Peg by Steely Dan (ABC, 1978)

Steely Dan: where the four corners of rock, jazz, R&B and pop meet. Significantly slicker than Reeling In The Years, this is the single that finally took over the hump from their post-hippie rocker days to sleek jazzy pop that is now recognized as their sound. Bottom line is: the song smokes. It’s a nice little funky shuffle played with ease by the rhythm section of Rick Marotta on drums & Chuck Rainey on bass and the 3 chord clavinet ba-ba-baaaa from Don Grolnick. But that’s just the bed from which the flowers grow, namely Michael McDonald’s tight triple tracked backing vocals and Jay Graydon’s ‘perfect’ [thus saith, Lords Fagen & Becker] guitar solo. When the right ingredients are used and mixed to their best, you have something savory for the ears, like Peg.

The story goes that this song is about Peg Entwhistle, an up & coming starlet in Hollywood in the 1930s who committed suicide by jumping off the Hollywoodland sign after most of the scenes of the movie she was in were cut. She had been a nobody in Hollywood until her suicide which she is now infamous for. Of course this was never been confirmed or denied by the band. They prefer to let people think what they want and they write their lyrics in a way that is open to interpretation. I’ve heard another story that Peg is a porn star where in ‘blueprint blue’ and ‘foreign movie’ are referring to an X-rated feature. And the singer visits her, saying that he’s happy she’s finally in ‘movies’ but is personally horrified.

Read the lyrics and tell me what you think:

I’ve seen your picture
Your name in lights above it
This is your big debut
It’s like a dream come true
And when you smile for the camera
I know they’re love it

I got your pin shot
I keep it with your letter
Done up in blueprint blue
It sure looks good on you
So won’t you smile for the camera
I know I’ll love you better

Peg, It will come back to you
Peg, It will come back to you
Then the shutter falls
You see it all in 3-D
It’s your favorite foreign movie

The Peg that I think of was my soccer coach during the Spring of 1978. Wow, I thought, someone is singing a song about her. That’s how naive 6-year olds think. Anyway I didn’t like her. I thought she was mean. I wonder if anything did come back to her. A lost dog? Message in a bottle? Karma?

Check out the making of Peg from Classic Albums: Steely Dan’s Aja. It shows the attention to detail these guys had as well as being musical nerds.

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1 Comment

  1. This song was basis for (used as the main riff, with Fagen singing, “I know I love you better” directly sampled) De La Soul’s “Eye Know” from their debut album, “3 Feet High and Rising” Get it? I know/Eye Know?

    Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufZq_IQnkAI

    Reply

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