Steely Dan Sunday: “Fire In the Hole” from Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972)

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On last week’s Steely Dan Sunday, we observed how guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter played octaves on “Only a Fool Would Say That.” In perhaps another first for a rock song, “Fire In the Hole” features Donald Fagen playing piano in a ragtime style …

… however, I’d like to end my specific thoughts about the song here and switch gears to the guy who put it to tape.

Roger Nichols, the engineer for every Steely Dan album, passed away in April 2011 after fighting pancreatic cancer. He was 66 old. The credits list on Steely Dan albums have changed a-plenty over the years, but aside from Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the one constant on that list has been the chief engineer Roger Nichols, referred to in the album credits since Steely Dan’s debut as “The Immortal.”

Much as George Martin became known as the de-facto “fifth Beatle” for his inventive, brilliant production, so could Nichols be considered the “third Steely Dan member” for his tireless dedication of pursuing flawless recordings – a dedication shared by the two principal members. Nichols won six Grammys for his work on Steely Dan records. In winning a seventh for a John Denver record, he proved that the commitment to perfection wasn’t a response to notoriously demanding clients: It came from within.

Roger Nichols, as we now know, wasn’t really immortal, but his recordings most certainly are. From “Fire In the Hole” up to “Everything Must Go” more than 30 years later, it all sounds so perfectly recorded. In this way, The Immortal Roger Nichols will live on forever.

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
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