"Do it again" by Steely Dan starts with the following verse:

In the mornin' you go gunnin' for the man who stole your water
And you fire till he is done in but they catch you at the border
And the mourners are all singin' as they drag you by your feet
But the hangman isn't hangin' and they put you on the street

The following chorus is repeated after each of the three verses:

You go back, Jack, do it again, wheels turinin' 'round and 'round
You go back, Jack, do it again

Second verse:

When you know she's no high climber then you find your only friend
In a room with your two timer, and you're sure you're near the end
Then you love a little wild one, and she brings you only sorrow
All the time you know she's smilin'; you'll be on your knees tomorrow

Finally, the third verse:

Now you swear and kick and beg us that you're not a gamblin' man;
Then you find you're back in Vegas with a handle in your hand
Your black cards can make you money so you hide them when you're able
In the land of milk and honey you must put them on the table

What, exactly, is "it"? What does Jack do again? Is it the thing named in the previous verse - i.e. the guy kills again after he gets off for the first murder, continues to be in relationships with women he knows are bad for him, and continues to gamble after swearing it off?

8 Answers 8


What Jack appears to do again and again is making a mess of his life in a country that is supposedly a "land of milk and honey". He does things in anger (first stanza), makes bad decision in relationships (middle stanzas) and starts gambling (final stanza).

  1. He kills someone for stealing water (which is normally an abundant resource), so he gets arrested. (Why he gets released is not so clear.)
  2. He starts a relationship with a woman and then finds out that she and his only friend cheat on him. This time he does not get arrested but feels he is "near the end".
  3. The next woman only brings him sorrow.
  4. In the last stanza, he has become a gambler but he denies it.

In light of the above, the wheel that goes round and round sounds like an unusual version of the wheel of fortune. Since Jack never comes out on top, it sounds more like a "wheel of misfortune".

Note: See also the first interpretation listed on SongMeanings.


Jack keeps going back to bad decisions. Even though they are each different, they all build upon each other. In the end, Jack is going to have to be accountable for his deeds by putting them on the table.

The phrase 'the land of milk and honey" is a reference to the Promised Land of the bible (called a "land flowing with milk and honey") and it could also mean Heaven. This means that when your life is over, all your hidden deeds will be revealed. Jack is a generic name that can be applied to anyone, so it could be all of us.

Stealing water is a big deal, if you live in the western US (such as near Vegas), where rain is scarce. Some farmers are very protective of their irrigation water, and fighting over it is common whether in court or otherwise. Stealing water happens when someone opens up the irrigation canals at a time that they are not supposed to, and then somebody downstream doesn't get their share.


Life. That's what he does again. This is a song about re-incarnation and the wheel of birth and death. The eternal journey on a terrestrial plane of milk and honey where we "struggle" when we could flow. Sometimes joy fuels us and pain applies the brake. We call the game when its barely started, wishing we'd climbed higher with the game clock ticking. Don't worry (or do) there's always tomorrow or next year (or next life). But will the game be the same? The truth: the cards that matter are the ones on the table. All of them.

  • Life + the absurdity of it at times. Feb 19, 2020 at 19:57

I think the reference to Vegas is not literal. Vegas is known as Sin City, so he is saying he is not a sinful (gambling) man, but returns to his sinful ways with a handle in his hand. Possibly a "broom handle" which is a nickname for a type of hand gun, or just the handle of a gun period.


People are subject to making the same mistakes over and over again... they just don’t learn from them.

  • Cops and robbers thinking it's only wrong if you are caught, and OK if you get away with it.

  • Mistakes in relationships ... I could write a book on this one.

  • Lastly, addictions: from which gambling is one of the worst.

I still play this song a lot, to remind me of the right road to take.


This song is an old school Picasso of words about a man out of control. Drugs and inebriated decision making is involved.

“The man who stole your water” means a man that stole your money or your woman. You sought revenge and you hurt the man, maybe catastrophically. The man did his time in prison, but didn’t learn his lesson.

Second Verse: = When you know she’s no high climber, then found your only friend. ( Means you found refuge in a woman that is loose and not to be trusted, but you felt refuge in her worldliness because she gave you comfort, and you fell for her head over heals, even though you know she will be promiscuous and betray you). You’ll be on your knees tomorrow due to the fact the woman is poison, and you’re gonna suffer in the long run.

You swear kick and beg us that you’re not a gambling man: You tried to convince people you’re not on the wild side anymore, yet there you are back at your old ways, loose woman, drugs, and out of control lifestyle.

In essence, you’re repeating the same reckless behavior over and over again. DRUG ADDICTION, WILD WOMEN, BAD DECISIONS!!!!


The song is about heroin addiction. The handle in your hand is the syringe. The land of milk and honey is when the drug hits you. Do it again, the need for more.

  • 1
    This seems very unlikely, especially as "a handle in your hand" obviously refers to the handle of a poker machine in a Vegas casino - I've never heard anyone refer to a syringe as a "handle". Please edit your answer to provide some authoritative references that support your interpretation. Jul 11, 2019 at 5:47

Short answer: addiction runs his life, just one more time and ill hit the jackpot, drifter, grifter.

  • 1
    Hey! I know this is a bit old, but would you mind adding some explanation for how this works? Could you please add your analysis? Thanks!
    – Mithical
    Mar 14, 2019 at 19:17

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