STEELY DANÂ “Peg” b/w “I Got The News” (ABC Records #12320, September 1977)
As much as I love lo-fi bands that can’t play their instruments, I also go totally Star Trek for impeccably-produced prog and jazz acts with serious chops and boss material.Â No AmericanÂ duo betterÂ encompassed this phenomenon, mixingÂ in plenty of post-’60’s LA-outsider snark while at it, than Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the core of Steely Dan.Â Nevermind the details, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” was hands-down the soundtrack to the summer of 1974, as I flailed apeshit on a rented raft with a snow-coneÂ down atÂ Oscar’s Beach on any given sun-soaked Saturday.Â I can still smell the seaweed and coconut oil.Â And I can remember staying up past midnight on a school night in late ’77, just to catch a special radio broadcast of their new LP, Aja, played front-to-back with no commercials.
It all seemed so “adult” then, so mature…like I was peeking into a world I wasn’t supposed to see yet.Â Maybe it was the somewhat sexy subject matter.Â Or maybe I was just happy to hear something other than “Hotel California” on the radio.Â Either way, I completely flipped over “Peg,” Aja‘s first single, much to the dismay of nearly everyone around me.Â This 30-plus-year-old track is now a LiteFM staple the world over, so I don’t need to play it for you, but behold this incredible “behind-the-scenes” clip from YouTube.Â Thoroughly entertaining.
That swing-poppin’ Rick Marotta/Chuck Rainey rhythm section, Jay Graydon’s Sol Hoopii-on-shrooms guitar slides, a mountain of Michael McDonaldses…no nerds on Earth could resist.Â And resist they didn’t, as Aja sold millions and “Peg” spent 11 weeks in the Top 40, peaking at #11 first weekÂ of January.Â Â Â 1978 turned out to be a banner year forÂ The Dan, as they placedÂ two other tracks from Aja, plus their classic theme from the not-so-classic movie, FM, in the Top 40 by the time school was back in session in September.Â And you said you were never going back there.
“I Got The News,” a pumping, pulsating, and very funky album track (featuring a smattering of Larry Carlton and a smidgeÂ more Mike McDonald), rounds out this single’s B-side.Â Listening toÂ Aja today, it seems very brief, with a total of 7 songs clocking in at just a hair past 40 minutes.Â Today’s magnumÂ over-70 minuteÂ CD opuses and infinite MP3 playlists dwarf it by comparison, but quality over quantity is what makes The Dan great, and Aja a timeless (and heavily sampled) classic.
Oh, and just for fun, here’s a link to one of my all-time favoriteÂ internet time-wasters, The Steely Dan Dictionary.
NEXT WEEK: All I want is your extra time and your…uh…something…