Steely Dan Sunday, “Show Biz Kids” (1973)

Blues-rock guitar-slinger Rick Derringer is probably best known for his 1974 hit “Rock ‘N Roll Hootchie Koo,” a boogie-rock anthem that still gets me fired up today. Before that, he was in Edgar Winter’s White Trash band and produced Winter’s hit album They Only Come Out At Night in 1972.

Somewhere in between those two career touchpoints he was beckoned into the studio by the Boys from Bard to come play his slide for a song on their Countdown To Ecstasy album, and it’s become part of the canon of famous Steely Dan guest guitar leads alongside Elliott Randall’s “Reelin’ In The Years” and Larry Carlton’s “Kid Charlamagne.”

“Show Biz Kids” is on several levels atypical for a Steely Dan song, but it fit in perfectly with the whole, freewheeling road-ready vibe of Countdown To Ecstacy. As masters of some of the most complex harmonics ever applied to radio-friendly pop songs, Becker and Fagen constructed “Show Biz Kids” on single chord. It’s also very bluesy, which shouldn’t be that surprising given that Becker and Fagen grew up listening to and playing the blues. (We will come across more overtly blues tunes as we travel further down their discography.) There’s nothing bluesy about their lyrics, which are even more non-sensical and cheeky than usual, even self-referential (“they got the Steely Dan t-shirts”).

They must have really liked Rick Derringer, because they didn’t call him in to give a precise, 20 second solo. Rick is literally soloing over the entire, five minute-plus song. Even between Donald Fagen’s lines. When we reach the instrumental break, Derringer already got his momentum going and has worked up to a sufficient frenzy when all the sudden, he quits just long enough for Fagen to hit us with a drive-by expletive: Show biz kids makin’ movies of themselves/You know they don’t give a f— about anybody else.

A line like that wouldn’t even make a ripple in any hip-hop song today, but that was pretty ballsy for a hit-making act in 1973, and something the guys never resorted to again. Not that dropping a random f-bomb made the song better or worse: Rick Derringer’s gloriously greasy slide guitar had already assured that “Show Biz Kids” would stand as one of the group’s better deep cuts.

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
  • Bobby

    Those of us of a certain age know Rick Derringer best as the lead guitar-slinger of The McCoys. Having a number one hit (Hang On Sloopy) at the age of seventeen? Not too damn shabby…