Steely Dan Sunday, "Home At Last" (1977)


<<< BACKWARD ("Peg") ||| ONWARD (“I Got The News”) >>>

*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

The lyrics for “Home At Last” are inspired by an episode from Homer’s Odyssey where Ulysses attempts to sail home safely after waging battle, but that’s really just a metaphor for Becker and Fagen’s pining away for their native New York environs from across the country in Southern California. Here again we’re seeing perhaps Fagen’s old English Lit degree bearing more fruit.

Coming after “Peg” and a couple of songs before “Josie” on side 2 of the ol’ Aja vinyl, it can be easy to overlook “Home,” but this ranks as one of Steely Dan’s best ballads and best blues. Or at least, blues in the Steely Dan sense of blues, which by this time had become so finely woven into their intricate fabric of melody and harmony, it’s often easy to forget that it’s a blues song. The Ellingtonian horns add a sophisticated air that smooths over Larry Carlton’s Chicago-tough rhythm guitar, and the whole song is a signature moment for Bernard Purdie’s “Purdie Shuffle” that reliably installs a strong undercurrent of funk on even this melancholy tune.

This is also the first appearance of Fagen’s trademark blues-y synth solo (more prominent on “Hey Nineteen”) which is countered by Becker’s thoughtful guitar solo. Come to think of it, that also marks this the first time that both of the Steely Dan linchpins are the soloists on their own song.

The deep cuts are what separates a classic album from a really good album. Aja is good because of songs like “Peg,” “Josie” and yes, “Deacon Blues.” Tracks like “Home At Last” is part of what makes it an album for the ages. Figuratively speaking or not, remember to leave the needle alone after “Peg” fades out.

[amazon_enhanced asin="B000V68OY2" /] [amazon_enhanced asin="B00003002C" /] [amazon_enhanced asin="B000V63CYO" /] [amazon_enhanced asin="B000005RVM" /] [amazon_enhanced asin="B000002P4R" /]

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst 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. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • SD Fan

    Really enjoy your columns…but:

    “Here again we’re seeing perhaps Fagen’s old English Lit degree bearing more fruit.”

    Becker (and most of us non-lit majors) don’t know if this source?

    I though it was generally known that Becker is the more reliable great lyricist (a theory supported by their solo outputs). Look, I don’t want to claim that Becker wrote this alone…but I always get a bit riled when I see credit given to Fagen as though by default. Becker is one formidable cat.

    • S. Victor Aaron

      Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you enjoy the column.

      The remark about Fagen putting his old English Lit degree to use is just idle speculation on my part, which is why I said “perhaps”. The truth is, neither of us really knows who is responsible for what part of the song unless there’s an interview I missed where they explained who did what. But it’s entirely possible that Fagen came up with the idea for the metaphor and Becker crafted the words around it. Fagen himself had once said Becker often acted as the “editor” in the songwriting partnership. And for them, that’s no small role.

      Who is the better lyricist? Based on their solo work, my opinion is that Becker and Fagen are better together than they are as solo artists. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship and Walter Becker is indeed a formidable dude. It wasn’t my intention to suggest otherwise.