Are You With Me, Doctor Wu?
the Katy Lied files
Welcome to my in-depth analysis of the world's most drug-ridden, sex-filled, realistically
depressing concept album-> Steely Dan's "Katy Lied".
Mssrs. Fagan and Becker have been quite reticent over the years concerning the meanings of
their songs, and thus, all of us Steely Dan fans have had to fill-in-the-blanks ourselves.
A dangerous task, because this is what happens when we do.
The true story behind "Katy Lied", as seen and heard through these foggy eyes
BLACK FRIDAY- And so the story begins. We meet the main character- let's call him Donald-
a man who obviously has a lot to lose. Imagine him a stockbroker- young, wealthy,
arrogant- living the high life. His only concern in the world is the dreaded Black Friday,
that forever-lurking day when, for no reason whatsoever, things just start to fall apart.
Your life crumbles. You lose everything. Being a stockbroker, Donald is well aware of this
threat, so he has planned, and planned carefully. "When Black Friday
," Donald says, listing his various plans of escape and protection. But
the funny thing is, Donald causes his own Black Friday. "Before my friends find out
I'll be on the road"- there are hints here that Donald is engineering his own demise,
though unknowingly so. Perhaps he is embezzling, and he is realizing that he is about to
get caught. So what does he do- he hightails it in the nick of time. Escapes. Digs himself
a hole and hides until the heat is off. "Yes," Donald says, "I'm gonna
stake my claim". The perfect crime. Or is it?
BAD SNEAKERS- Donald is in "hiding", no longer living the life he is so
accustomed to, but doing so out of necessity. He still has a "large sum of money to
spend", but despite this apparent security blanket, Donald is not too happy. He is no
longer working, hanging out in seedier locations, and feels that he is "going
insane". He is living in confusion, rich enough to afford pina coladas, but forced to
wear bad sneakers as part of his disguise. He confides his problem to a friend, who takes
him "for a fool". If you have that much money, why are you living this kind of
life? "Do you think that I don't see", Donald replies, "that ditch out in
the valley that they're digging just for me?" If he takes any chances, he will get
caught, and that will be the end. So the days pass, with Donald all the while slipping
further and further into his own personal hell.
ROSE DARLING- Donald finally meets another woman. When he made his decision to give up his
life and go into hiding, Donald left a hefty sum of money with his wife (Mary), but for
personal safety reasons, did not fill her in on the details of his plan. Thus, to her, he
simply left. He asked her to stay, left her some money, but gave no further explanation.
He makes several failed attempts to get her back (and finally just cannot stand to hear
her name [Bad Sneakers]), before she ups and moves to Detroit, presumably back to her
parents. Donald, having impulses he needs to act on, takes to spending time with
prostitutes, before finally falling for a hooker named Rose. At first, all he asks of her
is that she "make his wildest dreams come true". Then, as he spends more time
with her, he tries to convince both her and himself that this relationship has "got
to be". Sadly, though, he admits to himself that she is only there to help him
"wear the weary hours down".
DADDY DON'T LIVE IN THAT NEW YORK CITY NO MORE- This is Rose's song. Her previous lover,
possibly pimp, was killed in a shady drug deal. "Driving like a fool down to
He says, 'I gotta see a joker and I'll be right back'". He never
returns. Rose relates this tale to Donald one night when she realizes that she is starting
to have some deeper feelings for him. The subject comes up because by this time, Rose has
introduced Donald to the world of drugs, and late one night, they curse themselves for not
being able to score some dope. Rose then remembers Daddy, and tells Donald his tale
partially out of warning, but also to further connect with him.
DOCTOR WU- After a nasty withdrawal episode, Donald leaves Rose, and goes through another
series of women. Eventually, he meets Katy, someone he sincerely falls for, and who
attempts to help him quit his newly acquired drug habit. "Katy tried", Donald
says, "but I was on the other side of no tomorrow". Despite her best efforts,
the pain is too much to tolerate, and Donald seeks out the dope again. "You walked in
and my life began again"- high words of praise for Donald's drug, affectionately
called Doctor Wu. Katy, desperate her attempts to save the man she loves, begins lying to
Donald, appearing to help him score drugs but in actuality subverting his intentions.
After one such incident, Donald realizes that Katy lies- "She is lovely, yes, she's
sly"- but finds that he can only trust his Doctor Wu, because he is just "an
ordinary guy". Thus, Donald chooses the drug over the girl, but as we see in the
closing moments of the song, Donald does not find the reassurance that he is looking for.
"Can you hear me, Doctor? Are you with me, Doctor?" Donald cries out, looking
for comfort, but never seeming to find it.
EVERYONE GONE TO THE MOVIES- Donald is through with women, but not with sex, so before
long he finds himself hanging out with a certain Mr. LaPage. Mr. LaPage is a pornographer,
making and showing dirty movies in his swanky, upscale apartment. More than just the sex,
Mr. LaPage enjoys taking young girls off the streets, offering them comfort and safety,
and then coercing them to appear in his movies. Mr. LaPage meets Donald through a young
prostitute, and before long, Donald finds himself working for the pornographer.
"Listen to what I say, he wants to show you the way", Donald tells the young
girls, helping Mr. LaPage find the warm bodies he needs for his films. Mr. LaPage lets
Donald have his way with the women, but more importantly, supplies Donald with all the
dope he needs. Donald believes that he has found happiness.
CHAIN LIGHTNING- Mr. LaPage, amazingly enough, turns out to be a fascist. One day, when
Donald brings a young Jewish girl to LaPage's apartment, the pornographer goes into this
long spiel about Hitler and Nazism and the "so-called Holocaust". He then tells
Donald about his days as a Nazi youth, and about being part of "the
brotherhood". "Yes, it's chain lightning, it feels so good." Mr. LaPage
convinces Donald to attend a clandestine Fascist rally, which occurs late one night and is
sparsely attended, mostly by lowlifes and freaks. "It was chain lightning", Mr.
LaPage reassures Donald, "its feels so good."
YOUR GOLD TEETH II- By this time, Donald is becoming pretty distraught, and fee