I have already posted about songs written by the pre-Steely Dan songwriting team of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen that were recorded by other artists. The first was “American Lovers” by Thomas Jefferson Kaye (April 18, 2020) and another was “I Mean to Shine” by Linda Hoover (March 11, 2023). Another, today’s SotW, is “Sail the Waterway” by Denny Doherty.
After the Mamas and the Papas broke up, Doherty went on to record a couple of solo albums. The first was 1971’s Watcha Gonna Do? The album had a country rock feel and contained several Doherty originals alongside Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’” and a Beatles’ medley of “Here Comes the Sun/Two of Us.”
After that album was completed and released Doherty entered the studio again in 1972. This time he recorded four songs. None had been heard until they were released on an album called Of All the Things: The Complete ABC/Dunhill Masters, in 2017.
Of note is that two of the aforementioned four 1972 songs were written by the pre-Steely Dan Becker/Fagen team — “Sail the Waterway” and “Giles of the River”. Further, Becker and Fagen played on the tracks, and they were produced by Gary Katz, a name very familiar to Steely Dan fans.
Later, in November 1972, Steely Dan released their own debut. But a well-kept secret is that they released a single ahead of the album on June 16, 1972. The A-side was “Dallas”, and the B-side was “Sail the Waterway”!
As many of you know, I’m a huge Steely Dan fan. It pains me that they are often now labeled as Yacht Rock. They are so much better, consistent, and eclectic than most of the schlock that falls into that genre – popular though it is!
So whenever I learn about some Steely Dan obscurities, I need to go deep to learn more. In April 2020 I wrote about the song “American Lovers” by Thomas Jefferson Kaye that featured most of Pretzel Logic era Steely Dan as his backing group.
Today I’d like to introduce you to “I Mean to Shine”, by Linda Hoover, which was written by The Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.
Like Kaye’s recording, Hoover’s record was produced by Gary Katz and featured several members of the early Steely Dan line-up (Becker, Fagen, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Denny Dias), but two year’s before their debut would appear.
The album had songs composed by The Band’s Richard Manuel (“In a Station”), Stephen Stills (4 + 20), three by Hoover herself, and five by Becker/Fagen.
So why are we just discovering this now? Well, the answer has an interesting backstory.
As it turns out, Katz heard the 19-year-old Hoover and wanted to promote her recording career. He introduced her to the legendary, mob associated, Morris Levy of Roulette Records. Knowing how Levy operated, Katz enticed (bribed?) Levy to sign Hoover by offering him publishing rights to the songs. The only problem was that Katz could only deliver on his offer with Hoover’s compositions. When Levy saw the record cover and realized he would only be paid for three songs, he was pissed off and put the kibosh on its release. The album sat dormant in the vaults until last summer when it was finally released by Omnivore Records. Hoover was 71 upon release!
If “I Mean to Shine” sounds familiar to you it is probably because Barbra Streisand released a version in 1971. On her version, she was backed by the all-female group Fanny with Bobby Keyes and Jim Price on horns.
Linda Hoover’s album deserved to be heard 50 years ago. At least we finally have it now. Give the full album a listen on Spotify.
I had this idea to write a post that featured a few of my favorite rock songs with a Latin flavor. But not the obvious ones performed by Latin artists like Santana. As I listened to them, I realized I didn’t have the technical expertise to properly describe them. Were they Samba, Rhumba, Bossa Nova? How do you tell the difference?
I strive for factual accuracy in these posts (though I’m sure I’ve made mistakes) so I gave a list of my selections to my high school friend, Dan D, who has a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) and teaches courses in trumpet, Chamber Music, Music Theory and The Beatles. I asked Dan for help. Here’s what he had to say:
So I gave a listen to these (songs) with your question in mind. The Samba, Rhumba, and Bossa Nova all share similar characteristics and each one of these works are not completely defined by the Latin genre – they are Latin-infused rock tunes. The genre not closely identified in any of them as rhumba. The conga sound is prevalent in any of them. For rhumba, the Beatle cover of “Mr. Moonlight” by Roy Lee Johnson fits that bill. Samba and Bossa Nova are closely allied. Often, the Bossa Nova is associated with jazz idioms. I could identify a jazz flavor in the Guess Who and Steely Dan tunes but it is not really that strong to differentiate. So with all that said, I am most apt to describe these tunes with a Samba flavor. Whew! A long, winding answer!
Thanks, Dan! So here are a few tunes I like that are loosely tied together through “a Samba flavor.”
“Undun” was the B-side to The Guess Who’s “Laughing.” Written by Randy Bachman, it reached #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. (“Laughing” rose to #10.) In an interview with Ear of the Newt, Bachman was quoted saying “I remember the joy of hearing that (“Undun”) on the radio, figuring ‘Wow, a song with more than three chords,’ you know, ‘with lyrics that don’t rhyme.’ “
He goes on to describe the inspiration for the song came when he learned about a woman who went into a coma after taking some bad acid at a party he attended in Vancouver.
“Sunlight” comes from one of my favorite Buried Treasure albums – Elephant Mountain (1969), by The Youngbloods. Lester Bangs endorsed the album in his review for Rolling Stone. Written by Jesse Colin Young, “Sunlight” is an ode for a special woman.
Have you seen the sunlight pouring through her hair Felt her warm mouth on you in the summer’s air Running in a field of brown Laughing rolling on the ground Smiling as she pulls you down That’s the way she feels about you
Three Dog Night, who in their early days were masters at finding great songs to record, covered “Sunlight” on their 1970 album Naturally.
Steely Dan’s “Only a Fool Would Say That” (1972) has often been interpreted as a dig at John Lennon’s utopian worldview as professed in “Imagine.” This position was recently described in an article in Far Out, by Sam Kemp.
I’m not sure I buy into Kemp’s thesis. Steely Dan’s lyrics are always cryptic and subject to varied interpretations. To me, it’s a cynical knock on hippy idealism more generally.
Wait until the very end of the song where you can hear laughter and someone utter the phrase “Jiji, solamente un tonto lo mencionara”, “Only a fool would say that” in Spanish!
Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Steely Dan’s album Gaucho. Gaucho is perhaps my least favorite Dan disc – a little too “yacht rocky” for me – but by the standards of other artists, it’s a damn fine record.
Gaucho was not an easy album to make. Multiple personal issues caused major distractions. Walter Becker was deep into his heroin addiction at the time. Add to that a freak car accident while walking back to his apartment in New York that resulted in a broken foot that laid him up for six months! If that wasn’t enough, his then girlfriend died of an overdose in his home which led to a multi-million-dollar lawsuit by her family that he eventually won.
Then there was the technical snafu. The band worked for weeks on a song called “Second Arrangement” that they felt was one of their best songs ever. That was until an assistant engineer accidentally erased most of the master. (Something similar happened years earlier when the masters for Katy Lied were damaged due to an equipment malfunction.) They tried to recreate it but when the new takes didn’t live up to the standard of the erased mix, they abandoned the song. (It’s no wonder that the band stopped recording for some 20 years after they finished Gaucho.)
The “Second Arrangement” debacle left the album light one track. So, Donald Fagan went back to the vaults from earlier album sessions and found the tapes for a song called “Were You Blind That Day.” The lyrics were changed and the new track, “Third World Man,” was added to the album, and is today’s SotW.
Some Steely Dan fans think “Were You Blind That Day” was an Aja outtake. But Larry Carlton, who played the song’s outstanding guitar solo has been quoted as saying it was a leftover from The Royal Scam sessions. Experts agree that Carlton’s solo is the best of any Steely Dan recording. It is less busy than his typical solos but perfectly complements the feel of the unusually slow Dan song.
As is typical for Steely Dan songs, the lyrics to “Third World Man” are ambiguous and can be interpreted in multiple ways.
Johnny’s playroom Is a bunker filled with sand He’s become a third world man Smoky Sunday He’s been mobilized since dawn Now he’s crouching on the lawn He’s a third world man
Soon you’ll throw down your disguise We’ll see behind those bright eyes By and by When the sidewalks are safe For the little guy
I saw the fireworks I believed that I was dreaming Till the neighbors came out screaming He’s a third world man
Soon you’ll throw down your disguise We’ll see behind those bright eyes By and by When the sidewalks are safe For the little guys
Is Johnny a child playing Army? Is he a real soldier that was deployed to a hostile country? Are the fireworks real or the consequence of PTSD?
