Steely Dan Sunday, “Big Noise, New York” (1993)

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

Another Fagen rarity, first appearing as the B-side to the “Trans-Island Skyway,” and finally finding a long-player home on the Nightfly Trilogy in 2007. No, wait, it actually first appeared as a Jennifer Warnes recording, on her 1992 disc, The Hunter. Fagen didn’t compose the tune with Warnes in mind, however. He wrote the music for “Big Noise, New York” and Marcelle Clements wrote its lyrics for a Spike Lee film, but their submission was never used for such a thing.

This recording of the song seems to reside in some ways years before 1993 and other ways years after it. The “years before” is the production the dates it back to the mid-80s period when Fagen cut “Century’s End” in another bid for a movie soundtrack which did succeed. “Big Noise” may have well been recorded around that time, but it’s also essentially a demo, which could have also played a part in it sounding so dated.

The song also looks ahead — ten years ahead, to be exact — as the melody has so many uncanny similarities to the title track of Steely Dan’s Everything Must Go, it’s reasonable to think that the latter song is a rewrite of the earlier one. It wouldn’t be the first time Fagen (with Becker) had recycled one original tune into another one, composers rewrite their own songs all the time, but it would have been extremely rare for him to do that after the earlier version had already been released.

Fagen had long ago earned his stripes as a composer who devises an interesting and unique melodic construction with virtually every at-bat, so the notion of morphing an obscure B-side into an album title track for just this one time is no sin. In fact, it adds some intrigue to a song that rises above its demo quality recording and gave Spike Lee a very worthy tune to put on one of his flicks. He apparently didn’t see it that way, but thankfully, this B-side obscurity has at least seen the light of day.

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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.
  • Chris

    I hear ‘The Good Stuff’ in the first line of each verse, too.