This is the first song I remember hearing from Gaucho, maybe it was a radio hit—the year after this record came out I was working full-time at Trophy World and the Top 40 radio was on all day and nearly drove me nuts. It's a catchy song, too, but my first impression was not good. On the surface you have an “old guy” (Donald Fagen would have been about 32 when this record came out) singing, “Hey Nineteen...” to who? Can't he even remember her name? A thirteen year age difference is no big deal, but when it's a 32 year old rock star and 19 year old woman he refers to as “Hey Nineteen,” that's just gross. But as I said before, I'm going to work hard at coming around to this, a record I've never been able to connect with. So I'm listening again, closely, with headphones and an open mind. Wow, it sounds pretty great with headphones, especially the fairly subtle backup singers, like when the guy goes: “Nice.” It strikes me that that's supposed to be funny, and it is. This is a fairly minimal arrangement, and the lyric sheet credits Fagen with synthesizer, but it sounds a lot like melodica to me. I kind of hate a lot of instruments (unfairly, but I do) like harmonica, but I hate nothing as much as I hate melodica. I don't know why, but no instrument sounds as sleazy and slimy and cheap as melodica. And I think, on this song, as much of a cliché as it might be, that's the point.
The song starts out, “Way back when, in Sixty-seven, I was the dandy of Gamma Chi,”—so, autobiographical or not, that's referring to the singer of the song in 1967 (when Fagen would have been 19 years old). Not to examine every line for logistics and logic, but I think the nineteen year-old he's referring to is his nineteen year-old self, who his 32 year-old self has little in common with. We've all had that feeling, no matter our age, thinking back on younger versions of ourselves, both wistfully and with relief. The thing about a song, though, is no one says a song can't be about more than one thing at a time (and they often are). So this bit of reflection is hidden in a rather humorous (in that it's in the voice of a cliché-happy older guy—“The Cuervo Gold, the fine Colombian”) sleaze. So there's a side to this song that's heartfelt and sad, and a side that's sleazy and dumb. Maybe I'm totally wrong about this, but I'm sure not going to go rooting around the internet for either confirmation or contradiction—if you look long enough, you'll find people saying it's about a Civil War battle, or space aliens, or their incestuous relationship with the artists in question (no one's saying that—those are just my extreme examples). The internet's not the last word on anything, it's just the signpost up ahead.
—Randy Russell 3.10.19
Current Ranking: No. 61