Song Lyric Sunday: Steely Dan, “Gaucho”

I chose today’s theme, "yacht rock." Wikipedia has this to say about the genre…

Yacht rock (originally known as the West Coast sound or adult-oriented rock) is a broad music style and aesthetic commonly associated with soft rock, one of the most commercially successful genres from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. Drawing on sources such as smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, and disco, common stylistic traits include high-quality production, clean vocals, and a focus on light, catchy melodies. Its name, coined in 2005 by the makers of the online video series Yacht Rock, was derived from its association with the popular Southern Californian leisure activity of sailing.

Yacht rock, as defined by the people who coined the term, identify the following as some of the key elements of yacht rock:

  • High production value
  • Use of "elite" Los Angeles-based studio musicians and producers associated with yacht rock
  • Jazz and R&B influences
  • Use of electric piano
  • Complex and wry lyric about heartbroken, foolish men, particularly involving the word "fool"
  • An upbeat rhythm called the "Doobie Bounce".

A band that typifies this genre is Steely Dan. Founded in the early ’70’s by keyboardist Donald Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker, they started as a performing band, but as time progressed Fagen and Becker became more of a studio band, using session musicians to achieve their particular sound. Their last album before the 21st century was 1980’s Gaucho, where they were joined by a host of session players, a list of which appears here. I’ve chosen the title track from the album. It was written by Becker and Fagen; when jazz pianist Keith Jarrett heard the title track, he sued, claiming that the song sounded a lot like his "Long As You Know You’re Living Yours." As such, he was given a credit as well.

Just when I say
“Boy we can’t miss
You are golden”
Then you do this
You say this guy is so cool
Snapping his fingers like a fool
One more expensive kiss-off
Who do you think I am
Lord I know you’re a special friend
But you don’t seem to understand
We got heavy rollers
I think you should know
Try again tomorrow

Can’t you see they’re laughing at me
Get rid of him
I don’t care what you do at home
Would you care to explain

Who is the gaucho amigo
Why is he standing
In your spangled leather poncho
And your elevator shoes
Bodacious cowboys
Such as your friend
Will never be welcome here
High in the Custerdome

What I tell you
Back down the line
I’ll scratch your back
You can scratch mine
No he can’t sleep on the floor
What do you think I’m yelling for
I’ll drop him near the freeway
Doesn’t he have a home
Lord I know you’re a special friend
But you refuse to understand
You’re a nasty schoolboy
With no place to go
Try again tomorrow

Don’t tell me he’ll wait in the car
Look at you
Holding hands with the man from Rio
Would you care to explain

Who is the gaucho amigo
Why is he standing
In your spangled leather poncho
With the studs that match your eyes
Bodacious cowboys
Such as your friend
Will never be welcome here
High in the Custerdome

Source: Genius

That’s Song Lyric Sunday and Song of the Day for February 5, 2023.

28 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday: Steely Dan, “Gaucho”

  1. Funny they hardly ever toured in the 70s but when they reunited…they probably toured more then than when they were originally together. Always liked them…their albums had production quality no doubt.


    1. They quit touring in 1974, when Becker and Fagen decided they didn’t want to travel, kind of like The Beatles. You’re right: when they got back together they did a lot more touring.

      Fagen and Becker were geniuses. A real pain in the studio, but they got quite a sound…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Including my own, this is the third I’ve seen today that has chosen Steely Dan, but all with different songs. That to me is the mark of a good band, whatever the style of music is called!


    1. There’s a lot to like about their music, from the clever and occasionally sardonic lyrics to the complex harmonies of jazz that weave their way through the rock simplicity. They’re really one of a kind. If you listen to Donald Fagen’s solo albums, you hear a lot of this as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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