Steely Dan Sunday, “Hey Nineteen” (1980)

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Steely Dan isn’t the band people look to for documenting watershed moments in cultural history, but I think that intentionally or not, they did so with their Top 10 hit “Hey Nineteen.”

I remember the first time hearing this tale of a man being frustrated by a girl he’s wooing not knowing about “‘Retha Franklin.” Along with that, there’s these other references: being in a college fraternity in ’67, moving down from Scarsdale (near NYC) and growing old. All this sounds a little autobiographical, doesn’t it? Maybe some of the details are made up, but from the first listen, it sounded to me for the first time that the older members of the baby-boomer generation were not feeling so young anymore.

As Becker and Fagen respectively turned 30 and 32 during 1980, they could no longer live by their peers’ creed to not trust anybody over 30 without not trusting themselves. That was the most striking thing about Steely Dan’s story line to me.

The Vietnam War was over, Civil Rights progressed and society had overall moved in their direction. As the ’80s dawned, these ex-hippies started cutting their hair, putting on ties and, after reeling in the years, wondered aloud, “where the hell am I.” Your moment has passed once you get nostalgic, and “Hey Nineteen” was the first time I can remember anywhere in popular media where the boomers started waxing poetic about the good ol’ days. Less than three years later, Hollywood blew that phenomenon wide open when the movie The Big Chill released.

Even Steely Dan’s choice of recreational drugs had changed, from LSD and heroin to tequila and “fine Columbian.” Growing old sure does suck, don’t it?

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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