Sunday, November 26, 2023

Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years” as recollection, not staggering

While I was grading essays this afternoon, shuffle sent me to a Steely Dan collection, "Show Biz Kids", and I started singing happily along with "Do It Again" and "Dirty Work", the first two songs. Then came "Reelin' in the Years", with its fantastic guitar playing, and while I sang along with its chorus, I realized I have always misunderstood "reeling" here: "Are you reelin' in the years, / stowin' away the time, / are you gatherin' up the tears, / have you had any of mine?" It's not "reeling" as in "staggering", as I long thought, but "reeling in" with a figurative fishing pole. This chorus is about re-collecting recollections. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 26 November 2023)

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