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


Lyrics submitted by milkbone, edited by cleanwilly

I.G.Y. Lyrics as written by Donald Fagen

Lyrics © Wixen Music Publishing

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

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  • +5
    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 05, 2009   Link
  • +2
    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.
    rikdad101@yahoo.comon October 20, 2006   Link
  • +2
    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 25, 2014   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningThis song is about International Geophysical Year from 1957 to 1958.
    toddb99on March 17, 2017   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationIt is rather straight-forward. I.G.Y. has occurred only once. It was a world-wide, scientific effort devoid of political intrigue. The prosperity and relative peace of the era lent to a society truly THAT optimistic with several advancements that made everyday life far 'easier.'

    Most features predicting the future - from flying cars and automated houses to space travel and colonization - extrapolated from the rapid advancement of the previous decade to rationalize a 'Jetsons' existence. Everything referenced in the song was cutting-edge technology at the time. From high speed trains (transatlantic flight would not be introduced until 1958) to benevolent computers (media tape, punch card calculators were called computers).

    The reference 'Well by 76 we'll be A-OK" is life expectancy, currently up to 87 years. Also the 'spandex jackets' (although not introduced until 1962, it was invented in 1958) refers to futuristic self-washing or stain-resistant clothing often described in Science Fiction.

    I must discount several other posts as being too broad. Kennedy and manned spaceflight was long after this time period. The 'Space Race' began in 1955, but actual orbit wasn't achieved until late 1957. Anyone interested can watch the newsreels (color TV was introduced in the mid-50's but too expensive for most households until the next decade) of the time.
    MarketDemonon January 29, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe Nightfly album has a 1950's feel to it.
    kamakiriadon February 15, 2008   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
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think most of the people are just a bit off on the whole matter. The majority of comments seem to feel that Fagen is being ironic or sarcastic. But I think that isn't quite what is going on here. I think he is looking back in 1957 when he was 9 and he has fond memories of those times. Sure everything didn't quite work out like everybody thought, but I think he is looking at it from a more wistful vibe than the classic Steely Dan hipster smart alec teenagers sitting in the back row aura.

    There is a bit of evidence to support my theory. In interviews and the like he has always said he was kind of embarrassed and somewhat went into hiding because this album was my far his most personal. He was revealing an actual fondness for the good ole days which is most un Steely Dan like. Of course, there IS tons of irony...but the whole album is clearly a loving homage to the 1957-1963 era. Sure...lots of the lyrics in the album may be construed as "wry" but I think the entire album was a loving look back to when he was a sci fi geek kid and saying "Hey maybe the old days were actually pretty good". Remember, at this point he was 34, Steely Dan was done and he was getting older.
    JamesLoveon August 08, 2017   Link

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