The wind was driving in my face
The smell of prickly pear
[My rival - show me my rival]
The milk truck eased into my space
Somebody screamed somewhere
I struck a match against the door
Of Anthony's Bar and Grill
I was the whining stranger
A fool in love
With time to kill

I've got detectives on his case
They filmed the whole charade
[My rival - show me my rival]
He's got a scar across his face
He wears a hearing aid

Sure he's a jolly roger
Until he answers for his crime
Yes I'll match him whim for whim now

I still recall when I first held
Your tiny hand in mine
[My rival, show me my rival]
I loved you more than I can tell
But now it's stomping time

Sure he's a jolly roger
Until he answers for his crime
Yes I'll match him whim for whim now

Lyrics submitted by AVB100

"My Rival" as written by Walter Carl Becker Donald Fagen

Lyrics © Wixen Music Publishing

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

My Rival song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentThis song is about a father's newborn son. The son is the father's "Rival" for the wife/mother's affections.

    "Milk truck" is the mother's breast. The baby "screamed." The father goes out to drink and whine.

    The "detective on his case" -- with the scar and hearing aid -- is a grandfather with a video camera taking movies of the new baby.

    The "tiny hand" is the baby's hand. The father loves him, but has now become jealous.

    The baby boy's "crime" is his taking the mother's attention away from the father, so the father will "match him whim for whim," which means the father will act pretty much like a baby.

    So there it is.

    clamcontrolon August 04, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSince Steely Dan themselves don't know what their lyrics mean - they've admitted as much in interviews - I'm going to go out on a limb here and take an "Occam's Razor" approach and say they mean just what they appear to mean.

    It's a film noir styled movie-song about a guy using detectives to track down the guy who is stealing his girl, plain and simple. I know that a lot of people like to attribute drugs and child abuse and everything including the kitchen sink, but isn't that overthinking it just a bit?

    They also say that they purposely put in lyrics that they have no idea what they mean just to confuse and obfuscate, such as "Battle Apple" in the song "Josie." They are on record as saying that they don't know WHAT a "Battle Apple" is, just thought it sounded good.

    So interpret away, at your own risk. I just take 'em on face value and it seems right to me.
    jcarruthon August 01, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOne of my favorite Dan songs. Puts forth such a perfect Film Noir vibe. Amazing horns. Lyrics possibly about finding the man who stole his lover, but that seems a bit oversimplified. Not sure what the hearing aid bit is getting at...
    LucklessPedestrianon May 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think My Rival is about having a child (probly a boy).

    one clue...
    "I still recall when I first held
    Your tiny hand in mine"

    but the other clue,
    "Sure he's a jolly roger
    Until he answers for his crime"

    i think this part means that he stole his father's heart (the singer)

    This song also could mean how having a child takes attention away from the father and is now put on the child and this is what the singer is singing about.
    nathancoxon July 19, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe pedophilia interpretation is totally bogus. The detectives are the private investigators the singer has hired to spy on his woman as she engages in an inappropriate relationship with another man. Steely Dan's lyrics are often very dark, but sorry, no child molestation in this one.
    slinkyredfooton May 10, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAlmost all their songs are like M.C. Escher paintings. They can be seen in so many different ways and from so many different angles.
    liveswithanevilbon November 13, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation... As with most things, the simplest explanation most-probably explains Walter & Donald's intention ... With this song, I agree with underbanyantrees ...

    1. The wind was driving in my face / The smell of prickly pear / The mild truck eased into my space / Somebody screamed somewhere: The narrator was probably driving a convertible: smelling pricky pear because that is common in southern California: followed the (undercover-spy) milk truck to his home; and, from some arbitrary distance, he watched it pull into his usual parking space; 'someone screaming somewhere' is just a random fact: if you're out in the open air, many times you will hear a random sounds: children screaming perhaps.

    2. I struck a match against the door / Of Anthony's Bar and Grill / I was the whining stranger / A fool in love / With time to kill: This may be the biggest giveaway of the lyrical intention; if "match" is read as synonymous with "rival" (as in 'you've met your match'), the narrator may be explaining in this stanza how he happened upon hie lovers cheat-partner: they were both at Anthony's and the rival is near the door: the narrator describes himself as "whining", possibly alluding to one reason his rival is seen as desirable: he has a deeper voice ?

    3. The third stanza is pretty straightforward: the narrator ends it by mentioning 2 undesirable features of the man: the narrator probably sees himself as more physically attractive than his rival.

