The cover of the "Kid Charlemagne" single features Fagen (top) and Becker (bottom)
|Single by Steely Dan|
|from the album The Royal Scam|
|Genre||Funk rock, pop rock, progressive rock|
|Writer(s)||Walter Becker, Donald Fagen|
|Steely Dan singles chronology|
"Kid Charlemagne" is a song by the rock group Steely Dan, which was released as a single from their 1976 album The Royal Scam and reached number 82 in the Billboard charts. It is a fusion of a funk rhythm and jazz harmonies with rock and roll instrumentals and lyrical style. The guitar solo by jazz-fusion guitarist Larry Carlton was ranked #80 in the list of the 100 greatest guitar songs by Rolling Stone.
Writers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have stated that the lyrics were loosely inspired by the exploits of the infamous 1960s San Francisco-based LSD chemist Owsley Stanley — although it conflates the core story with numerous other images of the Sixties:
A-frame had your number on the wall
The first two lines draw on the fact that Owsley's acid was famed for its purity, and the third line is likely a reference to the famous psychedelic bus named Further, which was used by the Merry Pranksters, who were supplied their LSD by Owsley himself.
The final verse foreshadows Owsley's eventual bust:
Clean this mess up else we'll all end up in jailI think the people down the hall know who you are
Those test tubes and the scale
Just get it all out of here
Is there gas in the car?
Yes, there's gas in the car
Owsley and another person were arrested after their car ran out of gas.
- Lead Vocals: Donald Fagen
- Drums: Bernard Purdie
- Bass: Chuck Rainey
- Guitar: Larry Carlton
- Fender Rhodes: Don Grolnick
- Clavinet: Paul Griffin
- Backup Vocals: Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, Vanetta Fields, Clydie King, Sherlie Matthews
In the Malcolm in the Middle episode "Garage Sale", Hal (Bryan Cranston) finds his old pirate radio transmitter and restarts the station he ran in college under the pseudonym Kid Charlemagne. In Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston's character Walter White mentions Steely Dan as a "match against any current bands" based on "pure musicianship". The mention of Steely Dan proves to be significant, as Walter White's alter-ego Heisenberg produces a drug of extremely high quality, just like Owsley Stanley.
- Steely Dan USA chart history, Billboard.com. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
- "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 30, 2008). Retrieved 2011-01-25. "In the late seventies, Steely Dan made records by pushing a revolving crew of monster session dudes through take after take, which yielded endless jaw-dropping guitar solos. Larry Carlton's multi-sectioned, cosmic-jazz lead in this cut may be the best of all: It's so complex it's a song in its own right."
- Complete transcript of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in a BBC-Online Chat, March 4, 2000
- "Breaking Bad, Season 2". iTunes. Retrieved 2 October 2014.