1972 to 1981
November 30, -0001 in Annandale-on-Hudson
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, United States
Steely Dan is an American jazz rock band whose music also blends elements of crossover jazz, latin music, blue-eyed soul, R&B, boogie, and pop. Founded by core members Walter Becker (guitars, backing vocals) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, lead vocals) in 1972, the band enjoyed critical and commercial success starting from the early 1970s until breaking up in 1981. Rolling Stone has called them "the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies". Steely Dan reunited in 1993 and has toured steadily ever since.
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I'm fairly certain this song is about a brothel. The kind of place that no one talks about, no matter if you see the mayor, your friends Klaus and Rooster, or a sailor on shore leave. Ruthie gives you the key to your room, and you head upstairs with your $20 bill (Jackson.)
This tells the tale of a homeless drug addict, whose only possession of worldly value is a golden ring on his hand. The person relating the story obviously had known Charlie for awhile, and when they met late one night, Charlie begged him to purchase the ring, because he was in dire need of cash. Of course, Charles immediately uses the cash to buy drugs, and overdoses on them. When the author finds out, he heads down to the morgue, and places the ring on Charlie's finger, somewhat regretfully.
I've always felt this song is an evocation of the late 60's, with special reference to a call for "peace." The changing of the guard here is not a literal reference (such as a palace guard being replaced during a shift change). It's referring to a generation becoming older, and the younger generation having a different viewpoint, and wanting to be heard; and more importantly...being taken seriously.