"Don't Take Me Alive" is track no. 3 off of Steely Dan's album, "The Royal Scam". It seems to be about an outlaw who is holed up at an unspecified location, surrounded by police. He...
Agents of the law
Luckless pedestrian
I know you're out there
With rage in your eyes and your megaphones
Saying all is forgiven
Mad dog surrender
How can I answer
A man of my mind can do anything

I'm a bookkeeper's son
I don't want to shoot no one
Well I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don't take me alive
Got a case of dynamite
I could hold out here all night
Yes I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don't take me alive

Can you hear the evil crowd
The lies and the laughter
I hear my inside
The mechanized hum of another world
Where no sun is shining
No red light flashing
Here in this darkness
I know what I've done
I know all at once who I am


Lyrics submitted by nicole

"Don't Take Me Alive" as written by Walter Carl Becker, Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Dont Take Me Alive song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentThis has absolutely nothing to do with cyborgs. That moment in the song is the criminal knowing that he isn't a human. Its a metaphor. He knows he is capable of doing things (murdering innocents) that normal people can't. The mechanized hum is his soul speaking to him. He's about to make an important decision that could lead to his death or alienate him from real people. I think the 'bookkeepers son' bit is about how he went from a regular guy leading a fairly simple life to what he has become.
    MotoManiacon October 01, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI would have to say it is a barricade situation. The true nature of his crimes are left deliberately ambiguous. The song-writer did not want people to get stuck on a situation, but to feel an emotion. The prime emotion here: desperation. His father is neither a robot or a 'bookie'. BTW: bookies are bookMAKERS (gambling odd-setters and bet takers), not bookEEPERS(low-level accountants). He says that he is a bookeeper's son as a way to say that he is NOT a tough guy. He comes from a safe and stable up-bringing. He's just an average guy in a horrible situation. Something went wrong back home, and he has come to the end of the line hounded and surrounded by angry pedestrians and lawmen.

    The mechanized hum is a reference to mental-illness. How else to truly good people end up commiting horrible acts? People in desperate situations or who have "snapped" and hurt someone will often "disconnect". They often say they heard voices or "ringing" or humming in their ears. They will say things had a very mechanical feel. They will later say that they were running on "autopilot". He is obviously desperate to get away from the mob, the police, justice, anxiety. So, he withdraws from reality into the dark recesses of his soul, by doing so, he realizes who he truly is, what he has done, and the true gravity of his situation.
    thedurable1on August 05, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRelatively obviously (for Dan), this is the story of a "Mad Dog" a criminal who is holed up inside a bank or something, surrounded by police. He grabbed a hostage off the street (luckless pedestrian).

    Perhaps he is on a crime spree that started with him shooting his father in Oregon, and now he is planning to blow himself up rather than be taken into custody...
    hubofhipon June 15, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentA disturbed young man kills his father and goes on the run. The authorities close in; desperate, he takes a hostage and barricades himself. During the stand-off the realization of his actions and his life cause him to give up all hope. He decides to commit “suicide-by-police.” [“Don’t take me alive.”]
    panzer4963on April 05, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment>:-]
    nicoleon May 06, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTHANKS NICOLE!
    dogwisperer2003on March 18, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love larry carlton's playing on this song, the solo is absolutley sublime listen out 4 it :D
    whitestraton November 14, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBut what mad criminal has such a colorful vocabulary?

    "I say there, 'Luckless Pedestrian,' you're really having a bad day."
    GreyBlueEyeson August 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI definately get the 'android' vide from this too. Especialyl in lines like "a man of my mind can't do anything," "I'm a book-keeper's son" (the first computers were used for glorified sorting procedures) and the "mechanized hum of another world."

    As a side note, William Gibson (coiner of the term "cyberspace") said he listened to a lot of Steely Dan when he wrote, and I can see that in some of their songs.
    Seraph47on January 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always listened to this song for the guitar work especially the out-of-the-box Carlton solo in the beginning(he nailed it in the first try in the studio). Never realized the lyrical content is talking about an android that becomes self aware when they are trying to track it and kill it. Leave it to walt and don for another interesting song.
    moechitlinson August 01, 2007   Link

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