|Kid Charlemagne performed by Steely Dan ()|
"Kid Charlemagne" sounds like it's starting in the middle -- a little instrumental passage between stanzas, or the middle of a drug bust. Whatever it is, it works: the song drops you right into a seedy, sun-soaked, coke-fueled, sour-tasting hangover of a scene, populated by "Day-Glo freaks" and "low-rent friends."
What makes the song most memorable for me are the two all-too-brief soaring guitar solos unleashed by Larry Carlton (and drums by Bernard Purdie!), particularly the one that still echoes in the ears of the listener on the way out. That and the unforgettable couplet, bracketed in the last verse (and sung by Donald Fagen with a half-faltering note that makes it sound like undisguised joy) for maximum effect:
"Is there gas in the car?
Yes, there's gas in the car."
Sometimes it's just the slightest detail that turns a song into a masterpiece.