Steely Dan: Deacon Blues
Steely Dan, in their heyday, made a habit of being sneaky. They would use all these jazz harmonies in their music, and get people who “hated jazz” to love it. The album Aja was their commercial peak, and the sneakiness was here in full measure, if you knew what you were hearing. But with Aja, Steely Dan managed another bit of sneakiness: they took a long song to #19 on the pop chart. I know that Roundabout by Yes had charted even higher a few years earlier, but that was a 3:27 radio edit. Does anyone know if Deacon Blues was the longest song ever to reach the top 20 up to that point?
Another thing about Deacon Blues: I grew up in a non-sports household. About fifteen years after the release of Aja, I finally found out the meaning of the line, “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide...” But I loved the song anyway. There was one other sneaky thing about Steely Dan. When I asked my older brother to explain some of their lyrics, he would smile in an evil way, and say, “you’ll understand when you’re older.” Now I am, and I finally do.