Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
This dream's in sight
You've got to admit it
At this point in time that it's clear
The future looks bright
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K.

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there's time
The fix is in
You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we've got to win
Here at home we'll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free




Lyrics submitted by milkbone, edited by cleanwilly

I.G.Y. (International Geophysical Year) song meanings
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12 Comments

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  • +3
    My InterpretationI haven't seen much of Steely Dan's music that isn't tongue in cheek, sarcastic double meanings. It is part of why I LOVE their music! That and their musicianship is amazing...

    In this song, I think they're poking fun of idealistic, in some ways sugar coated, American Pride in the 1950's about the Space Program and it's accomplishments would mean.

    "You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
    You know we've got to win" ... Refers to USA vs USSR race to get into space and claim territory.

    "Here at home we'll play in the city
    Powered by the sun
    Perfect weather for a streamlined world
    There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone..."

    Pokes fun of the outrageous promises made and the sugar coating on the whole project. Everything will be ,in 50's venacular, "A-OK" there'll even be jackets made of the modern miracle fabric, spandex, for everyone.


    (Third verse lyrics missing from the lyrics above)

    On that train all graphite and glitter
    Undersea by rail
    Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
    Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K
    Just machines that make big decisions
    programmed by fellas with compassion and vision.
    We'll be clean when their work is done,
    We'll be totally free, yes, and totally young...

    Once again, sarcastically saying machines will do everything for us and the guys that program them are only interested in pure, good things, even making us all free and young!

    Their words invoke a feeling of the naivete of then 1950's and the feeling that all things are possible and everything is "peachy keen".

    What a beautiful world this will be
    What a glorious time to be free

    Great song, though. One of my favorites.
    marinkon February 04, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI recently told a friend of mine that if I had an accidental death anytime soon (I am in my 40's)... I wanted them to slip a copy of this CD in my coffin... I really need to know I can hear this CD in my afterlife and for all universal time. I know it sounds a bit maudlin, but this album means everythiing to me. This is my single favorite album of all time. God Bless Donald Fagen...

    IGY is great... hope, future, environment and even national pride I can be real comfortable with...
    underbanyantreeson March 01, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI've totally enjoyed reading the comments. Fagen's lyrics have always fascinated me. He is a quirky genius dude and one I'd love to sit next to at my Ultimate dinner party. The Nightfly was my favorite of the trio. But, I'd buy anything written by Donald. Musically and lyrically, he is a feast for my ears. I just can't get enough.
    zeezeewriteron October 21, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningThe songs on the whole album take place in very late fifties / very early sixties, that's the key.


    There was incredible optimism and idealism in America in the late fifties and than at the beginning of the Kennedy Administration, Camelot.

    WWII, the Eisenhower admin, the McCarthy scare over communists everywhere was over , (except in the minds of Fred C Koch and his fellow members of the John Birch Society) There was this feeling that we American was on the brink of a new millennium. There was a feeling that science could and would solve all of the problems of the world. There was a feeling of future plenty for everyone In the world.



    The International Geophysical Year (57-58) was a year dedicated to science, science solving all problems, International scientific cooperation especially with the USSR.

    Spandex was a new tough "modern" fiber that wouldn't wear out easily

    a New York to Paris undersea railroad, nothing seemed impossible for science.

    "Just machines to make big decisions/ Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision"

    Everyone trusted science to provide all the answers

    then there was the Castro takeover, the Bay of Pigs failed invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy assassination by person or persons unknown in Dallas, the Viet Nam war, DDT, the Silent Spring, etc etc and all that late fifties and Camelot optimism collapsed

    Fagen, always sardonic, yes.
    rash67on April 29, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe Wikipedia page for the International Geophysical Year says it well. 1957-1958 featured a concerted effort to use new scientific instruments to get to know the planet Earth better than ever before. The optimism of that time suffuses this song.

    "New Frontier", also on this album, describes a similarly heady atmosphere a few years later, with the Cold War adding a touch of excitement for a young man living in a world making rapid progress. IGY is without a protagonist but with all the optimism.
    rikdadon October 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe Nightfly album has a 1950's feel to it.
    kamakiriadon February 15, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLike everyone else, I've heard "I.G.Y." for years. For some reason, tonight I really listened to the lyrics closely and read them here. IMHO, the song is yet another example of Fagen poetic genius.

    No way are we supposed to take the utopian vision at face value. He's begging us to see the absurdity and impossibility of such promises and question the motives of people who make them.

    He tips his hand with the "spandex jackets for everyone." C'mon, you have to be laughing. And Fagen is a bit of a prophet because the American Dream has pretty much concluded with cheap spandex jackets for all of us at Walmart, and all the rest that was promised? Hmm.

    Here's the part other comments didn't mention. IGY refers to 1957-58, the Cold War, optimism about a positive future in the US through mass production etc. But I don't think Fagen is really talking about the 1950s. I think he was making a subtle commentary on his own era.

    The song was released in 1982. 1982? Two years into the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Reagan's pros
    devilloon July 29, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have just made some changes to the lyrics rectifying the omission noted by another commentator.
    cleanwillyon January 19, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe interpretations here are great. I see Donald as a pretty sardonic fellow and I'm sure this song is not all sweetness and light as it first appears to be. The space race is central and one important line I think many commenters have missed is 'The fix is in'. I believe this is Fagen's knowing wink to, let's call them 'shenanigans in space' and on the moon. A view demonstrably held by Stanley Kubrick, Ian Fleming (Watch Diamonds are Forever 1971), Bill Clinton and other luminaries. It's well known but often forgotten that NASA was developed from the ashes of the Nazi V2 rocket program with Werner Von Braun, an ex-Nazi at the helm during the Appollo space program (see operation paperlip). Remembering Fagen's Jewish roots, What a glorious time to be free - is not pollyanna-esque doting on a fabulous future, but more likely an ironic warning against impending fascism.
    Denonymouson January 22, 2014   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningI don't it's meant to be sarcastic at all. I think this song (and most of the songs on the album) are the musings of a late 1950's era suburban teenager, perhaps Fagen himself is this idealistic dreamer.
    phil107417on October 24, 2014   Link

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