“Your Gold Teeth”—last song, side one of Countdown to Ecstasy (1973)

Anyone who knows me knows that I consider 1973, with few exceptions, to be the pinnacle of movie/literary/music/popular culture, and this record—Countdown to Ecstasy (while I'm unable to name my favorite Steely Dan album)—is no exception. This may have been the first Steely Dan record I bought, as it was always available in cut-out bins for like a dollar (cut-out bins, in old record stores, contained poor-selling records that were heavily discounted and usually had a hole punched in the cover, or a corner cut off). It's generally considered not one of SD's best, but it is close to my favorite, on the strength of the six killer songs that are, strangely enough, all but the first and last songs on the record (which I don't like quite as much, but are still good). This song, “Your Gold Teeth,” is over seven minutes long, and not even close to too long, never boring, and ends Side One quite epically. It's another one of their sick, sleazy feeling, underworld, lowlife, gambler/lover short stories with enough odd references to make you think they know something you don't. It's not really a chorus verse structure—each of the first two verses end with the lines: “You throw out your gold teeth / Do you see how they roll?”—musically kind of feeling like you're... just... hitting... a... wall. I don't know how to describe it in musical terms, but it makes me think of a tail-end of a jingle for a parallel universe sit-com called The Hapless Hopeless Hucksters. Then... the song goes into what's more like a bridge than a chorus that sounds almost like a sunny commercial break, but ends with a really simple and great line with an internal rhyme: “Dumb luck my friend, won't suck me in, this time.” Then... when you expect it to go back to a verse, there's an extended electric piano solo, followed by an extended guitar solo, and then it repeats the bridge! Only then does it go back to the verse, at first sounding like it's just going to repeat the first verse, because it repeats the first line of the first verse: “Got a feeling I've been here before”—but then it goes on with a totally new verse, as inexplicable as the rest of them. I have no idea what it's about, ultimately, but there is a very strong reference, in the bridge section, to Cathy Berberian—a singer and fascinating figure from the past—but I'll leave you to look her up to your heart's content.

—Randy Russell 10.11.18

Current ranking: No. 39