Clips & Pix: Steely Dan/Black Friday

While Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had a historical financial scam in mind when they wrote the lyrics for Black Friday, not the shopping frenzy after Thanksgiving, I still feel the song fits today’s occasion. They initially recorded the tune for Katy Lied, released in March 1975, and the first Steely Dan album following the breakup of the original five-piece line-up.

According to Songfacts, the inspiration for the tune was the original Black Friday on Friday, September 24, 1869, when a group of speculators headed by Jay Gould and his partner James Fisk, bought as much gold as they could on the New York Gold Exchange to drive up the price. But the government found out about the ploy and eventually released $4 million worth gold from the Treasury’s reserve into the market. This caused the gold price to nose-dive and investors to get hit.

While Black Friday, which also became the lead single from Katy Lied, was inspired by the above U.S. events, it includes the Australian town of Muswellbrook. “It was the place most far away from LA we could think of,” Fagen later explained, “and, of course it fitted the metre of the song and rhymed with book”.

…Black Friday comes
I fly down to Muswellbrook
Gonna strike all the big red words
From my little black book…

Katy Lied was the first Steely Dan album after Fagen and Becker had decided to stop touring and turn the band into a studio act. They also had started to increasingly rely on session musicians to record their music. Black Friday featured Michael Omartian on piano and David Paich on electric piano. The following year, Paich became one of the founding members of Toto. While Steely Dan also worked with various guitarists on the album, including Rick Derringer, Hugh McCracken and Larry Carlton, for a change, it was Becker himself who played the solo on Black Friday.

The single was a modest chart success in the U.S., peaking at no. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100. But Becker and Fagen never seemed to care much about chart performance. Plus, like all other Steely Dan albums, Katy Lied reached Gold certification before they went on hiatus in 1981 following the difficult recording sessions for the Gaucho album.

Sources: Wikipedia, Songfacts, YouTube

6 thoughts on “Clips & Pix: Steely Dan/Black Friday”

    1. Agree, it’s a cool solo that nicely illustrates Walter Becker’s guitar chops.

      Given he was such a talented guitarist, it’s pretty remarkable that he usually stepped back and let others do the job. I think it says a lot about his personality. It was never about him, it was always about the music!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s so funny to hear that a Dan song is about what it purports to be about without some hidden, indecipherable meaning. Becker was a very fine guitarist and I learned to play his solo from the song “Katy Lied,” one of his most poignant. I think he stepped back not only because the song was more important but also because he felt he could not be, say, Larry Carlton.

    A friend of mine in Philly and I text each other song lyrics, seeing if the other guy can guess it. On Friday, I texted him a line from this song. Took him a while but he had the ‘a-ha’ moment and got it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s funny. Frankly, I don’t even try any longer to figure out the meaning of Steely Dan lyrics.

      Fagen and Becker had a strange sense of humor. Black Friday illustrates that at least sometimes they simply incorporated stuff into their lyrics since they liked the sound of the words or they needed something that rhymed – and then probably got a kick out of it when people desperately tried to interpret the meaning!😆

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      1. I don’t spend a lot of time on it either. But sometimes it’s like a puzzle to be solved. Or it adds a deeper meaning when you know that, say, “Chain Lightning” is about a fascist rally or “My Old School” is about a Fagen drug bust.

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