Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Steely Dan Countdown to Gayness #2: The Boston Rag

After using the phrase sonic perfection one too many times yesterday, I thought I'd go back, back a bit to when sonic perfection was ignored, or rather, not as important as a guitar rock oriented song. Countdown to Ecstasy was probably their most rock bandy type album. Easily played on the road, lots of guitar solos, no horns, backup vocals, etc.

There's a good deal of debate concerning what this song is actually about, I've read detailed arguments placing The Boston Rag as a classic example of an anti-war song. I've also read an impassioned piece claiming this song is a a send up of a culture of anti-war songs, and a send up of the counterculture, basically arguing people would rather get high than do what they need to do to help end the war. Kinda like Pete Townsends' summary of Woodstock being nothing more than kids getting high in the mud because they want to get high in the mud and kicking Abby Hoffman off the stage. I've also heard the song is a portrait of the former editor of a Boston newspaper, a cautionary tale to not let babies out of their cribs, a tribute to the Colonial Flag, and so on.

At the end of the day, it's best to take the song for what it's worth, the story of an epic bender being told to you by someone on an epic bender. Donald Fagen said about the song "the best thing about the Boston Rag is that it's set in New York." I think this gives credence to my theory.

Two major things to listen for:
1) The guitar solo, not the best Steely Dan guitar work by a long shot. But there is something about it that gets me every time.
2) At the end of the song when they are all yelling to bring back the Boston rag, Fagen yells out, "you gotta bring it on home." If yesterday's entry spoke of their "coolest" moment, I would defiantly label this moment their most rock n roll.


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