Steely Dan: “Reeling In The Years” (1973)

Steely Dan is rarely viewed as a guitar band but, you know, they reely should be.

Kronomyth 1.1: The best guitar solo Steely could buy.

After this single hit the airwaves, there could be little doubt that Steely Dan was something special. The languid “Do It Again” had been mesmerizing, but here was a single that grabbed you with its joyous hook, slapped you around with its rapid-fire wordplay and then brought you to your knees with one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded (in one take, according to Elliot Randall). “Reelin’ in the Years” (or Reeling on many of the initial pressings, before Steely Dan inspired the kind of worship that would make you double-check a thing like that) remains one of my favorite songs from them over a long, amazing career. The band sort of repeated the exercise on “My Old School,” which is also a brilliant song.

The flip side is the album track, “Only A Fool Would Say That,” which joins a long list of Steely Dan songs that run through my mind in moments of idle reverie. It’s a pseudo Spanish song, although that’s real Spanish at the end: Jeff Baxter saying something about a fool (“tonto”). The percussion is almost identical to “Do It Again” – you wonder if Victor Feldman just brought the one set of bongos to the gig. Of minor interest: the original singles listed Donald Fagen first in the songwriting credits, which is as strange as seeing “McCartney/Lennon.”

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Original 7-inch single version

A1. Reeling In The Years (Donald Fagen/Walter Becker) (4:35)*
B1. Only A Fool Would Say That (Donald Fagen/Walter Becker) (2:54)*

*This was listed as “Reelin’ In The Years” in the UK.
*This was listed as “Only A Fool” in some regions.

7-inch single reissue (1985)
A1. Reelin’ In The Years (Walter Becker/Donald Fagen)
B1. Haitian Divorce (Walter Becker/Donald Fagen)

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch single in March 1973* in the US and Canada (ABC, ABC-11352), on April 13, 1973 in the UK (Probe, PRO-587), and in 1973 in Australia (Probe, PRO-10210), France (Probe, 2C 006-94.377), Germany (Probe, 1C 006-94 377), Japan (Probe, IPR-10333) and New Zealand (Probe, PROBE.61) with regional picture sleeve; reached #11 on the US charts (charted on March 10, 1973 for 16 weeks). Also released as promotional 7-inch single in 1973 in the US (ABC, ABC-11352) feat. A stereo and mono versions. (First appeared in 3/3/73 Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on 7-inch single in 1974 in the US (Goldies 45, D-2617).
  2. Re-issued on 7-inch single in 1980 in the US (MCA, D-2617).
  3. Re-issued on 7-inch single in Canada (ABC Golden Oldies, 1022-2617).
  4. Re-released with “Haitian Divorce” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in November 1985 in the UK (MCA, MSAM 32).

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