Project, maybe off Pyramid or Turn of a Friendly Card, used to listen to them until the tape wore out and the heads. That dates the Project.


agreed! Love APP! 
 

{#Flamed} ..... outstanding song from an outstanding album - best thing to come out of the 70's
   10 
 WaxHorse wrote:
The first chords of this one immediately struck me as Alan Parson Project! 

 
I wish Bill would play some Alan Parsons Project, maybe off Pyramid or Turn of a Friendly Card, used to listen to them until the tape wore out and the heads. That dates the Project.
 msymmes wrote:
Agreed.  But don't count out 1977.  The strangest year in Rock N Roll.    Elvis to the Sex Pistols and everything in between.


 
Jazbo wrote:
Steely made the 70's tollerable....9

 



 
And don't forget the birth of Disco. It was definitely a wacky era for music.
 milleronic wrote:
Steely Dan = The Shins of the 70's.

 
If you ever defame The Shins again in this manner you will be hearing from our lawyers.
The first chords of this one immediately struck me as Alan Parson Project! 
Never really 'got' Steely Dan, find it jarring, over complex, over produced and just downright irritating. 
Agreed.  But don't count out 1977.  The strangest year in Rock N Roll.    Elvis to the Sex Pistols and everything in between.


 
Jazbo wrote:
Steely made the 70's tollerable....9

 


Steely made the 70's tollerable....9

love this song...  makes me want to be a whiskey smuggler again...
 
Steely Dan = The Shins of the 70's.
 zurcronium wrote:
Bill, it does not get any better. Mason-Cars-SD selections. 

You need to bottle your musical taste and sell it like a drug.  

  

 
Businessgypsy wrote:
Interesting. What would you call this?



 
Caught in deh damned act, Bill. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. 
 On_The_Beach wrote:

Learn to spell and maybe someone will take this comment seriously . . . but probably not.

 

NOT.
Was recently back in the States briefly, the Bay Area, and SD clearly was the band of choice across a variety of radio and satellite stations. I heard them more often than back in the 70s when the songs were new. Amazing. Musically tastes are moving toward SD. 
Been a while, but I checked below.  Thanks for the interpretation; we had assumed, literally, St. John fro the USVI, but the PR reference fits much better.

Will be looking for Reelin in the Years book this weekend.
Go back to the Beach please !
 zurcronium wrote:
Bill, it does not get any better. Mason-Cars-SD selections. 

You need to bottle your musical taste and sell it like a drug.  
 

Yes indeed
 rdo wrote:
Cheezy 70s act that shud have been forgotten LONG ago. 
 
Learn to spell and maybe someone will take this comment seriously . . . but probably not.

Bill has impeccable taste in music.    Only 2nd to mine :)

 

zurcronium wrote:
Bill, it does not get any better. Mason-Cars-SD selections. 

You need to bottle your musical taste and sell it like a drug.  
 


Can I politely ask what planet did you come from?
 

rdo wrote:
Cheezy 70s act that shud have been forgotten LONG ago. 
 


Bill, it does not get any better. Mason-Cars-SD selections. 

You need to bottle your musical taste and sell it like a drug.  
 bluefrog wrote:

and yet I find myself moving in the opposite direction and enjoy listening to Opera.

Maybe not all day long, but much more than I used to.
 
I 'm getting better about it, but still not in large doses. But, somewhere I now have Nessun Dorma in various versions (Aretha singing it in Pavarotti's key is one the most impressive bits of vocal singing there is...not that her version is most perfect, just it was a few octaves out of her normal range and she nailed it that well in almost no prep) and dealing with the garbage they force me to listen to at work makes even the worst Opera seem soothing to garbage pop-country and the limited Classic Rock the locals play (I swear they have 48 hours of music they play on shuffle).
Cheezy 70s act that shud have been forgotten LONG ago. 
existing on a fairly steady diet of cream beatles stones zappa pantera rob zombie tool sublime alice in chains bob marley traffic dylan I'd have to say this album pretty much goes straight to the head of the class
I so remember.... grabbing the headphones now.
nothing beats this one.
yummy
D@mn, almost blew my gear! A solid 9+++!
 hanssachs wrote:
O, the things we've seen and heard! - an Arp synthesizer burning in the courtyard of a West Hollywood sound stage - the thunder of a DeTomaso Pantera parked beneath the echo chambers of Studio C - the mighty room-service bill from the Beverly Wilshire hotel, reflecting the cost of the joyful reunion of Mr. Phil Woods and 200 of his closest L.A. studio/jazz-musician pallies - the world's first and last DBX noise reduction unit with factory installed wings, and a Bosendorfer piano that actually got louder after being struck . . .
 


