Steely Dan Sunday, “Glamour Profession” (1980)

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Two things that became apparent to me when first hearing “Glamour Profession” at the time when Gaucho first appeared:

1) it was about drug dealing to well-heeled clients in Southern California

2) it was Steely Dan’s most explicit excursion into disco, at the moment when disco when in its dying throes. Does having a disco beat make a song bad? Not necessarily; Donald Fagen’s “New Frontier” from just two years later has the same rhythm pattern and I like that song just fine.

But something about “Glamour” leaves me cold. Maybe it’s the stiff drumming (just how did they manage to make Steve Gadd sound stiff, anyhow?), the mirror ball bass line, or the lyrics that try too hard to sound chic. Or maybe it’s the combination of it all.

This being Steely Dan, however, the song not without virtue. They construct a melody that’s a lot more interesting than a typical disco song. The dual sax arrangement, performed by Michael Brecker and Tom Scott, is first rate. And somewhere buried in the mix lurks Steve Khan’s biting but tasteful guitar accents. Some of the lines of the lyrics are actually kind of funny, though I’m not sure if they were intended that way. For one, nobody was bragging about puttering around in a Chrysler in 1980, and making calls from a car ain’t just for the glamourous people anymore.

Those things make “Glamour Profession” bearable, even pleasant actually, but to be honest I’d have still rather they put “Babylon Sisters” twice on Side 1 than to be treated with the peculiar car references sung over pulsating beats.

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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  • John Tabacco

    Glamour Profession is a great song with very cool, jazzy chord changes and modulations and it still manages to be disco friendly but in an artistic way. That’s the genius of Becker and Fagen. They’ll do whatever they want but you won’t mind because they always put something pedestrian in the music. In this case it’s the disco rhythm. It’s that sly, ironic touch that goes over people heads while the music seeps into your subconscious and you love it but you don’t know why. Of note : I always found this song a kin to Cherchez La Femme by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band. Amazingly, decades later, I came across an interview with Fagen where he states that he really dug this song. So I guess my musical intuition was not too off the mark.

  • Terrymac

    “Stiff drumming” from Steve Gadd? “Glamour Profession” is one of the Dan’s crowning achievements! The drumming is phenomenal.
    And btw, the video no longer plays.

  • miro

    This recording is anthemic of Los Angeles in the late seventies. Nothing else comes close. Yes there is a disco component…which to me is overshadowed by Tango and Gershwin references…all part of the humor of this masterpiece. I hear George and Ira and Xavier on top of disco. As a jazz player, I hated disco….then Steely Dan and Roxy Music and Bowie used it artistically and humorously to good effect. Fagan is so deep into That Which Is Slick, he’s made a career out of it…sometimes his work might seem too slick, smooth, and over produced…that’s fine….he’s a genius, he did not make it on voice or looks; just raw talent and balls.

  • Teege

    The thing about this song is that its tonal centers are extremely fleeting, giving the song an unresolved and restless edge, while the mundane groove portrays the emotional scarcity inherent in the portrayed lifestyle

  • Lars Fenger-Krog

    Often Dan-fans so not like this record for some reason.
    My theory is that Gaucho composition reaches new dimensions.When it becomes something out of the ordinary it’s like taking a big Mac out of the hands of someone eating and suggesting a more expensive place to eat.
    Glamour progression is such a cool song.
    Everything you don’t like with it, I adore.
    One of my top 3 SD songs.

    The simplest song on Gaucho was Hey Nineteen.
    It is the least interesting composition..still good.
    But it was the only song that made it to hitlists.

    That’s sad.

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