“Peg” — first song, side two of Aja (1977)

Aja is an album that for many is the pinnacle of Steely Dan's career, but which I considered for many years to be their first record that sucked. For a lot of bands I used to notice a decline, and there was often the record I considered the last good one, and then the record I considered the first bad one. At the time I felt alienated by the glossy, minimalist album cover, and the glossy, slick production, and what I felt was the coldness of the whole venture. Then I rejected Steely Dan entirely, ridiculed them and their fans for many years, and eventually returned to them with an ironic appreciation (much the same as Led Zeppelin) which then evolved into a guilty pleasure, and finally blossomed into full-on love. I have come around to Aja, and while it's not my favorite SD record, I now consider it to be the last album before they sucked. I figure, if I keep trying, I might one day come around to Gaucho, but it hasn't happened yet. Anyway, “Peg” is one of their cinema and glamour imagery songs, very upbeat, sounding like a walk in the park by someone with the world by the balls, but if you listen closely, by the end everything is a little off—the background singers are voicing something you can't understand, almost a little demonic. The last two lines are: “You see it all in 3-D / It's your favorite foreign movie”—which, while still being cinema references, could be taken as 3-D meaning harsh reality, and foreign movie implying something dark, possibly tragic. I've heard speculated that the song refers to Peg Entwistle, an actress who, in 1932, killed herself by jumping off the Hollywoodland sign, and if I squint, I can totally see that in this song.

—Randy Russell 7.31.18

Current ranking: No. 38