Writers: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
Producers: Gary Katz and Steely Dan
Recorded: Early summer 1977 at A&R Studios, New York City
Released: September 1977
|Players:||Donald Fagen — vocals, keyboards
Walter Becker — bass, vocals
Lee Ritenour — guitar
Victor Feldman — electric piano
Bernard Purdie — drums
Pete Christlieb — tenor saxophone
Clyde King, Sherlie Matthews, and Venetta Fields — backing vocals
Donald Fagen describes “Deacon Blues,” a single from Steely Dan‘s Aja album, as “about this kind of alienated kid out of the suburbs who was looking for some sort of alternative values and turns to jazz and hip culture as something to grab on to. And the basic idea is that there’s a kind of culture of losers that he’d rather be part of than the general way of life in America. You know, they’ve got a name for winners in the world, and the loser should have some sort of franchise as well. And the name which he has chosen which conveys a certain power is ‘Deacon Blues.'”
The song references the University Of Alabama’s Crimson Tide sports teams as being “winners.” Steely Dan chose that after consulting their former tour manager, Warren Wallace, who’s a big sports fan.
Executives at ABC Records wanted to edit the seven minute, thirty-six second “Deacon Blues” to release it as a single, cutting out Pete Christlieb‘s saxophone solo. Fagen and Walter Beckerinitially refused but later gave their OK.
Christlieb’s inclusion in the song was accidental, according to coproducer Gary Katz: “We liked the sax player on The Tonight Show, and we found out who it was. We kept hearing this one guy who was great but we never could figure out who in the band it was. We had one player come down thinking it was him, and when it wasn’t, we called the other one and it was Pete and he was great…That was just a very uninhibited session with Pete because he just wants to play. And we like that sort of spontaneity.”
Aja — Becker and Fagen’s first Steely Dan album as a duo — was the group’s top charting album, peaking at Number Three on the Billboard 200. It reached Number Five on the U.K. chart.
It’s also their best seller, with more than two million copies sold.
Aja won a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording.