Five names that I can hardly stand to hear
Including yours and mine
And one more chimp who isn't here
I can see the ladies talking
How the times are getting hard
And that fearsome excavation
On Magnolia Boulevard

Yes I'm going insane
And I'm laughing at the frozen rain
Well I'm so alone
Honey when they gonna send me home

Bad sneakers and a Pina Colada my friend
Stompin' on the avenue
By Radio City with a
Transistor and a large sum of money to spend

You fellah, you tearin' up the street
You wear that white tuxedo
How you gonna beat the heat
Do you take me for a fool
Do you think that I don't see
That ditch out in the valley
That they're digging just for me

Yes I've gone insane
You know I'm laughing at the frozen rain
I feel like I'm so alone
Honey when they gonna send me home

Bad sneakers and a Pina Colada my friend
Stompin' on the avenue
By Radio City with a
Transistor and a large sum of money to spend

You know I'm going insane
Yes I'm laughing at the frozen rain
And I'm so alone
Honey when they gonna send me home

Bad sneakers and a Pina Colada my friend
Stompin' on the avenue
By Radio City with a
Transistor and a large sum of money to spend


Lyrics submitted by AbFab, edited by nomusician2

Bad Sneakers Lyrics as written by DONALD JAY FAGEN, WALTER CARL BECKER

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Bad Sneakers song meanings
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28 Comments

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  • +10
    General Comment

    I mostly agree with shanef, but can offer some clarification.

    The scenario is a native New Yorker who's living and working in LA, in drug rehab, homesick, and sick of his lifestyle in southern California. The five names are the original members of the Steely Dan Band, some of whom are no longer part of the band. sthe references are to the music business scene in LA and some of the original band members no longer part of Steely Dan. He's talking to Walter Becker.

    The chorus describes a vision of himself back home, when he didn't spend money on fancy shoes (so he's wearing "bad sneakers," maybe worn-out Converse high-tops) but roamed around Manhattan and bought drugs carefree.

    Magnolia Boulevard is in North Hollywood, and the site of a number of medical offices, including more than one rehab clinic. The ladies are prostitutes, street-walkers who aren't making as much money, or not enough to feed their drug habits. The "fearsome excavation" is some construction site. The "ditch" in the valley is a metaphor for a career dead-end he fears music company executives will force him into, as well as the grave he might be buried in if he continues to rely on drugs to deal with his stress and creative unhappiness.

    bramdakotaon August 09, 2011   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    I think it is basicaly about his (Fagen) life in LA that he bacame bitter about and fearsome of success that would change him. He is talking to Becker about going insane and wants to get back to Manhattan, probably because of to much work with the band and big pressure ('Five names that I can hardly stand to hear' being the inner band and Chimp being the producer) and unexpected success ('Fearsome excavation on Magnolia Boulevard' - big house he is building in elite neighbourhood). Even bad things about NYC look good now: frozen rain, bad sneakers (way too casual dresscode and behaving of New Yorkers - With a transistor and a large sum of money to spend). Wearing white tuxedos probably means that his partner accustomed to this new life and he hasn't.

    Something like that.

    FrailGraspon September 13, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    I've never quite understood what the term, "bad sneakers" means, but this song, again, has many drug references in it. Like many Dan songs, I think this is being sung from a first-person perspective. The guy may or may not be in rehab, or something like that. Or, is he in some kind of psychiatric insitution? Frozen rain, in this song, is probably a cocaine reference. "Five names that I can hardly stand to hear...etc." Maybe a reference to the group of people he has to sit with during his rehab sessions, or something like that. Maybe it's the nurses who are talking about that "fearsome excavation." He's tired of the whole thing, of the people he's surrounded by, delving into his own problems, Maybe he feels like a chimp, being experimented on?

    The guy "tearin up the street" is either the narrator who uses cocaine or his dealer. "You wear that white tuxedo" - a reference to cocaine on the face, by the nose, etc. "How you gonna beat the heat" - a reference to not being caught by the police. "That ditch out in the valley....etc." - a reference to the fact that if he keeps doing cocaine, he's gonna end up dead.

