Steely Dan Sunday, "The Goodbye Look" (1982)

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Fagen’s dry wit comes to the fore on this song about an American couple on holiday at a Caribbean resort when an revolution happens upon them. That revolution is based on, naturally, the actual Cuban Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power at the beginning of 1959, which neatly fits within the timeline of the theme espoused on The Nightfly. Our character is trying his best to manage his panic in realizing he’s living out a story with an unhappy ending as he deadpans “won’t you pour me a Cuban Breeze, Gretchen?”

The music matches the Caribbean theme…at least, its breezy vibe jives with the story until armed rebellion spoils the vacation. Greg Phillinganes’ synth simulates a marimba nearly perfectly, Porcaro’s executes the salsa beat with typical precision, and if you can bear with my gushing just one last time, here’s yet another refined guitar lead by Larry Carlton. The Royal Scam is more thought of as “his” record, but even there he had to share the solo space with other guitarists. Fagen gave it all to him for The Nightfly and he responded resplendently, proving without a doubt he can handle the job for any given song and bolstering the consistent identity displayed across the entire record. When The Nightfly was finished, so was Carlton’s involvement in any Steely Dan-related project, but the legacy was established and the standard was set for any guitarist who played under the Steely Dan banner after him.

Even when Fagen was being light-hearted on this album as on “The Goodbye Look,” he made a seriously good tune.

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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
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  • Greg Church

    Thea Astley (1925 – 2004) an Australian novelist and short story writer used lines from The Goodbye Look as an epigraph in her excellent novel, The Beachmasters:

    I know that happens
    I read the book
    I believe I just got the goodbye look.


  • brian t

    Loving this series – and I have an idea for what to do next. The UK band China Crisis were such huge Dan Fans that they asked Walter Becker to produce their third album “Flaunt The Imperfection”, and the influence show. Tracks like “Black Man Ray” and “You Did Cut Me” are very Steely, I think.

  • PJ Thompson

    There isn’t much online about whether or not Fagen was a fan of Ross MacDonald’s detective novel “The Goodbye Look”, or if he just knew a great title when he heard it. I’m not sure MacDonald coined the phrase actually, but I’m curious about Fagen’s inspiration here. The novel came out in the late 1960s, but MacDonald’s prime period as a writer began in the late 1950s, and the narrator of The New Frontier might have picked up a MacDonald novel to pass the time in the suburbs.

    • SunKing

      Curious and interesting statement. Np idea, you could be right. Some folks on You Tube suggest the look might the one Sonny Corleone gave Michael in The Godfather. That is argued that the music in this song is not Cuban music. Who knows….it’s a good track with everything musical you could want.