Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gaucho is 30 - Part 2 of 4

“Donald and I followed a certain line of thinking to its logical conclusion, and then perhaps slightly beyond—that was what we realized when we'd finished Gaucho: it was not as much fun...It wasn't fun at all, really.” -- Walter Becker in Mojo, 1980.

And as we continue our weekly posting regarding our Album of the Month; Steely Dan's Gaucho, we grab a couple of paragraphs from Wikipedia:

With the phenomenal success of "Aja," Donald and Walter are under considerably less pressure to release new material quickly. ABC releases a Greatest Hits package in November 1978 which includes one unreleased track "Here At The Western World." This collection also goes platinum and reaches #30 on the charts. Tiring of the L.A. scene, Becker and Fagen move back to New York to start recording their new album.

While recording "Gaucho", Becker and Fagen had to endure various misfortunes which delay the release date: Becker is hit by a car, one of their favorite new tracks "The Second Arrangement" is accidentally erased by an assistant recording engineer, and there is a dispute over which record company has the rights to their forthcoming album.

Becker and Fagen had already signed a new contract with Warner Brothers, but ABC (now owned by MCA) claims that they are still owed one more album. MCA wins the contract dispute and then decides to increase the album's list price to $9.98, one dollar more than all the other albums. Donald and Walter continue to hold back the album while they unsuccessfully fight the price increase. Finally, "Gaucho" is released in November, 1980.

And to get the facts (?) from the two in question; Donald and Walter, we'll take a peek at what they wrote in the liner notes to the 2000 CD remastered reissue of Gaucho.

(Incidentally those liner notes are a perfect excuse to buy the seven remastered albums released in 2000 even if you have the vinyl or some other version. They are a fun read that continues from the first to the last of the CDs).

Speaking of the Gaucho album proper, it can truly be said that never before or since in the sorry annals of pop music has so much been expended by so few for so long in the service of so little - or something like that. We come to the table ready and willing to concede to our harshest critics that it is undoubtedly true that at some point in this doleful enterprise we did indeed go well past it - the only remaining questions being exactly what "it" is and how blindly fast/excruciatingly slow we were moving at the precise moment when we crossed the line.

At the time, it all seemed worth it, especially because with the eventual completion of the recording, mixing and mastering of the album would come the long-promised and much-anticipated Weekend at the aforementioned La Samanna resort with two of the loveliest waitresses in all of midtown.


Sitting in the bar by Gate 72, we could scarcely contain our enthusiasm for the Lost Weekend to come, and, as it turns out, we may have overdone the alcoholic stimulation thing while waiting for the ladies to turn up. Because, while the girls flew on, alone together, to St. Maarten/St. Martin (where they drank, smoked, snorted and humped each other into oblivion for three delirious days and nights), the boys, in their inebriated state, having argued briefly about the relative merits of Chico Hamilton (?) versus Charlie Persip (!) and then lost track of one another somewhere in the terminal, boarded the wrong plane (in the case of Becker) or bus (in the case of Fagen) and turned up two to three days later in Kahului, Hawaii, or the Stanhope Hotel, respectively, each heartbroken, alone, enniless, with heads like watermelons and hearts like lead sinkers and, oddly enough, a hit single blooming on the charts. Go figure.

- Donald Fagen & Walter Becker, 2000

*For those voracious fans who may be interested, an alternative (but equally valid and just as realistic and somewhat more upbeat) version of the events described in these reissue notes is available privately - just send $35 plus postage to Craig Fruin, P.O. Box 1838, San Francisco, CA 94159-1838, and you will receive a deluxe mimeographed copy of "Steely Dan - the Watergate Years", signed by Craig Fruin himself. Act fast - supplies are limited.

(Check back next Sunday for part 3 of 4.)
Here's part 1.


monsterpants said...

Gaucho is so close to my heart, as the first Steely Dan album I had exposure to at the tender age of 14 (my first experience ever with SD was a greatest hits album at 12). I recently decided I need to be able to sing the whole record from start to finish, a capella, in the correct keys. It just feels like something I need to be able to do before I'm done on this planet.

Saw the Gaucho show at Beacon Theater in NYC in 2009 and it was transcendent. Thanks for featuring this one right now, guys!
~ Gwen

PS- I feel like I can't close this post without oozing my love for the song "Kulee Baba"... But I don't know what to say! Just ❤ ❤ ❤

Nebukadnessar Stephenson and Sigurd Huckle said...

Yes, it's a great album. Personally remembered now and then with that gloomy feeling a break-up album can give you. In this case the break-up of Steely Dan itself.

And to make things complete we sould've liked to play the ... *cough* ... unofficial stuff - Kulee Baba included - but as things go they're off limits for now. Some fine songs there that we would've liked to hear finished.