Guest poem submitted by Gerry Rowe:
(Poem #965) Chain Lightning
Some turnout, a hundred grand Get with it we'll shake his hand Don't bother to understand Don't question the little man Be part of the brotherhood Yes it's chain lightning It feels so good Hush brother, we cross the square Act natural like you don't care Turn slowly and comb your hair Don't trouble the midnight air We're standing just where he stood It was chain lightning It feels so good
A lot of Steely Dan (Donald Fagen and Walter Becker) songs are very successful recastings of standard forms. Chain Lightning is one such. It has a standard key note-dominant-seventh kind of chord sequence. However the chords chosen are not the usual ones but a set of more recherche, and very effective, other ones. This is why the tune sounds both familiar and unusual at first listening (and ultimately very pleasing). The same kind of care and skill goes into Steely Dan lyrics, which have been called wry, ironic and super-clever - but never trivial. Chain Lightning deals with territory probably never explored elsewhere in music - the subjective feelings of participants in a political rally addressed by a powerful orator (whether of left or right is not stated). These verses convey the paradox that the words and ideas of demagogues (and this comment may apply to any politician) may not stand up to close inspection but may still make listeners feel very good. For those that like it the music of Steely Dan creates a very agreeable, and enduring, sensation of being expertly and assiduously entertained. It makes you feel good (and is worth more than any amount of political oratory!). In my case my attention only turns later to the lyrics which always turn out to be full of added value, to say the least. So it is with Chain Lightning. If you can, listen to it, on 'Katy Lied', to get the full experience. It's an interesting question as to who exactly the narrator is. The author/auteur directing his characters through a short film-scene? An initiate mentally rehearsing advice to a neophyte? A Travis Bickle talking to himself in quiet ecstasy? This open vagueness goes well with the the theme of a dubious political excitement that is the more chilling for being savoured rather than outwardly acclaimed. Gerry.