Katy tried
I was halfway crucified
I was on the other side
Of no tomorrow
You walked in
And my life began again
Just when I'd spent the last piaster
I could borrow
All night long
We would sing that stupid song
And every word we sang
I knew was true
Are you with me doctor wu ?
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew?
Are you crazy are you high
Or just an ordinary guy?
Have you done all you can do?
Are you with me Doctor?

Don't seem right
I've been strung out here all night
I've been waiting for the taste
You said you'd bring to me
Biscayne Bay
Where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day
I went searching for the song
You used to sing to me
Katy lies
You could see it in her eyes
But imagine my surprise
When I saw you

Are you with me Doctor Wu
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew
She is lovely yes she's sly
And you're an ordinary guy
Has she finally got to you
Can you hear me Doctor


Lyrics submitted by AbFab

Dr Wu song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentLike HexKaster said, this song is about heroin abuse. Fagen has said in many interviews online, however, that while heroin abuse is a major part of this song, the FOCUS of the song is on the "love-triangle" between the narrator, "Katy," and "Doctor Wu."

    I think that it is "Doctor Wu," not "Katy," who is heroin personified. This may seem weird, but stick it out with me.

    I see this song as being about an addict, the narrator, who is really down on his luck, really poor, a big bum off his friends ("just when I'd spent the last piaster I could borrow") in order to finance his addiction. Then he meets Katy, whom he believes will help him through this time, maybe get him clean, whatever.

    He hangs out with Katy, and they "sing that stupid song"--probably here that means telling themselves over and over again how everything is going to be okay. They're trying to use a little positive reinforcement, or brainwashing, however you see it. :>)

    But even then things don't seem right, somehow, so he gets to talking to his dope, his heroin, who, as I said, is "Doctor Wu." The doctor is his old buddy, so the narrator is just checking in, making sure he's still there, still the same old "ordinary" cat as before.

    Something happens to our narrator while he's talking to Doctor Wu. Sometime during that astounding alto sax solo, Katy has "left" him. It's obvious--he's looking for her everywhere, after all, all through the slums ("Biscayne Bay"), looking for that "song," that bit of reinforcement/brainwashing they gave one another.

    When he finds her, he finds that she's been lying. She's been a two-timer. She's been betraying him. He finds "Doctor Wu" (dope) in Katy's eyes.

    In her attempts to be our poor narrator's angel, his therapist, Katy has become an addict herself.

    So it's all over from there, obviously. The 'Dan love miserable endings, and this is one of their rawest. Katy was just a two-timing little thing after all. She was going to help the narrator, but she got caught "cheating" on him with his own "lover." It really is a "love-dope triangle," as Fagen put it in an interview.

    So the end, therefore, is just the narrator talking to his heroin once more, after he realizes what has happened to Katy. In the first chorus, he questions the heroin (and, through the heroin, himself), wondering whether things are as bad, as crazy as they seem. In the second chorus, he confirms that things ARE as bad as he thought, and that Katy has finally gotten to Doctor Wu, taken him in, become a fellow slave of addiction.

    Just my *long* opinion, based on what I've read of what Fagen has said on the song. What makes this song so strange to deal with is the lack of a clear direction on who "you" is. Sometimes the narrator is talking to Katy, and sometimes he's talking to heroin and to his heroin-laden self.

    He's just another 'Dan protagonist who's been tricked, is all.:>)
    WritingIsMyReligionon August 31, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentDr Wu was real. Katy is the drug. Drugs lie to you and many times leave you like the shadow of who you were. He was strung out all night. "He was halfway crucified and on the other side of no tomorrow". Dr. Wu an Asian acupuncturist and herbalist based out of Wasahington DC helped Fagen (perhaps both Becker &Fagen) off heroin. During this terrible ordeal the only truth for him was his music. "They would sing their stupid songs all night long". At first users believe that they can handle & over use drugs, Katy lies till you see it in her eyes then at times it is too late. Katy is seductive "she is lovely and she's sly". Then they find out that they are "just ordinary guys" He was grateful for Dr. Wu. Anyone familiar with hard drugs will tell you that getting saved off drugs is getting your like back. Becker & Fagen do not play this song in their live sets (you have to respect them).DR Jing Nuang Wu (1933-2002)emmigrated early from China,acupuncturist, artist, graduated from Harvard, venture capitalist, set up Taoist clinic Re: steelydandictionary.com.
    joeo78501on June 03, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentJust as a point of interest, the "grasshopper" on the front of the album is really not a grasshopper, but is called a Katydid.
    Ajaon May 14, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment(...Back again. I'm on a roll, and there's no stopping me.)

