“Don’t Take Me Alive” is one of last of Steely Dan’s songs that’s truly “rock,” and the narrator’s portrayal as a deranged killer daring the cops to take him out also makes it one of Becker and Fagen’s least ambiguous songs. For a long time, like “Kid Charlemagne,” I associated this song to Larry Carlton’s aggressive axe, and he rocks out here like we’ve rarely heard him do before or since. But since October of 1991, the song conjures something much more grave, and that’s the massacre at the Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas that occurred on 16th of that month. That’s when George Jo Hennard plowed his 1987 Ford pickup through the front window of the restaurant, got out of his truck and proceeded to shoot at everyone there, killing 23 and injuring 20 others before turning one of his guns on himself as the police were closing in. The deadliest shooting in America at the time, it was of course all over the news (especially for me since I lived not too far from there at the time). It was during the aftermath that “Don’t Take Me Alive” was suddenly getting played on the radio a lot more frequently than usual, making it a kind of an inpromptu anthem to the tragic event.
I don’t suppose the association made the Steely Dan guys too happy, even with the little bump in royalties. But their signature portrayals of skeevy people in undignified or criminal situations are ultimately rooted in real life occurrences. We might chuckle at the absurdity of some of their portrayals…until we see them unfold before our eyes.