I honestly never paid much attention to the lyrics of this song, as, on the surface anyway, they sound pretty much like a standard noirish story song of some outlaw holding out against the authorities. But I'm not so sure, seeing how this album, as a whole, is maybe Steely Dan's most, if not political, then seriously sociological—much of it pretty specific, directly or indirectly, to the Sixties and Seventies counter-culture. It's a little colder, to me, than their other albums, though that doesn't mean I like it less—and there's maybe less humor, though with them, you almost always have to work for the humor, anyway, and the harder you work, usually, the more rewarding the payoff. When I listen to the lyrics more carefully, it seems that the song could be about a militant, anti-war or anti-government activist rather than a criminal. I always think of the expression, “You'll never take me alive!” as one of a gangster holding out against the G-Men, but here it's: “Don't take me alive”—is that a mistake? (there are no mistakes)—or to fit the music?—or maybe it's a bit of “Hell no, we won't go.” The most memorable line in the song is: “Got a case of dynamite / I could hold out here all night.” It is both the most specific and unambiguous lyric here, as well as the one most open to metaphorical interpretation, in that it could be a literal stand-off, a sexual innuendo, a partying reference, or a hyperbolic declaration in an argument about where to get dinner. As an exercise, I'm going to use that phrase, in some situation or other, once a day for the next month. If nothing else, I'll at least amuse myself.
Musically, the most interesting thing is that the guitar solo is at the beginning of the song. I can think of a few other songs that do that, but I can't think of them right now, offhand. It's played by Larry (Mr. 335) Carlton, who is all over this record. I like him, but there is no question that being nicknamed for a type of guitar is considerably less satisfying than for an animal known for its dangerously pungent defense mechanism. That said, if you listen to this opening solo through headphones, or otherwise particularly loud, I guarantee you'll be able to literally smell the tubes overheating in the back of that guitar amp. Throughout the song, then, you can just sense him dying to cut loose again, but it's not written in the script. The tension is almost pathological. The other thing I noticed via a close listening is the backup singers—though smooth and subtle here, they do have a moment, and it struck me as so beautiful that I almost started to cry. And I would have, too, if I wasn't, you know, out of tears.
—Randy Russell 6.16.19
Current Ranking: No. 27