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I was grinding through my day gig
Stackin' cutouts at the Strand
When in walks Franny from NYU
We were quite an item back then

We talked about her films and shows and CDs
And I don't know what else
She said yeah Hollywood's been good to me
But tell me how about yourself

I'm still working on that novel
But I'm just about to quit
Cause I'm worrying about the future now
Or maybe this is it
It's not all that I thought it would be
What a shame about me

She said, talk to me, do you ever see
Anybody else from our old crew
Bobby Dakine won the Bunsen Prize
Now he's coming out with something new

Alan owns a chain of Steamer Heavens
And Barry is the software king
And somebody told me in the early 80's
You were gonna be the 'next big thing'


Well now that was just a rumor
But I guess I'm doin' fine
Three weeks out of the rehab
Living one day at a time
Sneaking up on the new century
What a shame about me

What a shame about me
I'm thinking of a major Jane Street sunrise
And the goddess on the fire escape was you

We both ran out of small talk
The connection seemed to go dead
I was about to say, hey, have a nice life
When she touched my hand and said:

You know I just had this great idea
This could be very cool
Why don't we grab a cab to my hotel
And make believe we're back at our old school


I said babe you look delicious
And you're standing very close
But like this is Lower Broadway
And you're talking to a ghost
Take a good look it's easy to see
What a shame about me
What a shame about me

Lyrics submitted by blackiswhite

What a Shame About Me Lyrics as written by Walter Becker Donald Fagen

Lyrics © Wixen Music Publishing

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

What A Shame About Me song meanings
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  • +4
    My InterpretationFranny is his old girlfriend. She's successful. He's a mess. They talk for a while. He realizes he has nothing left in common with her (you're talking to a ghost.)

    She offers him a pity f--k.

    Maybe because of self loathing. Maybe to exhert some control over his life even if doing so spites himeself. Maybe (I prefer this one cause I'm pulling for the guy) because he knew it would never go anywhere and even in his bad situation he has more respect for himself ... he tells her to get lost.
    WheelyDanon March 28, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"And make believe we're back at our old school"

    Is this a reference to My Old School from Countdown to Ecstasy?
    GeoJoe1000on April 03, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationIt's a very straightforward song, and it's a commonly occurring theme.

    As with a lot of Fagen's lyrics , there's a lot of New York references.

    The narrator is a failed novelist, during the day he works at The Strand , a famous bookstore in NYC, doing boring work - "I was grinding through my day gig , stacking cutouts at The Strand".

    In walks Franny , she and the narrator used to be an item when they were at NYU. She is a famous Hollywood star, the group they used to hang out with have all been successful in various professions - Bobby , Alan and Barry. She asks if he ever sees any of them and said she heard in the early eighties he was going to the The Next Big Thing - ie he showed early promise (as a novelist) and everyone predicted he would really take off.

    Well he didn't. He's still working on that novel but he's an addict - drugs or booze , and is slowly coming out of rehab.

    He remembers how they used to be, one particular morning - maybe the first time they slept together and she was the 'goddess on the fire escape' .

    The conversation trails off - he was about to say 'have a nice life' - a very poor line for someone who was going to be a great novelist , when she thinks maybe for old times sake they could go back to her hotel and pretend it was like it was before.

    However , he gives her a reality check - she's gorgeous , he's a wreck - he's a ghost , 'what a shame about me' ...
    jrspigoton February 25, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI really like:

    "Three weeks out of the rehab
    Living one day at a time"

    Recovering addicts are told to "live on day at a time" as a strategy for staying sober. Apparently this might not be going so well for the narrator. I'm not saying they're definitely using again, but they're definitely not living one day at a time if they're counting the weeks like this.
    jsaulon September 21, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is basically a story about a guy meeting an old friend or lover (Franny) from college. They do some catching up and talk about some people from their group and how they have done well for themselves. The song switches speakers a lot. Both of them sing the lines "What a shame about me". I think the "What a shame about me" is more directed to the narrator than Franny. Franny has done well with her life ("We talked about her films and shows and CDs") Also, I think it's quite obvious that Franny is interested in getting back together with this guy.
    Dudelike89on February 10, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentClever use of "... And make believe we're back at our old school," referring pretty openly to the old Steely Dan song, "My Old School."
    ChiTownHustleron October 29, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song...first heard it driving around Kauai in a rental car..the music the feeling in the air all matched well..can't agree with Wheelydan though..this guy has no self respect, no confidence...he's a ghost cuz there is almost nothing left of him...he went to battle and lost, a self professsed loser - at this point...I agree he might get himself back together...pity he can't take her up on her offer, but that is how far he has sunk...
    hans5on May 06, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationYes - quite seemingly obvious that the narrator is in recovery from drug abuse, but his reference to "...Lower Broadway, and you're talking to a ghost... Take a good look - it's easy to see..." I believe refers to his prior failure as a performer in the Theatrical "Mecca" of Manhattan, perhaps lending to his addictions and (perhaps) thusly being in advanced stages of HIV or even AIDS precipitating from his former lifestyle. Thus, he can't even indulge in a tryst with his old flame - he's proclaiming himself "as good as dead" and is protecting her from a similar fate.

    Yes - what a shame about he... : (
    Scotther8on September 18, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit has a common vibe of someone whose getting older (moving from 30s to 40s-50s) and meeting up with someone they were pretty close to during college. Their lives diverged so much that they don't have anything in common anymore.He so embarrassed about his life not being as successful as hers that he just sends her away so as not to cause any further embarrassment and laments "what a shame about me".
    shel157818on January 25, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm a little surprised that nobody has caught on to the fact that the second chorus is sung by Franny. It's Franny that is saying it was just a rumor about her being the next big thing and that she just got out of rehab. The narrator sings the first chorus and Franny sings the second. The song is cleverly summed up by the final two lines which is "it's a shame about me" repeated twice, inferring that it's a shame about BOTH of them. The "ghost" reference by the narrator is merely a reference that he is all but a semblance of what he once was, just as she is as well. The song is a story about two lives that took very different paths but in the end resulted in being equally unhappy. - Jim Cuccarro
    sheisler51on May 03, 2015   Link

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