O, the things we've seen and heard! - an Arp synthesizer burning in the courtyard of a West Hollywood sound stage - the thunder of a DeTomaso Pantera parked beneath the echo chambers of Studio C - the mighty room-service bill from the Beverly Wilshire hotel, reflecting the cost of the joyful reunion of Mr. Phil Woods and 200 of his closest L.A. studio/jazz-musician pallies - the world's first and last DBX noise reduction unit with factory installed wings, and a Bosendorfer piano that actually got louder after being struck - all things considered, the Katy Lied experience poses, we think, nothing so much as the musical analog of Richard Burton's famous query, in the sword and sandal epic "The Robe" - "were you...out there?" Yes, we were.
 flyingcement wrote:
Really? I thought it was St. John's, Newfoundland. I thought that was the "sunny island they were singing about....
{#Wink}
"from the city of saint john" refers to San Juan, Puerto Rico. "They are hounded down To the bottom of a bad town Amid the ruins" is the puerto ricans moving into the slums "Where they learn to fear An angry race of fallen kings Their dark companions" this is a reference to african americans who were already living in the same areas "While the memory of Their southern sky was clouded by A savage winter" puerto ricans not used to new york winter weather "Every patron saint Hung on the wall, shared the room With twenty sinners" this refers to fagen's opinion of hypocrisy within catholicism and those who practiced it as well as commenting on many people living under one roof which is common with many latino immigrants
 


 Jeff09 wrote:
See the glory, the glory of
The Royal Scam....!

Not only the beautiful, slightly dystopic , hipster/jazzy music.  Check out the lyrics.  This is very good stuff...
 
yep...

Totally.  Vanity Fair has the "Dude and Duchess" on their cover.  I only know because my wife bought it.  Seriously, she buys a lot of dirt {#Rolleyes}


 camman wrote:

Yes..... coming to the land of great opportunity and then being very disappointed in what it's really like (the scam).  Just read the book "Reelin in the Years" which explains this somewhat.
 
Ooh, I'll have to get that book.

For me one of the most underrated albums ever... me loves the Dan and me really loves the Dan's "Royal Scam".
 Dave_Mack wrote:

Pretty sure it's about people moving to NYC for Puerto Rico.  San Juan, doncha know.
 
Yes..... coming to the land of great opportunity and then being very disappointed in what it's really like (the scam).  Just read the book "Reelin in the Years" which explains this somewhat.


 unclehud wrote:
I once had a far-fetched interpretation of this song, but have forgotten it.  Anyone want to forward a story to match the lyrics?
 
In the meantime, I'll go dig out the vinyl, hope my cartridge and needle are still functional, pour a Scotch, and try to remember.  I think it started with reggae musicians hitting NYC.  "In their coats of many colors, from the City of St. John?"  Reasonable so far?
 
Pretty sure it's about people moving to NYC from Puerto Rico.  San Juan, doncha know.

Looooooove Steely Dan, especially this vintage.  They're coming to my town in July! 

ETA: Next Tuesday!


 jpfueler wrote:

It's like most opera to me. . . great massive talented voices. . . I ain't listening to it all day long and in fact i listen to as little as possible.

 
and yet I find myself moving in the opposite direction and enjoy listening to Opera.

Maybe not all day long, but much more than I used to.


I once had a far-fetched interpretation of this song, but have forgotten it.  Anyone want to forward a story to match the lyrics?
 
In the meantime, I'll go dig out the vinyl, hope my cartridge and needle are still functional, pour a Scotch, and try to remember.  I think it started with reggae musicians hitting NYC.  "In their coats of many colors, from the City of St. John?"  Reasonable so far?
 The_Skipper wrote:
THIS is pure Classic Rock...shows what you know of it...not much!
 
and apparently you ddin't get the reference. or the fact I gave this a ten long ago. Said freind is quite the music affectionato, just doen't like SD. But being something of a musician he also recognises the quality of playing. He just don't care for it for what ever reason.

