Monday, September 23, 2013

Buying A Thrill: Steely Dan Guitar Solos Part 2

You can find Part 1 here which explains the criteria and rules.  Today we'll countdown from #12 to #7.

12.  Peg (Jay Graydon)

Very sleek and sinuous.  For the back story on the six or eight guitarists Becker and Fagen tried out on this solo watch this video about the general process of making the Aja album.  The discussion about the guitar solo for Peg starts about 4 minutes in.  Jay Graydon is an L.A. session musician, producer and songwriter and also appeared in several Doonesbury strips in 1977 as Jay "Wah-Wah" Graydon.

11.  King Of The World (Denny Dias)

Any man left on the Rio Grande
Is the King Of The World as far as I know

This might have moved higher if it was about 30 seconds longer.  Unusual in that there is no lead guitar until the last 45 seconds.  Great jazzy sound - nice how it moves from lower registers to bubble up above the other tracks in the mix.  Listening to the guitar you'd never know how apocalyptic the lyrics are. 

10. Night By Night  (Dean Parks or Skunk Baxter)

When the dawn patrol gotta tell you twice
They're gonna do it with a shotgun
Yes, I'm cashing in this ten cent life
For another one

The solo is attributed to different guitarists in different sources.  The first attempt by the Dan to be funky.

9.  Chain Lightning  (Rick Derringer)

That's Rick Derringer, former lead guitar for The McCoys (of Hang On Sloopy fame) as well as owner of a strong solo career in the 1970s (Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo anyone?).  Sounds like they recorded the first part of the solo separately from the second part as there is a distinct tonal change.  Both are great.

THC read an interview with Donald Fagen many years ago in which he claimed that this song was about the Munich Beer Hall Putsch.  Now you need to know that you cannot take anything Becker and Fagen say at face value so this might be completely bogus.  On the other hand, if you know the history of the putsch and then listen to the lyrics  . . .  

8.  Aja  (Denny Dias)

A beautiful, glistening solo.  The first part of the solo starts just after 3 minutes in and the second part shortly after 4 minutes (see if you can hear the police whistle in between the two sections).  Stick around to listen to the section immediately after featuring Wayne Shorter on sax and Steve Gadd on drums (Gadd returns at the end to show some more dynamite chops).

This clip below includes a piece where Dias explains just how hard it was to play the solo written by Becker.   The guitar discussion starts 2 minutes into the video.

7.  The Boston Rag (Skunk Baxter)

Bring back the Boston Rag
Tell all your buddies that it ain't no drag

Oddly enough, the song is set in the borough of Queens in New York City and not Boston.  Moves along at a stately pace through the verses and chorus and then it changes into a stomp.  Skunk kicks in with moaning and extended single notes and then escalates to a barrage of multi-note fuzz distorted sounds which seems like it must be overdubbed but if you listen closely it's not.

Part 3 will be posted on Wednesday.


  1. So... one guess as to why the Dan is in my top 10 of all time artists...?

  2. It’s nice to see the videos and enjoy the moment again!