In 2005, Joni Mitchell released a covers CD album that was only available through Starbucks coffee shops. Artist’s Choice – Music That Matters to Her included “Third World Man.” It should be no surprise that Mitchell is so fond of that song for two reasons. Firstly, since she is such an accomplished writer herself, it is no wonder she would be attracted to “Third World Man’s” sophisticated lyrics. Then there’s her affection for guitarist Carlton’s work. He has played on many of her albums, including Court and Spark, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and the awesome Hejira.
Happy anniversary, Gaucho! “I just sing that Ghana Rondo e l’era del terzo mondo.”
I didn’t think
so. But you should know about him
because he had a very successful career in the music biz.
First of all, he
was the producer on Gene Clark’s best solo album (IMHO), No Other. If that was his only accomplishment, he would
be noteworthy. But there is so much
In the late 50s,
while still a teenager, he hooked up with Scepter/Wand records. Through the early 60s there, he wrote and
produced material for The Shirelles and several notable soul artists. He also produced ? and the Mysterians;
possibly even on their big hit “96 Tears”, though that has been a subject of
In the 70s he
worked with Clark, produced “Dead Skunk” for Loudon Wainwright III, co-wrote
the Three Dog night hit “One Man Band”, and produced the Dr. John, Mike
Bloomfield, John Hammond Jr. super session called Triumvirate.
interest to me is his association with all of the cats at ABC/Dunhill records
that were producing (Gary Katz) and playing on Steely Dan records – including
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.
This led Kaye to
release two solo albums in the early 70s that allowed him full access to those
great artists. The first eponymous disc
is almost a Steely Dan backed record.
Becker, Fagen, David Palmer, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and, Victor Feldman all
make contributions, with Katz producing.
His second solo release, First Grade, even included two Becker/Fagen penned obscurities that they never recorded for Steely Dan. “American Lovers” is today’s SotW.
“American Lovers” was recorded around the time that Steely Dan was working on Pretzel Logic. While I wouldn’t claim that Becker and Fagen gave away their best song, it has the chord structure and lyrical intelligence we’ve come to expect from the boys.
bass on this number and Jim Gordon pounds the traps. Backing vocals are provided by Dusty
Springfield, Clydie King and Shirley Matthews!
Kaye died in
1994 in Warwick, NY, just a few miles from my hometown of Newburgh.
So the next time
someone asks if you’ve ever heard of Thomas Jefferson Kaye you’ll say – “Hell
As an amateur sax player, I always take notice when great players pass on from this earth. In September we lost two important jazz sax greats – Wilton Felder (September 27th) and Phil Woods (September 4th).
As I thought about their work, it occurred to me that both men played on Steely Dan albums. I couldn’t recall of the top of my head which songs they played on so I did a little research and was reminded that Felder played bass (not sax) on “Chain Lightning” and Woods was on “Doctor Wu” – both from Katy Lied (1975). Now that’s a pretty strange coincidence!
Felder is most well known as a founding member of The Jazz Crusaders. In that band he was known as a tenor sax player. Check out his work on Carole King’s “So Far Away” from the live album Scratch, where he holds a near one minute long note toward the end. The audience is whooping encouragement at first. As the tension builds, some guy shouts “stop” and there’s some nervous laughter to break it. It’s a marvelous moment caught on tape.
But Felder was also was an “in demand” session bass player on recordings for many popular music artists. He played bass on the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” to mention just a few of the hits. He also played bass on albums by Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell.
Woods was known as the “New Bird” in tribute to his influence, Charlie Parker. (He later married Parker’s widow.) The bulk of his career remained close to his bebop roots. He played with many of the greats including Dizzy and Monk.
But he also made some advances into popular music. He can be heard on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” and Paul Simon’s “Have a Good Time.”
Sometimes, like this week, the SotW writes itself!