Steely Dan Sunday, “Janie Runaway” (2000)

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

Crisp, dry production, a lean groove — anchored by Becker’s usual fat, bubbling bass line — and Fagen’s smart horn arrangement, “Janie Runaway” is an agreeable little mid-tempo number comfortably nestled near the middle of Two Against Nature. It was also the fourth single spun from the album, but didn’t make any measurable impact on the charts.

It’s pretty easy to get a grasp on this storyline: an underage girl who hops on a Greyhound to escape a bad family situation in Florida and unwittingly winds up in the clutches of some old pedophile lech in NYC who can’t even believe his own luck in stumbling upon this prize.

This isn’t Becker and Fagen’s first go around with creepy characters, but without needing to get too graphic, they turn up the skeevy a few more notches. Our depraved narrator fancies an illegal tryst preceded by plying her with “gulping wine,” role playing Frank Sinatra and a showgirl, and taking her across state lines for a threesome with presumably yet another runaway…”or would that be a federal case?” our narrator wonders in a fleeting moment of apprehension. And all he’s offering in return is maybe a trip to Spain. Such a swell fella, huh?

Chris Potter, who normally mans a tenor sax, shows off his mastery on the smaller alto as this song’s designated soloist, sounding soulful and old school just like Becker and Fagen prefers. It’s snappy enough to momentarily get your mind off the debauchery gleefully being contemplated.

That a major record label was willing to spin off a single about an effusive child sex predator goes to show how Steely Dan can get away with making songs around such topics and getting them put on the radio, because they’re so deadgummed clever in how they approach it. In a few weeks, we’ll touch on another song about sexual depravity that fared a little bit better in popularity.

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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 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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  • Doc Mu

    Potter’s solos are indeed a highlight. This was initially to be the album’s first single, but the radio/record co. complex thought there was too much sax.

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