With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

Play It Again Mayhem – “Haitian Divorce” – Steely Dan December 31, 2020

This is the sixth song in the Play It Again Mayhem series which began earlier this year. Check out the earlier posts by clicking here (Betty Wright), here (Elton John), here (Roxy Music)  here (The O’Jays) and here (John Miles). This one is another from the 70s, and it is from Steely Dan. This was the third single released from the band’s 1976 album ‘The Royal Scam’. It never appeared on the US charts but reached number 17 in the UK. The song is “Haitian Divorce” which takes it’s title and much of the story told in the lyrics from the easy divorces available in Haiti to foreigners, particularly Americans. It was so simple that it only needed one partner to be there and the divorce could be finalised in a matter of hours.

The song tells the story of a woman who goes to Haiti to get a divorce, she has a brief fling with a Haitian man, fails to get the divorce and nine months later gives birth to a half Haitian baby. The mention of Papa in the lyrics is interpreted in two ways. Firstly as her father telling her to go back and get the divorce, and secondly as the voice of Haitian ruler at the time, Papa Doc Duvalier, who encouraged divorce tourism. The song was written by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. It was Becker who used a Talk Box on the song over Dean Park’s guitar. Perhaps the most famous proponent of the Talk Box was Peter Frampton on ‘Frampton Comes Alive’. Enjoy the song, I love the jazzy, laid back reggae feel of the track, Why not sing along too? The lyrics are copied below. Please not that the second video is by a rather good Steely Dan tribute band, Steely Damned II

Babs and Clean Willie were in love they said
So in love the preacher’s face turned red
Soon everybody knew the thing was dead
He shouts, she bites, they wrangle through the night
She go crazy
Got to make a getaway
Papa say
Oh – no hesitation
No tears and no hearts breakin’
No remorse
Oh – congratulations
This is your Haitian Divorce
She takes the taxi to the good hotel
Bon marche as far as she can tell
She drinks the zombie from the cocoa shell
She feels alright, she get it on tonight
Mister driver
Take me where the music play
Papa say
Oh – no hesitation
No tears and no hearts breakin’
No remorse
Oh – congratulations
This is your Haitian Divorce
At the Grotto
In the greasy chair
Sits the Charlie with the lotion and the kinky hair
When she smiled, she said it all
The band was hot so
They danced the famous Merengue
Now we dolly back
Now we fade to black
Tearful reunion in the USA
Day by day those memories fade away
Some babies grow in a peculiar way
It changed, it grew, and everybody knew
Who’s this kinky so-and-so?
Papa go
Oh – no hesitation
No tears and no hearts breakin’
No remorse
Oh – congratulations
This is your Haitian Divorce

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“We hear you’re leaving, that’s OK I thought our little wild time had just begun” September 3, 2017

I was so sad on hearing about the death of Walter Becker, one half of Steely Dan, at just 67. ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ from 1972 remains one of my favourite albums of all time. They had a unique way of fusing many musical styles into a coherent and beautiful sound; jazz, rock, reggae, pop. Becker met his Steely Dan cohort Donald Fagen at college in New York and they played in a number of bands often playing covers of the likes of the Rolling Stones and Moby Grape. One of those bands had none other than Chevy Chase on drums.

Their début album, the aforementioned ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ was released in 1972 and spawned two Steely Dan classic singles; “Do It Again” and “Reeling In The Years”. For me though every track on that album oozes class. Their highest charting album was ‘Aja’ which reached number 3 in the US and number 5 in the UK. It also made the top 10 in Australia, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway. They were never really a singles band although “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” from 1974”s ‘Pretzel Logic’ album made it to number 5 in the US charts.

Click here to read a very touching tribute, on the Rolling Stone website, to Walter Becker from his friend and partner in Steely Dan, Donald Fagen. The loss of such a talented man as Walter Becker will be felt throughout the music world. My thoughts are with his friends, family and fans all around the world. RIP Walter Becker.


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