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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Mock Turtle Song/Steely Dan

The Mock Turtle Song never appeared on a Steely Dan studio album, but they have performed it live and it can be found on a number of compilations of outtake and demos by the duo, including Found Studio Tracks, released in 2007. The lyrics come virtually verbatim from Chapter X of Lewis Carroll's 1865 fantasy Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and begin: "Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail"--whiting being a type of fish related to the cod. In the book, they are sung by the Mock Turtle as he and the Gryphon demonstrate for Alice a bizarre dance called the Lobster-Quadrille. (This is normally performed with actual lobsters, but the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon make do.) Fortunately Carroll records Alice's reaction to the performance: "'Thank you, it's a very interesting dance to watch,' said Alice, feeling very glad that it was over at last: 'And I do like that curious song about the whiting!'" (This same passage from Alice provided the title for actress Lilli Palmer's 1975 memoir, Change Lobsters and Dance.)

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