Kid Charlemagne

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"Kid Charlemagne"
The cover of the "Kid Charlemagne" single features Fagen (top) and Becker (bottom)
Single by Steely Dan
from the album The Royal Scam
B-side "Green Earrings"
Released May 1976
Genre Funk rock, pop rock, progressive rock
Length 4:38
Label ABC
Writer(s) Walter Becker, Donald Fagen
Producer(s) Gary Katz
Steely Dan singles chronology
"Bad Sneakers"
"Kid Charlemagne"
"The Fez"
The Royal Scam track listing
"Kid Charlemagne"
"The Caves of Altamira"

"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.[1] 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, stating "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."[2]


The lyrics tell the story of the rise and fall of a drug dealer in the context of the psychedelic scene of the 1960s on the West Coast. Specifically, writers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have stated that the lyrics were loosely inspired by the exploits of the infamous San Francisco-based LSD chemist Owsley Stanley[3] — although it conflates the core story with numerous other images of the Sixties:

On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene
But yours was kitchen clean
Everyone stopped to stare at your Technicolor motor home

Every 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.[citation needed]

The lyric "You'd go to LA on a dare and you'd go it alone" alludes to a story in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test about a trip taken by chief Prankster Ken Kesey.

The song features a jazz-inflected electric guitar solo by guitarist Larry Carlton. The drum track was played by Bernard "Pretty" Purdie whose long-time session partner, Chuck Rainey, plays the bass.



The 2007 Kanye West song "Champion", from his album Graduation samples "Kid Charlemagne" extensively.

Cultural references[edit]

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.


  1. ^ Steely Dan USA chart history, Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  2. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 30, 2008). Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  3. ^ Complete transcript of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in a BBC-Online Chat, March 4, 2000

External links[edit]