Steely Dan: Peg
Aja (MCA 112056)
Donald Fagen (vocals), Paul Griffin (electric piano, background vocals), Jay Graydon (guitar), Steve Khan (guitar), Don Grolnick (clavinet), Tom Scott (lyricon), Chuck Rainey (bass), Rick Marotta (drums), Victor Feldman (percussion),
Gary Coleman (percussion), Chuck Findley (trumpet), Jim Horn, Plas Johnson, Jackie Kelso (saxophones, flutes), Richard “Slyde” Hyde (trombone).
Composed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
Recorded: New York, January-July 1977
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
"Peg" is a rare instance in Steely Dan's discography where the music takes precedence over the lyrics. While the storyline chronicles the life of a Hollywood hopeful, the peppy funk tune is given the royal treatment by a stellar cast of musicians including Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Chuck Rainey, and backing vocalist Michael McDonald, a frequent contributor to Becker and Fagen recordings.
According to Rainey's interview during VH1's "The Making of Aja," Becker and Fagen were against adding slap bass to the tune but left it in after Rainey added it behind their backs. Good call on Rainey's part, because it helps the music thrive in an engaging and friendly sort of way and, with guitarist Jay Graydon placing the icing on the cake with a solo which, while technical, adds even deeper melodic twists, the track still captivates after thousands of listens.
Whether or not the subject matter is about long-forgotten actress Peg Entwistle, who committed suicide by throwing herself from the Hollywood sign's "H," is uncertain-after all, there are several actresses named "Peg" listed in the Internet Movie Database. However, you will most likely get into the groove of the recording before you consider the lyrics, which is a refreshing and welcome change in a catalog of music largely sequestered in psychoanalysis.
Reviewer: Marcus Singletary