“Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)” by Steely Dan
Trying to understand Steely Dan’s “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)” song can be just as mentally painstaking as attempting to make sense of its title. For instance, premise-wise, there’s two completely different directions an interpretation can be taken in.
Most listeners seem to understand this song as “the charmer” who lives in the same building as the vocalist. And the second verse in particular does come off as if David Palmer is singing about someone other than himself. Said individual is apparently dating a very-beautiful woman, though one who, by the looks of things, is a relentless nag. And such is the type of intimate knowledge of someone else’s relationship an outsider may attain by living in an adjacent apartment, as in being able to hear what’s going on in the unit below him.
But it may also be that that titular “charmer” is an allusion to the vocalist himself. Under this interpretation, the subtitle would more properly read ‘owes the charmer in me’. And such a postulation is not as far-fetched as it may seem, when you also take into consideration how indirect the lyrics of this song are in general.
Even More Confusion
Indeed further lending to the confusion surrounding this piece is that the lyrics are extremely metaphorical. For instance, the first sentence of the song reads “a race of angels bound with one another”. And as we have noted in the past, whenever mainstream musicians make liberal use of religious-based lingo without explicitly explaining what’s being put forth, it instantly grants the song an air of ambiguity. A phrase such as “race of angels” for instance is bound to conjure up completely different images in the minds of respective listeners.
But that said, it’s clear that the vocalist isn’t just shooting from the lip, and this song is indeed based on a specific narrative. And going back to the neighbor theory, the most discernible part of the storyline features, in addition to it indeed being set in Brooklyn, is the narrator observing a couple who appear to be in a tumultuous relationship.
When was “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)” released?
This song is from Steely Dan’s 1972 hit album “Can’t Buy a Thrill”. It wasn’t released as single from the album. FYI: the album in question is considered one of the greatest in the entire history of recorded music. Accordingly, it was included in Rolling Stones’ 2003 listing of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In addition to “Brooklyn” other notable tracks from this album include: produced a ton of very sold songs, including:
Credits for “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)”
The track was written by the band’s frontmen, Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker (1950-2017). And its producer is Gary Katz.