Steely Dan Sunday, “Bodhisattva” (1973)

A rock song about Buddhism that you can dance the Charleston to, and boasts not one but two bad-ass guitar leads? That’s a party tune, Steely Dan style.

The success of Can’t Buy A Thrill only brought further pressure on the band by the record label to promote the songs on the road, and to produce more road-worthy songs. Countdown To Ecstacy, their loosest set of recordings ever, came forth accordingly. None was as freewheeling as the lead-off track, “Bodhisattva.”

Jim Hodder’s drums kicks off that ’20s beat and the dual guitar attack of Denny Dias and Jeff Baxter that whips the Jazz Age into the rock era. Donald Fagan’s verses, in a fairly rare turn, act as merely brief respites between furious bouts of shredding. What appears to be a bank of saxophones in the chorus is really just an analog synthesizer dubbed over three times. (The Arp Soloist synth used in the song met a violent death at the hands of Fagen, as Dias fondly fondly recounted many years later.)

Dias and Skunk were killin’ it, too. Denny takes the first lead, showing off his ability to cram a lot of notes in a small space and make it not feel so cluttered. Baxter, though, tops him – chopping up his notes like fresh produce in a Cuisinart. It was pretty good in the bridge and gets even better after the last chorus, where he keeps picking up momentum along the way, reaching the crescendo right at the end, and then the music quickly vanishes save for the fading resonance of the final piano chord.

For anyone who thinks Steely Dan is only some snooty-nosed, artsy-fartsy band, I would first present “Bodhisattva.” ‘Nuff said.

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,, 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
S. Victor Aaron