Donald Fagen – The Nightfly – Round 70 – Not Graham’s Choice but forced in to it by Tom’s selection system

Tom’s theme was an ingenious selection donaldfagen-thenightfly system,  making us bring something from a specific location on the shelves. However in my case that meant I could work L-R on some shelves, up/down on some piles and back to front on on some boxes. Anyway dispensing with the other options that had been played already at DRC, my L6 ticket left me with the above.

Well, what irony, as I can only elaborate slightly more than on this classic review of an album,  but not much more I’m afraid. In Round 68 I responded to Tom’s Steely Dan offering with the following in the comments section.

“No, no, no, I won’t submit to liking Steely Dan! I’ve been troubled enough by Donald Fagen’s ‘The Nightfly’ during the last year and I’m not putting myself through that again. In 1982 I was 16 and must have been a bit of a hipster because I thought ‘The Nightfly’ was brilliant, sophisticated, clever etc…. Anyway, ffwd to 2013, when I purchased a CD of the same and this caused me probably the biggest trauma of the year and that’s going some for 2013. Like Aja, it sounded too clean, too smug, too lift musak. There, I feel better now, guess tastes change.”

All I can add to that unconscious review a few weeks ago was that this was an early example of a fully digital recording. Maybe when I was 16 the clean sound impressed me, today it just sounds like all emotion and life has been sucked out of the tracks. I suppose “New Frontier” is a track that can be tolerated, but nothing more. Anyway, I no longer own aforesaid CD as I have donated it to someone who might be prepared to give it an ear, even if he has noticed yet. Plus I’ve turned a corner and now have a significant number of CD’s in almost alphabetical order in a cupboard. Truly,

Rob listened: But it sort of passed me by. So i’m listening to it again now on my laptop whilst also unavoidably hearing the news of the world collapsing around our ears as we plunge towards a new Cold War of the sort Donald Fagen may or may not have been papping on about herein.

Anyhow, I think the first song sounds like ‘Stuck With You’ by Huey Lewis and the News. Hey! Another news link! Coo this record really is packed with allusion and foreshadow.

Gotta be honest, that first song is still going on and i’m about done with the time I set aside to write about this. I note that it’s called ‘I.G.Y.’ which presumably stands for ‘I Got Your (Huey Lewis and the News right here (Fagen grabs crotch and looks angry))’ making it a rare early example of a song title with parenthesised parentheses.

Second song now firmly underway. Still can’t really hear it. Am drawn to reflect on the cover which, it pleases me to note, apparently depicts Mr Fagen attempting to sing the record directly onto a platter of vinyl. This, presumably, not an early first.

It’s kind of zazzing away now and I’m thinking the collapse of civilisation in the Northern Hemisphere might actually be more interesting to listen to. There’s a fine line betwen smooth and bland and yet another one between sophisticated and featureless. I think it’s fair to say that this record is one side of that line and another side of that other line. I reckon if I were to listen to it over and over and over again and then over and over and over again that it would really worm its way into my head and I would start to feel like it was the sound of the whole wide world squeezed into one sleek and silkily easy to swallow pill. I’m pretty sure that’s what would happen. Rest-assured, once i’ve reached the required number of spins, I’ll report back.

Hey, it’s still going on. Seems like it takes quite a while, this thing. How long is it again? [*checks wikipedia*] Thirty eight minutes? Okay. Wow. Thirty eight whole minutes eh? And I’m how far through it by now? Three songs? Okay.


Nick listened: I don’t remember finding this offensive at all, or all that bland or alienating etc etc. But at the same time, I don’t remember ANYTHING about it at all.

Tom listened: About a year ago, Graham enthusiastically thrust The Nightfly into my paw making all sorts of claims for its greatness. I eagerly stuck it on the car stereo and found it generally bland with more than a few moments of cringe inducing over production. I enthusiastically returned said item to Mr Pollock hoping to never hear it again.

Twelve months on, post Aja epiphany and, hey presto, The Nightfly is selected in the great DRC random music generator theme night. A year on, Graham now hates it. I have begun to fall under the spell of Becker and Fagen having recently also purchased Steely Dan’s first two albums and I find myself voting to listen to The Nightfly as opposed to Graham’s alternative choices (!?) which he is practically begging us to choose instead. All a bit arse about tit!

So we listened to it, and I didn’t really like it….

Then I found The Nightfly languishing on my CD shelf the day after. Silly old Graham, he is getting forgetful! But during my extended loan, I have listened to The Nightfly a few more times and its all beginning to make a little more sense. It’s much harder work than  Aja, Can’t Buy a Thrill or Countdown to Ecstasy, it seems less consistent in terms of quality, but I can now see why so much fuss is made of it even if I am still undecided as to whether its reputation is justified or not.

Oh, and don’t worry Graham…it will be winging its way back to you soon!

Graham responded: Sorry no room on CD shelf. As Ed missed out, maybe he should be next recipient? We’ll find someone who likes it eventually!


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