As most of you know, I’m a major Steely Dan fan. How can I prove it? How about admitting that I really like “Through with Buzz” from Pretzel Logic (1974).
Most Rock critics and fans alike rate it as one of the Dan’s worst songs. Released as the B-side to the “Pretzel Logic” single, it is very unusual by Steely Dan standards. First of all, it is their shortest recording, clocking in at about 90 seconds. That leads to the next criticism – that it doesn’t go anywhere. How far can you take a song that only lasts a minute and a half? I’ve never had a problem with short songs. I once wrote a SotW post about a couple of my favorite short songs (July 11, 2009).
All that said, Walter Becker and Donal Fagen make the most of their limited time. The short verses – one line each – with the repeated “You know I’m through with Buzz, Yes I’m through with Buzz” conveys the frustration the singer feels toward Buzz. He’s done, over it! He can barely say another word to, or about the guy.
If you scour the internet, you’ll find the most common interpretation of the song is that it is about drugs. But Fagen has been quoted as saying:
“Through With Buzz’ was just about a more-or-less platonic relationship between two young people. There’s nothing really sexual about it until one of the young people in the relationship realizes he’s being used and starts having paranoid fantasies and breaks off the relationship. There’s no symbolism or anything. We never used puns. It’s a very saccharine sounding track with a very cynical lyric. We often do that for an ironic purpose. That is to juxtapose a rather bitter against rather sweet music.”
Another thing that draws me to the song is the band’s use of strings. “Buzz” is the only song in their catalog to use strings other than “FM”. But the string arrangement on “Buzz” is so much more interesting. It is the star of the dish. It comes across more like a “classical” arrangement you might expect from ELO or from the Beatles on songs like “Eleanor Rigby” and “She’s Leaving Home.” It’s beautiful.
Give “Buzz” a fresh listen. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised by how fresh it sounds.
Enjoy… until next week.