Rush is very much the same for him...he loves the playing, the songs lyrics are masterful, he just hates Lee's voice. Now later in life he has learned to put that aside and listens to it more often, but the voice still takes something away for him.

I used to work with a Jazz musician. He once came and ask if I knew of or had heard  Shot Down In Ecuador JR.(they were a big deal around New Orleans for some time)
.
me- "Yeah, I've seen their posters around town, but never heard them play."

him- "They are damned good players, a great band!"

me- "Oh yeah, you like their music?"

him- "No, I hate it. But they play it very well"

It's like most opera to me. . . great massive talented voices. . . I ain't listening to it all day long and in fact i listen to as little as possible.

 The_Skipper wrote:

What's NOT to get? It's what rock was built on. You really should get out more often.

 
Rock was built on blues, and came from black folks. Steely Dan were just another rock band, albeit one of the more popular ones.

Is this Golden Oldies hour on RP? Dave Mason, The Cars, now Steely Dan. Eclectic is good, but at times RP shades uncomfortably into middle-aged nostalgia (written as a middle-aged git myself)...

Feckin' long, innit? I went away for some modern (ie later than 70s) music to iTunes, played a 6-minute track, and this lot are still banging on. Brevity never was the strong suit of 'rock giants'...


Prescient.

"In Soviet Russia, Banks rob YOU"
 84MacGuy wrote:
I know many people love Steely Dan, but for my ear they are the equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.

Now don't all you Steely Dan fans dump on me.   I respect your musical tastes, I just don't get it.
 
I dunno. I'm a HUGE fan, but I can see how they could be divisive. I never felt their style was really rock. It's more of a jazz-rock fusion to me. I dig it, but no surprise that many wouldn't.

I've seen them live a couple times recently, and the musicianship on stage is really something to behold, especially if you're lucky enough to get Keith Carlock on drums.
 84MacGuy wrote:
I know many people love Steely Dan, but for my ear they are the equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.

Now don't all you Steely Dan fans dump on me.   I respect your musical tastes, I just don't get it.
 
What's NOT to get? It's what rock was built on. You really should get out more often.

 The_Skipper wrote:
THIS is pure Classic Rock...shows what you know of it...not much!
 
Agreed!   {#Cheers}
 jpfueler wrote:

I've a friend who say's "Great Playing. . . I hate it"

 THIS is pure Classic Rock...shows what you know of it...not much!


Almost certainly the best Steely Dan song I've ever heard.  And it's still frigging awful.  He sounds like a muppet who smokes alot of cigarettes and is having a hernia flare-up.
Bill's on a 70's roll today! 
See the glory, the glory of
The Royal Scam....!

Not only the beautiful, slightly dystopic , hipster/jazzy music.  Check out the lyrics.  This is very good stuff...
 84MacGuy wrote:
I know many people love Steely Dan, but for my ear they are the equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.

Now don't all you Steely Dan fans dump on me.   I respect your musical tastes, I just don't get it.
 
I've a friend who say's "Great Playing. . . I hate it"

{#Dancingbanana}{#Tongue}{#Drummer}{#Bananajam}{#Bananapiano}{#Guitarist}...The Dan Band.......!!!!!
  
Sounds great even on rubbishy (relatively) MP3 stream. I'm getting my vinyl out later to hear this again in all it's majesty.
.

I know many people love Steely Dan, but for my ear they are the equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.

Now don't all you Steely Dan fans dump on me.   I respect your musical tastes, I just don't get it.

my favorite dan tune 4 sure...


The Dan.

Thanks Bill 
it never ceases to amaze me how steely dan could wring such remarkable performances out of session musicians who always seemed to play beyond their usual skills when they played for becker and fagan. and it great that a band who produced such complex (comparatively) music could be a commercial success. always been a fan.
These guys had a some good stuff early on, but after a while it pretty well all sounds the same, and boring at that.
Eveland wrote:

This is what I call jazz

Interesting. What would you call this?

I'm voting Star Wars influenced, to some degree. In the same way that this wonderfully quirky recording is jazz influenced, to some degree.

 von_Hayek wrote:

Hmm, "royal scam" was released in 1977.{#Stupid}
 

Steely Dan discography says '76.
 Huey wrote:
My alltime favorite group...a 9{#Bananapiano}
 

My sentiments exactly; rating too.{#Yes}
Love the Larry Carlton strat riffs....