Tag Archives: Can’t Buy A Thrill

Rocks In The Attic #827: Steely Dan – ‘Rotoscope Down’ (1973)

RITA#827You can keep your expensive Zeppelin and Floyd bootlegs. I’m more interested in curios like this, a ‘peak behind the curtain’, as the record’s subtitle tells us, of Steely Dan’s 1973 American tour.

Recorded in front of a small audience at the Los Angeles Record Plant in late 1973, although some sources put the date as March 20th 1974, it’s a brilliant run-through of selections from the band’s first three studio albums (Can’t Buy A Thrill, Countdown To Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic). The inclusion of three songs from Pretzel Logic suggests the recording is from the later date, as this would fall after the February release of the album.

RITA#827aThe liner notes on the simple pink-photocopied insert that acts as the cover reads:

THE BOYS IN THE BAND ARE DENNY DIAS ON GUITAR / JEFF “SKUNK” BAXTER ON GUITAR / WALTER BECKER ON BASS GUITAR AND VOCALS / JIM HODDER ON DRUMS (AND BACKING VOCALS) / DONALD FAGEN ON PIANO AND VOCALS / RECORDED IN LATE 1973 AT THE LOS ANGELES RECORD PLANT / NO IT’S NOT YOUR EARS…THE BAND ARE PLAYING LOUD TO THE POINT OF DISTORTION / THE TAPE WAS EDITED (EXTENSIVELY) BY DEEK / EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS TO MR. TIME FOR THE GOOD SENSE AND SOUND ADVICE / THE BAND GET VERY, VERY EXCITED DURING TRACK THREE ON SIDE TWO / AS MELTS THE SNOW IT’S OL’ STEREO / BYE BYE / TAKRL 1924

The comment around the distortion is spot-on. It doesn’t sound bad, just the result of being recorded outside of the mixing desk I’m guessing. The band are on fire though, as you would expect them to be.

Hit: Reelin’ In The Years

Hidden Gem: Mobile Heart

RITA#827b

Rocks In The Attic #94: Steely Dan – ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ (1972)

Rocks In The Attic #94: Steely Dan - ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ (1972)There were two bands that my guitar teacher always tried to push on me – Van Halen and Steely Dan. Some of his Van Halen recommendations stuck on me, but I already had a decent idea of their back catalogue at the time. But Steely Dan? Why would I listen to them as a 15 year old obsessed with guitars. Aren’t they a band for old people? Needless to say, I didn’t check out his advice. I really regret that.

Fast forward a decade or so, and I’m in New Zealand on my first trip here. We borrow a car from the In-Laws (to be), and for some reason the radio doesn’t work. We’d soon find out that radios don’t tend to work unless you retract the aerial on the roof (d’oh!), but it didn’t matter – there was a CD in the car. Only one CD mind you, so we’d have to listen to it a lot, on our 3-week trip.

The CD was The Best of Steely Dan – Then And Now – the one with the image of the car graveyard (or I’d guess you’d call it an art installation) on the cover. We must have listened to that album dozens of times, and all of a sudden I was really wishing I could go back in time and take my guitar teacher’s advice.

This is Steely Dan’s first album – and in my eyes it’s probably the least Steely Dan of their albums. Well, their initial run of albums that is. It has a couple of big hits – Do It Again and Reelin’ In The Years – but it doesn’t all fit together as nicely as their later albums. The main point of difference with this debut is that this seems to feel more of a band effort. At this point in their career, it doesn’t appear clear that Steely Dan is Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Only the songwriting credits on the record hint at this. On the reverse of the record, especially in the liner notes, each member of the band playing on the record gets as much mention as anyone else.

The cover of the album deserves a special mention for how awful it is. I love the Steely Dan logo, but the art direction on the album – random images pasted over a shot of a row of housewife-looking hookers is really amateurish, and is easily the worst thing about the album.

Hit: Reelin’ In The Years

Hidden Gem: Change Of The Guard