"BarryTown" as written by Walter Carl Becker and Donald Jay Fagen....
I'm not one to look behind I know that times must change
But over there in Barrytown they do things very strange
And though you're not my enemy
I like things like they used to be
And though you'd like some company
I'm standing by myself
Go play with someone else
I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown

Don't believe I'm taken in by stories I have heard
I just read the Daily News and swear by every word
And don't think that I'm out of line
For speaking out for what is mine
I'd like to see you do just fine
But look at what you wear
And the way you cut your hair

I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown

In the beginning we recall that the word was hurled
Barrytown people got to be from another world

Leave me or I'll be just like the others you will meet
They won't act as kindly if they see you on the street
And don't you scream or make a shout
It's nothing you can do about
It was there where you came out
It's a special lack of grace
I can see it in your face

I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown


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"Barrytown" as written by Walter Carl Becker Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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BarryTown song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentMy father joined the Unification Church at a workshop at the Unification Theology Seminary in Barrytown. Many members lived there and worked there and witnessed and recruited youth at Bard College, where Don Fagen and Walter Becker went to college.

    Unificationists were known to be clean cut, wear suits and frequently carried clip boards and pamphlets. Moonies, as they are better known, were infamous and remain infamous and were frequently in the news in the 70s.

    This is likely about the Moonies in Barrytown.
    sungison May 03, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSeems to be quite clearly about sociological barriers and prejudices. Doesn't seem particularly cryptic to me.
    whapcapnon April 22, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOoops....my bad. I forgot to mention the Moonies also. Kudos to Dr. Wu.
    Fireman1on April 30, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNo, no, no, whippersnappers and old timers alike,

    The narrator in Barrytown is the one who is conservative: "I'm not one to look behind I know that times must change" and "I like things like they used to be". The narrator doesn't read a high brow newspaper and isn't very critical: "I just read the Daily News and swear by every word". But the narrator also tries to justify himself and stresses that he isn't oppositional: "And don't think that I'm out of line / For speaking out for what is mine". He would be happy to see others do just fine. But look at their clothes! Flairs, flowery? And their hair! Presumably very long and presumably something that scares him. No, the narrator just cannot embrace the others, which I presume to be the youth.
    I can't see anything about moonies or race in any of the lyrics.
    "Go play with someone else" makes it sound like a child has intruded on the narrator's space. This theme of being pestered reappears at the end of the song with "Leave me or I'll be just like the others you will meet/ They won't act as kindly if they see you on the street". (Notice again the narrator is conservative but pleading that he's actually good at heart.) It is almost as if hippies have come too close for comfort with their flowers and free love.
    While you might guess that it is the conservative narrator who is being mocked, he doesn't come out of it too badly. I don't even see the song as being about prejudice, it is more about a cultural attitude that Marge Simpson summed up: "I fear the unknown".

    rosssamson November 20, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentExactly. Steely Dan is great. Very cryptical though.
    Gimpy Jimon March 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song is in reference to Barryville, NY where Rev. Moon purchased a large monesterary for his church. This town was not far from Bard College where Becker and Fagan first met.
    The moonies, as the followers were called, wore white,were clean cut and carried pamphlets about the religion.
    Doctor Wuon December 12, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDr. Wu is correct - the village of Barrytown is near Bard where Fagan and Becker attended college. I do not believe, however, Rev. Moon had purchased that property at the time - it was a seminary of the Irish Christian Brothers, a Romoan Catholic order - my father went to high school there.

    Even without the Moonies, however, there was a big disconnect from the very liberal, very affluent downstate types who went (and still go) to Bard College and the people who lived in Barrytown at the time - which was very rural back in the day.
    Napawrighton February 12, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is about the moonies - 'tell by what you carry'...carrying pamphlets... 'what you wear/the way you cut your hair'....
    "stories I have heard" - there were lots of rumors about what the Moonies were really all about. Most of them false.
    "for speaking out for what is mine" : moonies were against having too many posessions....


    etc... etc...
    rainwalkon March 21, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreyBlueEyes: I heard that the vocal tone was in part an homage to Bob Dylan, though I like the Bullwinkle visual.

    Also, note the melodic similarity to the Beatles' "Tell Me What You See". I assume this was pure coincidence, as Fagen and Becker are great tunesmiths in their own right and shouldn't need to steal melodies from a lesser Beatles song.
    ProfessorKnowItAllon October 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBetween the moonies and interracial prejudices, I'd rather incline towards the 2nd point of view.

    I don't think you could read something about moonies in the "Daily news"... Barrytown could be sort of a Black ghetto. When he says "what you carry" in the chorus, he could refer to the color of the skin, of the man he's talking to... Then, "the way you cut your hair" could be an Afro. Most of all, I think the opening lines are obviously referring to Civil Rights movement, expressing that things have gone better for Black people, but prejudices are still there :

    "I'm not one to look behind; I know that times must change
    But over there in Barrytown they do things very strange"

    All through the song, the narrator is telling that segregation times were preferable to present days :
    "I like things like they used to be
    And though you'd like some company
    I'm standing by myself
    Go play with someone else "

    In the same way, the last verse is absolutely ugly !

    Fagen gets inside the head of the "good"-ordinary-white folk, so this song is really close to what Randy Newman does in his own songs : singing from a decayed character's point of view, showing what stupidity and hatred look like.
    The Dog That Ate...on March 29, 2008   Link

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