“The protagonist in ‘Deacon Blues’ is a triple-L loser—an L-L-L Loser. It’s not so much about a guy who achieves his dream but about a broken dream of a broken man living a broken life.”—Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker quoted in Marc Myers, “Anatomy of a Song—‘Deacon Blues’—‘They Call Alabama the Crimson Tide,” The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2015
The Aja album, released in late 1977, captured Steely Dan at close to its 1970s peak. Marc Myers' interview with Becker and co-songwriter Donald Fagen (left and right, respectively, in the accompanying photo) is quite revealing about one of the key songs from the duo’s classic LP. Even if you’ve seen VH-1's in-depth 1999 special, “Steely Dan: The Making of ‘Aja’” (available in this YouTube clip), you’re still likely to be fascinated by how Becker and Fagen slowly fashioned "Deacon Blues"; how their dreamer protagonist came by his name (it was at least partly inspired by the first name of the great Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Deacon Jones); and how the songwriters left enough musical space for great jazzmen such as Larry Carlton, Tom Scott and Pete Christlieb of the Tonight Show.
There’s even a nice bit of droll understatement by Fagen on their perfectionist ways in the studio: “We tended to go through quite a few musicians looking for the results we wanted." I'll say!