“Do It Again” — first song, side one of Can't Buy a Thrill (1972)

This is the very first song from the very first Steely Dan album, so the pressure was on (how do you pick the song order?)—but for all they knew, of the future, they were Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg who had a flash of insanity/inspiration and were no doubt able to name their band after a dildo in a William Burroughs novel only because the executives at ABC Records had absolutely no idea it was a dildo in Naked Lunch—and it sounded better than “The Becker-Fagen Fusion.” I was 12 at the time and didn't care. I don't think I bought this record until later, until well after I had fished their next LP from the cut-out bins, probably having heard someone rave about it in Creem magazine. This song was one of their most played singles, and I'd probably like it more if I hadn't heard it over the years more than any Steely Dan song. There's a fascinating artifact on YouTube: a live version of the band playing the song on Burt Sugarman's The Midnight Special (don't fall for the video someone made with that footage and the album sound slapped on) where Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is playing congas and vocalist David Palmer sings lead (it's Donald Fagen on the record)—it's worth watching for the 1973 fashions alone, but also great to see the band playing live, especially to watch Denny Dias on guitar. The album recording features an electric sitar solo by Dias, and a “plastic organ” (Yamaha YC-30) solo by Donald Fagen. It's one of their mini-noir, livin' on the edge stories, told in second person, about a guy who runs into trouble in a foreign land with an unfaithful muse. I'd also like the song a lot more if the lyrically terrible chorus was close to as good as some of the inspired rhymes in the verses: “gunnin'” and “done in”—“high climber” and “two-timer”—and my favorite: “beg us” and “Vegas.”

—Randy Russell 9.13.18

Current ranking: No. 40