    ... The chorus is also pretty straightforward ...

    4. I still recall when I first held / Your tiny hand in mine / I loved you more than I can tell / But now it's stomping time: pretty straightforward: the narrator remembers the first time he held his lover's hand, he regards the memory sweetly, but now it's time to stomp his rival into the ground, haha.

    ... I think this may be the most straightforward song in the album ... Any thoughts are appreciated !!
    ManOfChildon February 26, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentRe: "I say it is as simple as a guy has lost his love to an older ganster type ala Edward G. Robinson...And yes this is SOOOO cool, a perfect film noir..." --underbanyantrees

    Yeah, I took the "hearing aid" item (along with the "scar") to mean a tough old guy who got into a lot of fights and probably had a big old cauliflower ear (and some hearing damage) from blows to the head.
    Ulkeshon August 19, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA man out for revenge (my rival; fool in love; stomping time) against the man who stole his lover without a care in the world (Jolly Roger). I'm slightly in denial re the paedophile theory due to its morbidity, though it is persuasive in parts. "Tiny hands" could just be decribing the fond memory of his ex-lover's delicate touch, however.
    patricktoddon August 06, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationMy interpretation of this is that of a father watching his daughter's courtship and marriage to a jewish man. At first, he is suspicious and jelous and then resolves to make the new addition to the family welcome yet not abandon his affection for the daughter.
    Ok, so there you have it.

    The wind driving in the face is that it is obvious and he cant deny it.
    1) Prickley pear (sarcasim/satire). A prickly pear (a cactus) is something sour, thorny and sinister, and concidering on the fact that it’s also a phallic symbol, (the rival) it provokes revulsion and disgust, reinforcing, once again, the idea of weakness. also symbolic of satire. (wiki)...The relationship between the rival & his daughter is "in his face at this point". Also ties in with the hearing aid {small penis}. As if to say "that twirp kid is not good enough for my daughter."

    2) It is the classic milk man "doing a man's wife" while he is at work. Except in this case, it is his daughter. Possibly while he was busy making a living to support his family, the rival (milk man) made his move.

    3) He followed the couple as they courted. He watched as they grew close. The "sombody" that screamed is himself, he just doesnt want to admit it, he either cant belive his little girl is grown up. He was upset because his little girl was growing up and she would no longer give to him her full admiration and attention.

    3) The detectives on his case may refer to either a delusional fantasy in his mind that he is still in controll and can even dispatch others to monitor and report his daughters activities back to him, or his friends/neighbors/other family have told him what is going on lately. On the other hand, just like the line "somebody screamed" and the somebody was actualy him, the "detectives" are likewise himself.

    4) The filming is possibly in his own mind: re-living what he has witnessed over and over in his head. Charades is a game in which the active player does not speak and only makes motions and gestures, possibly his daughter didnt tell him about the relationship and courtship at first. Also it is possible that he wasn't invited to the wedding- he just showed up uninvited.

    5) Considering the effects of physical scarring on people, a scar can be symbol of physical or emotional pain that's been overcome. Across his face means that it is obvious that the rival is not in denial ... unlike the father with his "somebody's scream. OR it could refer to the failed romanctic relationships the rival has had in the past. (that would tie in the connection or weakness of the rival.)

    * * the hearing aid was explained by Donald Fagan in an interview:
    (look it up on the web)
    Host: what was the deal with hearing aid in my rival?
    Fagan: because small withered penis does not rhyme with charade." (ha ha)
    The notion that nobody is good enough for "daddy's girl" is pretty obvious here.
    6)holding the tiny hand in mine.. he remembers when his daughter was born and he held her as a baby.

    7) Jewish tradition of stomping on a glass wrapped in cloth symbolizes among other things, destroying a glass during an otherwise happy ceremony also symbolizes the mix of joy and sorrow in life.
    It is stomping time means that the father is reminiscing the daughters youth but now it is time that she is getting married. Possibly this is taking place moments before the ceremony.

    8) Jolly roger is a pirate (thief) that stole is daughter's heart.

    9) Rivalry usualy is ongoing, so as to say, he is not giving up. He still wants his daughter's love even though she is married now. He will compete continually for her attention with the husband as they interact as a family. Whim for whim could refer to the whimsical things that young people or newlyweds do. It could be that he is not in touch with the fact that he is indeed an old man or wants to re live the romance of his youth vicariously through the rival

    xraytech2011on October 02, 2011   Link

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