Steely Dan: Hey Nineteen
Gaucho (MCA 112055)
Frank Floyd and Zack Sanders (background vocals).
Composed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA and New York, early 1979-mid-1980
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
While the narrator in Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen" may not be a true "Gaucho" in the South American sense, he gets his kicks from Cuervo Gold, Colombian cannabis, and a younger woman-seemingly receiving his enjoyment from sources that are definitely "south of the border" both figuratively and literally. While the pleasures he reflects upon are fleeting, the basis for his admiration is purely physical in that the two can share pleasures of an illicit (rather than intelligent) nature; she is so out of touch with pop culture reality that she has no idea who Aretha Franklin is. Her worldly vision is interesting in that, even though Ms. Franklin is best known as the "Queen of Soul" because of her vast array of rhythm and blues recordings from the 1960s, she was still a current artist and a viable record seller in 1980.
In that year, "Hey Nineteen" hit #10 on the Billboard singles chart and #68 on the "black music" chart, which proves that the woman referenced in "Hey Nineteen" is even more clueless than the "average" pop music buyer in an era when "average" generally meant disco. In fact, Donald Fagen's reference to Franklin seems to set the entire tone of the recording, as a soul chorus cascades over vague disco/R&B beats that could easily pass for pop. Riding a traditional rhythm alongside a variety of chord variations, this tale of an intergenerational love affair seems even more relevant thirty years on into an era where such trysts are more common than they were at the time of recording.
Reviewer: Marcus Singletary