Steely Dan: Reelin' in the Years


Reelin' in the Years


Steely Dan


Can't Buy a Thrill (MCA 11886)

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Donald Fagen (vocals, piano), Walter Becker (bass), Jeff Baxter (guitar), Denny Dias (guitar), Elliot Randall (guitar),

David Palmer (background vocals), Jim Hodder (drums)


Composed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen


Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, early 1972


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

"Reelin' in the Years" is one of Steely Dan's most beloved songs. The antagonist portrayed within has seemingly ruined Donald Fagen's life, and he questions every stage of the person's existence, from their teenage years to their lack of success in college to infidelity that confirms that the object of his affection was neither knowledgeable nor sensitive to his needs.

Implying that his lover has stolen both his money and tears and has left him emotionally bankrupt, Fagen's negativity leads him to croon, "You wouldn't even know a diamond if you held it in your hand," and, in his self-examination, he determines that he would never commit to the individual. Without denial, he reflects upon the past and, while he cannot forget it ("The trip we made to Hollywood is etched upon my mind"), his wish is to put it away forever, claiming that the person's "everlasting sermon" is fading fast.

To the writers of this track, those who lack education who claim to be geniuses are the real problem in the world. Backed by Elliot Randall's crunchy, distorted lead guitar, this song is the place to start when discovering the music of Steely Dan.

Reviewer: Marcus Singletary


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