The Royal Scam

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The Royal Scam
Studio album by Steely Dan
Released May 1976
Recorded November 1975 -
March 1976;
ABC Studios in
Los Angeles;
A&R Studios in
(Manhattan) New York
Genre Jazz rock, funk rock
Length 41:11
Label ABC
Producer Gary Katz
Steely Dan chronology
Katy Lied
(1975)
The Royal Scam
(1976)
Aja
(1977)
Singles from The Royal Scam
  1. "Kid Charlemagne"
    Released: May 1976
  2. "The Fez"
    Released: 1976
  3. "Haitian Divorce"
    Released: 1976

The Royal Scam is the fifth album by Steely Dan, originally released by ABC Records in 1976. The album went gold and peaked at #15 on the charts.[1] The Royal Scam features more prominent guitar work than other Steely Dan albums. Guitarists on the recording include Walter Becker, Denny Dias, Larry Carlton, Elliott Randall and Dean Parks.

The mood of the album stands in contrast with the band's more mellow and hugely successful follow-up, Aja.

In common with other Steely Dan albums, The Royal Scam is littered with cryptic allusions to people and events both real and fictional. In a BBC interview in 2000,[2] Becker and Fagen revealed that "Kid Charlemagne" is loosely based on Augustus Owsley Stanley, the notorious drug "chef" who was famous for manufacturing hallucinogenic compounds, and that "Caves of Altamira" is about the loss of innocence, the narrative about a visitor to the Cave of Altamira who registers his astonishment at the prehistoric drawings.

The album was re-issued by MCA Records in 1979 following the sale of the ABC Records label to MCA.

Cover[edit]

The album cover shows a sleeping man in a suit apparently dreaming of skyscraper-beast hybrids. The cover was created from a painting by Zox and a photograph by Charlie Ganse, and was originally created for Van Morrison's unreleased 1975 album, Mechanical Bliss.[citation needed] In the liner notes for the 1999 remaster of the album, Fagen and Becker claim it to be "the most hideous album cover of the seventies, bar none (excepting perhaps Can't Buy a Thrill)."

Eagles reference[edit]

In the song "Everything You Did," a lyric says, "turn up The Eagles, the neighbors are listening." Glenn Frey of the Eagles said, "Apparently Walter Becker's girlfriend loved the Eagles, and she played them all the time. I think it drove him nuts. So, the story goes that they were having a fight one day and that was the genesis of the line." Given that the two bands shared a manager (Irving Azoff) and that the Eagles proclaimed their admiration for Steely Dan, this was more friendly rivalry than feud.[3]

Later that year in a nod back to Steely Dan for the free publicity,[4] and inspired by Steely Dan's lyric style,[5] the Eagles penned the lyrics, "They stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast" in their hit "Hotel California". Frey commented, "We just wanted to allude to Steely Dan rather than mentioning them outright, so 'Dan' got changed to 'knives,' which is still, you know, a penile metaphor."[6]

Timothy B. Schmit, who sang background vocals on "The Royal Scam" would later join The Eagles.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[7]
Robert Christgau B[8]
Q 5/5 stars[9]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[10]

The album was not as highly rated upon its release as its predecessors with most reviewers noting that it did not seem to represent any musical advancement. In contrast, the original Rolling Stone review was more positive,[11] and ultimately the magazine gave it five stars in a later Hall of Fame review.[10]

Track listing[edit]

All songs by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, except where noted.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Kid Charlemagne" – 4:38
  2. "The Caves of Altamira" – 3:33
  3. "Don't Take Me Alive" – 4:16
  4. "Sign in Stranger" – 4:23
  5. "The Fez" (Becker, Fagen, Paul Griffin) – 4:01

Side two[edit]

  1. "Green Earrings" – 4:05
  2. "Haitian Divorce" – 5:51
  3. "Everything You Did" – 3:55
  4. "The Royal Scam" – 6:30

Personnel[edit]

Production[edit]

  • Producer: Gary Katz
  • Engineer: Roger Nichols
  • Mixdown engineer: Barney Perkins
  • Sound Consultant: Dinky Dawson
  • Horn arrangements: Walter Becker, Donald Fagen, Chuck Findley
  • Art direction: Ed Caraeff
  • Cover art: Zox
  • Typography: Tom Nikosey

Charts[edit]

Album

Year Chart Position
1976 US Albums 15[1]
1976 UK Albums 11

Pop Singles

Year Single Label & number Chart & position
1976 "Kid Charlemagne" (B-side: "Green Earrings") ABC 12195 U.S. 82[12]
1976 "The Fez" (B-side: "Sign In Stranger") ABC 12222 U.S. 59[12]
1976 "Haitian Divorce" (B-side: "Sign In Stranger") ABC 4152 (UK release) U.K. 17[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Royal Scam - Steely Dan > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 October 2004.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.
  4. ^ Was there any kind of a feud going on between Steely Dan and the Eagles in the ’70s? Rule Forty Two.com. Glenn Frey: "We just wanted to allude to Steely Dan rather than mentioning them outright, so 'Dan' got changed to 'knives'"
  5. ^ Quotes: Here are quotes from Don and others about his career Feldermusic. "At the time we were also quite fond [of] Steely Dan and listening to a lot of their records. And one of the things that impressed us about Steely Dan was that they would say anything in their songs and it did not have to necessarily make sense you know"
  6. ^ Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. The Royal Scam at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 October 2004.
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Steely Dan > Consumer Guide Reviews". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 5 March 2006. 
  9. ^ Q June 2000, p.131
  10. ^ a b Scoppa, Bud (October 14, 2004). "The Rolling Stone Hall of Fame: Steely Dan The Royal Scam > Album Review". Rolling Stone (959). Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2007. 
  11. ^ Tucker, Kenneth (July 1, 1976). "Steely Dan The Royal Scam > Album Review". Rolling Stone (216). Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  12. ^ a b The Royal Scam - Steely Dan > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 October 2004.
  13. ^ the highest UK chart position for a Steely Dan single

External links[edit]