    I'm pretty sure that a lot of that applies, just not sure how it all goes together...would love other insights.

    shanefon February 08, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    Kind of thought it was about someone basically losing his mind, and probably already institutionalized; in particular, experiencing paranoid schizophrenia. The chorus is plain enough, I think...in the schizophrenic mind, objects become invested with extreme (delusional) importance - those sneakers, they're very bad! Also, the "fearsome excavation" - could be simple construction of some sort, but the schizophrenic mind invests it with menace and dread. Walking around with a transistor refers (perhaps) to the common delusion of having your thoughts monitored and/or broadcast into your head (see e.g. Clean, Shaven). And the paranoid perception that everyone's scheming about you, just out of eyesight/earshot - and that they're out to kill you - "do you take me for a fool...that ditch they're digging..."

    Not sure about the white suit. I like to think I'm pretty on top of drug slang, including terms specific to the 70s and earlier, but I don't hear cocaine here - unless it's what's driving the madness.

    Regarding the pina colada, I got nothing.

    TedPikulon July 14, 2012   Link
  • +3
    Song Meaning

    When i used to listen to this song i used to cry. Likemant steely Dan songs they hit home with me.It is all about being institutionalized ;because you cannot make it on the outside world. It speaks about good times when he was in his bad sneakers. Some of their songs do not require to much reading into. Iam also a professional musician who ruined his life through drugs ,so ican feel and identify with many of their songs ,because there lied me.

    mrsagflyon March 19, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    The "fearsome excavation on Magnolia Boulevard" was a 15-foot deep and wide hole the city dug in the early summer of 1974 that took up most of the the right lane in front of the North Hollywood apartment building I lived in. The city left the hole open for several weeks with only a couple of cones and a sawhorse to warn drivers away from it. I felt it was just a matter of time before somebody drove their car into it and was surprised that no one did before they finally filled it in. I still laugh whenever I hear them sing this lyric because I know EXACTLY what "fearsome excavation" the lyric refers to. It's 43 years later and I still love listening to Steely Dan.

    Fillyon May 31, 2017   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation

    Paranoia plane and simple. cocaine induced psychosis. the several reference to road work and workers like "You fellah, you tearin' up the street… You wear that white tuxedo, How you gonna beat the heat" are classic symptoms of paranoid thinking like the excavation is all just staged to watch you and/or mess with you and/or to make the arrest that never happens yet somehow never satiates the manic obsession that they're all after you they just don't have enough on you yet.. even the loaf with bad sneakers bar hopping around Burbank is after you and he's already received and advance of a "large sum" to carry out his contract to off you. Five names and a chimp …yeah the band and Michael McDonald (or perhaps some other dan satellite member) cooped up in a self imposed dungeon of musical perfection torture studio session …anybody would go insane and laugh at the frozen rain(coke).

    ...yet another absolute masterpiece from my favorite band

    cansongon March 27, 2015   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning

    As with all Dan songs there's cryptic references galore... I can't recall where I read an article about this song, but I definitely remember Fagen saying it was about Vietnam Vets...... he offered nothing more.....

    heartnmindon January 22, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    sounds a little worldweary and homesick - wants to get back to those far easier and pleasant times in his youth - listening to a little radio, just hanging out in New York - Fagen is actually shocked at the brazen "white tuxedo" guy dashing down the street

    rockboy52on December 07, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    So yeah. Rehab. The ladies are nurses complaining about the drug problem in the area ("the fearsome excavation", c.f. "the ditch in the valley").

    "Frozen rain" is methadone, vs. the "Pina Colada", i.e. the real thing. He's in rehab, lamenting his circumstances, and remembering how it all started and wanting to go back to when he had "bad sneakers", starting out in NY, etc.

    Of course, the good ol' days - when he still had a "large sum of money to spend" - is why he ended up getting popped (i.e. he couldn't "beat the heat") and landed in rehab. Thing is - he knows he's killing himself. He sees the "ditch" out in LA that's being dug for him by the drugs, he hears about it from the nurses, but all he can think about is getting back out there.

    idunnowhaton February 05, 2015   Link

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