Steely Dan Sunday, "King Of The World" (1973)

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It’s something we’ve visited before, but many Steely Dan songs touch on topics from Becker and Fagen’s youth in the 1960s (see “Boston Rag”, “My Old School”). Donald Fagen would later explicitly make an entire album recounting his aspirations and hopes from the late 1950s and early ’60s; I think that album is called The Nightfly.

It was also during that time that the Red Scare was at its height, and predictably, popular culture reflected (mused?) on the fear of a nuclear holocuast. Before Fagen’s “New Frontier,” we had Steely Dan’s “King Of The World.”

Likely inspired by the 1962 sci-fi flick Panic In Year Zero, “King Of The World” is set in the American Southwest (New Mexico or whereabouts) in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse. As opposed to the film’s subjects being a family on vacation-turned-odyssey, Fagen’s character is simply a loner trying to find simple companionship “on this old ham radio” amongst the few remaining survivors. The lines are full of deadpan graveyard humor as our hero knows he’s a survivor but not for long: “if I stay inside, I might live ’till Saturday”, “assassins, cons and rapers might as well die.”

Hodder and Becker form a real fresh rhythmic pattern, and the rhythm guitar (I’m guessing Dias) combine with that to create the best groove on the album; it’s too bad that this is the last song Hodder played on that we’ll talk about in this series. That Moog Arp Soloist synthesizer, doomed like the song’s protagonist, is prominent on the song, a lot more as I wish it were because it really dates the recording. But I kind of get the cheesy sci-fi flick effect they were going for.

Those things make the “King Of The World” more of an artifact of a long-passed time than an enduring classic but good songs are good songs and in the final analysis, this one is a good song.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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