    I think that Dr. Wu was a doctor, who was "an ordinary guy" who didn't take drugs. But he got involved with Katy, a friend/groupie of Fagen's, who was a drug dealer. Now this doctor has become a junky, a "shadow of the man that I once knew".

    Fagen questions Katy, "Did you get this ordinary guy high?". "No way!", she lies (but you can see it in her eyes). Now things are really screwed things up. Jeez, the doctor was helping Donald get sober, but Donald screwed things up by introducing Dr. Wu to Katy (of all people) at that pool party. I mean, look at the Doc, he's stoned! Look what she's done to him!

    No "love triangle". Just drugged-out music people and their groupies getting mixed-up with us ordinary types, screwing-up a person's life in the process. Just a theory.

    I think this story is personnal experience of Donald Fagen's that only he can understand.

    DCEngineeron November 05, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDon't seem right - the interpretations offered for this song - let me try another.

    The narrator is beat up, strung out, broke, emotionally shot. Drugs are probably part of the problem. Lots of us find ourselves in that empty place, in one way or another. But there's this woman - Katy - a real woman - who enters his life, masquerading as a friend, pretending not to be romantically interested. In the state the narrator is in, the very last thing he wants or needs is love.

    Dr Wu is a metaphor for that unexplainable part of the narrator (and indeed all of us) who causes us to fall in love, even we try so hard to separate from our "normal" selves. We want to be in control of our lives, our destinies, but Dr Wu - often to our great surprise - walks in without warning, utterly hiujacking everything we're about, all our plans, and our lives truly begin again. He does it at the strangest time and place, and so often with the person we least expect to fall in love with. Katy lies - you know she's just another pretty girl who's trying so hard not to let on how hopelessly she's in love with you. And no matter how hard you try to push away, there's the good doctor - laughing, smiling - he's done it to you again.


    I first heard "Dr Wu" when I received "Steely Dan's Greatest Hits," one of the Columbia House (anybody old enough to remember them?) album of the month that I forgot to tell them I didn't want, back when I was 16 - 31 years ago. It became one of my favorite albums. I heard this song, and it taught me something I'll never forget about love. Dr Wu has shown up for me, about a dozen times. The last one was 24 years ago, just when I spent the last piaster I could borrow. He won, and she finally got to me - so I married her. And all night long, we sing that stupid song, and every word we know is true.
    rlshelleyon November 11, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis seems pretty straightforward, moreso than many think. The guy is strung out, his girlfriend is trying to deal with it but the relationship is strained. He gets help from a doctor (psychiatrist...rehab doctor, etc) ...he catches the doctor with his girl.... "Katy lies..you can see it in her eyes...but imagine my surprise when I saw you" The last thing he expected was to see the doctor with his girl (or ex-gf)..."She is lovely, yes she's sly and you're an ordinary guy, has she finally got to you"....he wants to know if the doctor has fallen in love with the girl... he's also forgiving him, reasoning that any ordinary guy could succumb to this sly woman's charms... It's a story of love lost, drugs, and an uncomfortable doctor/patient relationship.
    ugleeeon November 05, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is possibly my favorite Dan tune, and I have always wanted to figure out its meaning. All I know is that Dr. Wu is actually a racial slur for jews (and considering fagen's religeon, I don;t know if that is the meaning he intended), and I think there is some drug.cocaine referencing:

    "Don't seem right
    I've been strung out here all night
    I've been waiting for the taste
    You said you'd bring to me"

    "Biscayne Bay
    Where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day"

    Anyone with other thoughts, I'd love to hear them!
    hubofhipon June 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentApperantly Dr Wu was an actual therapist that helped (i think faegen. could be becker) overcome a drug addiction. so to me its kind of about drawing on past triumphs to pull through. (a piaster is an ancient unit of money)
    AliceInWonderlandon October 20, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI am with you!
    Doctor Wuon December 12, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWho is Katy, though? That's the part that doesn't sit right with me.... The rest of the song makes sense, except for Katy...
    ThePinballWizardon February 12, 2006   Link

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