Steely Dan - Can't Buy A Thrill

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill


There was nothing quite like Steely Dan even in the banner musical year that was 1972, Rolling Stone named ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ one of the top 500 records of all-time.

Written by: Eric

ARTIST: Steely Dan
ALBUM: Can’t Buy A Thrill
LABEL: ABC Records
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Donald Fagen – piano, electric piano, plastic organ, vocals * Walter Becker – bass, vocals * David Palmer – vocals * Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter – guitar, pedal steel, spanish guitar * Denny Dias – guitar, electric sitar * Jim Hodder – drums, percussion, vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Do It Again * 02 Dirty Work * 03 Kings * 04 Midnight Cruiser * 05 Only A Fool Would Say That * 06 Reelin’ In The Years * 07 Fire In The Hole * 08 Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me) * 09 Change The Guard * 10 Turn That Heartbeat Over Again



As if anybody cared, Rolling Stone magazine named ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ one of the top 500 records of all-time in 2003. While I’m sure that list has changed somewhat it’s hard to imagine the 1972 debut from Steely Dan not holding its deserving place, not only in the Stone, but in the hearts and minds of most serious music listeners.

Taking their name from a strap-on dildo in William S. Burrough’s cult novel ‘Naked Lunch’, ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ with its hideously trashy cover art contained three of the 70’s most endearing singles – ‘Dirty Work’, ‘Do It Again’ and ‘Reelin’ In The Years’ all putting Steely Dan on a varied path to success that peaked with 1977’s multi-platinum ‘Aja’.

The Songs

There was nothing quite like Steely Dan even in the banner musical year that was 1972 although like every other band before them, the live circuit was beckoning and records had to be sold. Upon release of ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ the Dan reluctantly hit the road and while Donald Fagen sang most of the album’s tracks, his stagefright was overwhelming.

As a result future Wha-Koo main man David Palmer was pushed front and center while supporting a weird mixture of artists including The Kinks and Elton John as well as It’s A Beautiful Day, Humble Pie, Black Oak Arkansas and Frank Zappa.

Fortunately the band’s music was already peppering playlists and ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ had much to choose from. The funky sitar and organ work of ‘Do It Again’ was nothing short of brilliant and ‘Dirty Work’ with vocals by Palmer sounded every bit a hit although the latter didn’t do as well on the charts. Not that this bothered Fagen or Walter Becker who felt out of place in the music business from the get-go.

More comfortable in the studio, the hits didn’t matter but they kept coming and the up-tempo ‘Reelin’ In The Years’ landed Steely Dan just short of a top ten single.

Still, not everything on the record deserves blind praise especially the last couple tracks on side two, but songs like ‘Midnight Cruiser’, the breezy ‘Only A Fool Would Say That’ and Palmer’s other lead on the album the country rock-ish ‘Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)’ fill out an album with incredible heights and few lows making for a must have in anyone’s collection.

In Summary

With David Palmer leaving during the ‘Countdown to Ecstasy’ sessions, Steely Dan grudgingly endured another tour but it would be their last until 1993. A trio of albums and a major hit with ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’ followed, culminating with the single heavy ‘Aja’ put Fagen and Becker in the big leagues once and for all.

1980’s Grammy winning ‘Gaucho’ was excellent, but the decade with the exception of Fagen’s well-received solo ‘Nightfly’ was Steely Dan free. A mid-90’s reunion has been ongoing and has seen its share of ups and downs although I imagine a creative and colourful past like theirs would be almost impossible for anyone to live up to.

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