"Sign in Stranger" as written by Walter Carl Becker and Donald Jay Fagen....
Have you heard about the boom on Mizar Five
People got to shout to stay alive
They don't even have policeman one
Doesn't matter where you been or what you've done

Do you have a dark spot on your past
Leave it to my man he'll fix it fast
Pepe has a scar from ear to ear
He will make your mug shots disappear

[Chorus]
You zombie
Be born again my friend
Won't you sign in stranger

Do you like to take a yo-yo for a ride
Zombie I can see you're qualified
Walk around collecting Turkish union dues
They will call you sir and shine your shoes

Or maybe you would like to see the show
You'll enjoy the Cafe D'Escargot
Folks are in a line around the block
Just to see her do the can-can-Jacques

[Chorus]

Love or leave her, yellow fever
Sure, it's all in the game
And who are you
Just another scurvy brother

[Chorus]


Lyrics submitted by barefoot_nightchild

"Sign in Stranger" as written by Walter Carl Becker, Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Sign in Stranger song meanings
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17 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentMy take on the lyrics of this song:

    "Turkish union dues" is a reference to the overt corruption among the principal labor unions in Turkey during the 50s and 60s, some of which had greater annual revenue than the government, at the time. Union dues were often extorted, and often had nothing to do with membership. Union officials could get away with practically anything, with no consequences.

    "Pepe's got a scar from ear to ear. He will make your mug shot disappear." Pepe is dead. He's had his throat slashed, and his body will be a stand-in for yours, so if anyone asks, you're dead (wink, wink). Case closed. This is also what "zombie" (and the chorus) refers to: You're dead, but you're not dead. Get it?

    "Do you like to take a yo-yo for a ride? Zombie I can see you're qualified." Ratfinkabooboo (I like the handle -- seen the movie) has it nailed, and I'll add: If you want to execute the little creep, no one will come looking for you, 'cause you're dead. Pepe took care of that (see above), remember?

    The lyrics are quite brutal, and very well written. Anyway, that's my interpretation.
    reagan0on July 15, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentCan't believe folks here don't pick up on the obvious.

    This is talking about a "wild and wooly" PLANET. This is a future SF world being depicted here. "Mizar V" is, in this universe, a "boom planet" that has chosen to minimize legal authority, shall we say, which attracts the more nefarious types to the place, a world where you can go to sort of "disappear," make a new life for yourself.

    The guy who mentioned Jack Vance is almost certainly spot-on.

    "You zombies" is a probably a reference to the Robert Heinlein story "...All You Zombies..." from the 50s. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) The plot of the Heinlein story bears little in common with the story of the SD song, and is probably just a name-check kind of thing, just like the allusion to the Vance story.

    Most of SD's stuff is autobiographical; this is likely a sort of acknowledgment of the role played by pulp SF in the youth of either Donald or Walter. Or maybe both.
    Illbayon January 09, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about the French Foreign Legion. It deals with the privilegs you get you join the legion, how you can exploit the people of the country you're. It also says that you can hide away your criminal past (make the mug shout disappear), which was the main reason for many people joining the legion.
    Ihlenamon March 24, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOh, yeah. The last stanza:

    "Love or leave her" is a frequent reply to someone who offers criticism (deserved or not) about a town, state or nation, in this case, Mizar 5. Yellow fever, here, refers to rampant infectious cowardice: You hate what you see going on around you, but, like everyone else, who feels the same, you hesitate to do or say anything about it for fear of losing everything, including your life. So, you stay and "play the game," contributing to the criminal enterprise, by your inaction.

    In a final blast of contempt, the singer says, "So who are you? Just another scurvy brother." He means that you're just another worthless piece of scum, like the rest of us, here on Mizar 5.

    When I hear this song, I think of that 70s sci-fi flick, Outland, with Sean Connery and Peter Boyle. But, in the movie, Connery's character refuses to turn a blind eye....
    reagan0on July 15, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI've wondered for a while now whether the reference to Mizar V are supposed to in some way link to the planet Mizar VI in an american sci-fi novel called 'Star Kings' written by Jack Vance. The inhabitants are all part of this strange religious sect, are super pious, ordered, and identical, doing the same things all the time. Maybe the song is describing people going to this place called Mizar V (where all bets are off), because the place next door (Mizar VI) is too up-tight, and people didn't want to live there anymore? This would explain why there was a 'boom'?

    The book was written in the sixties, and had some circulation in magazines as a serial as well, so it works as a physical possibility. Could that maybe be the reference? It's hard to know, though - did either Fagen or Becker read much sci-fi? Might be a bit of a leap, but I thought it was a fun suggestion. :D
    nubbinson October 04, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is about visiting a brothel/drug one stop shop entertainment district in a foreign land, Perhaps like Morroco (a well known 60's and 70's drug haven, where you can satisfy all your devlish desires.The authorities look the other way, you can also obtain fake passports or hire a conract killer (Pepe is a rough dude as you can tell by his scar from ear to ear, he is the local bouncer/thug/hitman can get rid of all our mug shots)People who go their are Zombies because they are lost souls or are drugged zombied out. The yo yo for a ride reference is about an experience with a prostitute (drugs, young women and prostitutes are reoccurring themes in Steely Dan's lyrics, no suprise here about the Rock and Roll decadent lifestlye)There is a mention about Turkish dues( You got to pay to play, Morroco is in Turkey, and the can can jaques show are the sex shows which by the lines around the block must be very popular) There is a reference to yellow fever and scurvy (Perhaps he is mentioning the Asian women or unhealthy drug addicts users due to needle sharing and or poor diet.
    joeo78501on April 03, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song reminds me most of Naked Lunch. Definitely a place where you could get a new life if you wanted.
    By the way, Morocco is not in Turkey; it's a country in Africa across from Spain and Gibraltar.
    mumajoron July 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFunny I always thought "take a yoyo for a ride" was a reference for driving a stool pigeon or other informant out into a desolate area and performing a hit.
    ratfinkaboobooon October 14, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is probably my favorite song off the Royal Scam album

    .. the piano is great
    nw275on November 30, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI still think this is clearly about the foreign legion.
    "Love or leave her"
    Ihlenamon August 20, 2010   Link

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