Steely Dan Sunday, “Reelin’ In The Years” (1972)

One big thing that everyone at Something Else! has in common is that music to each us represents certain touch points in our lives: events, places, times – even certain moods are tightly bound to a piece of music that somehow became forever connected to one of those things. This was never a conscious thing with me and probably not for the other guys; it just happens that way.

I only had become keenly aware of that tendency in myself only fairly recently. About seven years ago, my parents finally moved out of the house I grew up in my entire life. From the age of two months until I went off the college, that was my full time home, and frequent visits there afterwards could bring on a flood of memories that could quickly place me back to my childhood. Through college, marriage and fatherhood and right up to the cusp of middle age, I was fortunate to have this portal to quickly shoot me back to the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s – because much of the sights, sounds and scents of those times still lingered on at that house and the neighborhood.

But four decades in the same house that was not best suited for empty nesters was enough for my Mom and Dad. As they prepared to move out of town, I recollected my thoughts of my time there and wondered if I was going to get hit with a certain bit of sadness with the sudden removal of my “life portal.” When the Big Move finally happened though, I soon realized that playing certain records that I played back then often did more to bring back the memories more vividly than physically being there did. That became even more evident when Nick and I started the predecessor site to Something Else!, just a couple of years later. I began to regularly jot down my reflections on music, and kept stumbling across these touch points as a result.

For me, the rock band Steely Dan covered a lot of those touch points, because this brainy, Jack Kerouac-type hipster band remained appealing even as my tastes in music evolved. They had your hook-laden hits to appeal to the pop-oriented, interesting and witty lyrics for those who search for meanings in songs, and extremely refined playing to excite the jazz and fusion fans. There’s a lot in Steely Dan’s music that appeals to the multi-faceted music fan, or at least of one who likes both rock and jazz. I’ve long planned on writing a “Steely Dan for Dummies” piece, but being cognizant of the sheer volume of work required to do that the right way scared me away from even starting on it. Instead, I’ll ruminate on Steely Dan in bite-sized pieces, one song at a time, in chronological order – every Sunday morning, until there’s no more songs. Maybe I’ll go into the Donald Fagen and Walter Becker solo works after that, I don’t know (but I could have a change of heart).

The first song from Steely Dan’s first album is their 1972 is actually “Do It Again,” (and if you wanna get really nit picky, the first released Steely Dan songs were on the rare “Dallas/Sail The Waterway” single) but “Reelin’ In The Years” from the same Can’t Buy A Thrill debut album seems like a better place to start. Because, that’s what Steely Dan Sundays are going to be about: reeling in the years and stowing away the time – through their music.

Just some quick thoughts on each song that sometimes may be technical reviews and other time personal reflections that are only tangential to the song. Attacking and assessing the entire official Steely Dan catalog in a different way that I hope you find either informative, entertaining, or hey, maybe even both. Leave behind your thoughts on these songs, too, if the mood strikes ya’.

Oh, and isn’t that just a killing guitar solo by Elliott Randall?

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron