Countdown To Ecstasy

The Countdown To Ecstasy Album

Format Label Number
LP Probe SPB 1079
LP ABC Command CQD-40010
LP Geffen Records B0034988-01
LP Analogue Productions AUHQR 0010-45
CD* MCA MCAD-11887
SACD Analogue Productions CAPP 135 SA


* The Classic Original Album
New digital remastering
supervised by the Artists
with all original graphics &
lyrics, plus new liner notes by
Walter Becker & Donald Fagen


Countdown To Ecstasy

BODHISATTVA: Dias the Bebopper meets Baxter the skunk beneath the Bo Tree in this altered blues.

RAZOR BOY: The legenday "Giant Girlfriend" of the Camden, New Jersey area sees the spectre of Benny King as a child in a nightmare of cosmic proportions.

THE BOSTON RAG: Enervated after an attack of unrelieved nostalgia, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter sheds his outer skin and stands revealed as a Wild Boy.

YOUR GOLD TEETH: In this number, several members of the Dan get to "Stretch Out".

SHOW BIZ KIDS: The Dan moves to L.A. and is forced to give an oral report.

MY OLD SCHOOL: A poignant memoire inspired by the "Giant Girlfriend", sometimes referred to as the "Anima Camden"


KING OF THE WORLD: "I think my face is on fire".


And how. COUNTDOWN TO ECSTASY is unique amongst the Steely Dan albums in that it is the only one written and arranged for a working ensemble. For this reason, the arrangements were influenced for the better by the known instrumental textures and musical personalities of the band itself, and also for the worse by the horror and prolonged ennui of the odious weekend outings forced on us by our manager during the very recording process itself. So, for example, the period charm of Jeff Baxter's cunning Echoplex work was somewhat offset by the damaged condition of his amplifier (and nervous system) from last weekend's debacle in, say, Tucson, or maybe even Portland. And similarly the pleasing stretched out quality of some of the charts was balanced against the fact that lyrics were not written until the last moment and then by a songwriting duo who were certain they had a Hellhound On Their Trail. Public humiation of the type we were subjected to as a result of some of our appearances during this period - let's say most or even all of our appearances during this period - while in the long run perhaps a powerful character-building element in the young lives of the authors, in the short term proved disruptive and generally detrimental to the creative process. Even our all-too-infrequent rounds of Percodan Scrabble™ were increasingly useless in dispelling the unrelieved existential angst that surrounded our little excursions and the days and nights of shame and terror which preceded and followed them. It's a pity that there is no textual sign available to us now which would be the equivalent of that plangent sound which Harvey Keitel made towards the end of "The Bad Lieutenant" - because that, o loyal fandom, would go a long way towards cluing you in on how we felt about touring in those terrible days.
gap.gif (816 bytes)Nonetheless, the recording process was not completely unrewarding. As a matter of fact, there is a substantial body of opinion which holds that COUNTDOWN was the best Steely Dan album, bar none. Generally speaking, the type of person who typically holds this position is not the sort of individual you want sitting across the table from you at a dinner party, especially one where alcoholic beverages are being served. Nor would you be well advised to give one of these guys your e-mail address or (gasp) your phone number. Should it happen that such a fan gets a hold of your street address or place of employment, you may as well call the police stalking squad straightway, before the situation deteriorates any further. You get, we trust, the general idea.
gap.gif (816 bytes)Having established that the COUNTDOWN album is not without its adherents, perhaps we should spend a few moments wondering why. Well do we recall our chagrin, during the mastering sessions,


when listening to the opening snare drum beats on "Bodhisattva" - surely Doug Sax the mastering engineer noticed, as we did, that there was a slight retard about halfway through? Did he not see, as we now did, that the backwards tape echo effect in "King of the World" was a bad idea, badly executed? What about that tape loop we used for "Show Biz Kids"? Was that the stroke of genius we originally thought it was, or just another horrible mistake?
gap.gif (816 bytes)As a matter of fact, the tape loop itself, mistake or no, was quite a tricky bit of business to put into practice. We were using four inch tape in those days, running at 180 ips, and to make a thirtytwo bar loop at that tempo required the construction of a special apparatus to accomodate the 1200 plus feet of tape, which ran from one end of Studio A to the other, out the fucking door into the hall, in the door into Ed Michel's space jazz production headquarters, back out into the hall, up the stairs and into the inner sanctum of Studio B, back out into the reception area where Spooky, our favorite receptionist, was ordering grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches all around, into the shop where Ken Klinger sat hunched over his overloaded workbench, where it met up with a servostatic accelerometer mounted on a turbodiesel forklift idler wheel...
gap.gif (816 bytes)All right. Two inch tape, 30 ips, four bars, 30 feet, out into the hall and back, and that's all. These notes are meant to be of a certain lenght, and interestning if possible. But it still took a bit of doing, at that.
gap.gif (816 bytes)Meanwhile, we were forced to leave town for a gig in Phoenix - we had been booked into some sort of outdoor venue at an amusement park which featured a huge salt water pool with built-in waves. The ambient temperature was about 116 degrees Fahrenheit, as we recall. Some band members undertook misguided but enthusiastic attempts to stay hydrated in these harsh conditions by imbibing large quantaties of the local beer. These factors and the Fellini-esque qualities of the gig itself conspired to produce a very strange and dissatisfying performance, marked by some pervasive and unintentional quarter-tone tuning effects, as well as other anomalies. The upshot of this soul-rattling experience was that the six-man configuration inaugurated towards the end of the recording of CAN'T BUY A THRILL was deemed obsolete: the band reverted to its original five man lineup, with David Palmer departing for greener pastures without having sung a note on the actual COUNTDOWN recording.
gap.gif (816 bytes)Towards the end of the project, we were working on the intro melody for "The Boston Rag". No matter how many times we punched in on the only available track, the same three notes of Denny's


guitar line would not be record properly. Roger made a spiffy little window edit (look it up), and we were able to punch in the missing notes. For a lark we sent the little piece of defective tape back to 3M. Months later, they sent us their report. The piece of tape had a tiny blister where the oxide had bubbled up from the backing. Inside this little blister was a drop of mustard. Some clot up in Minnesota had taken his sandwich into the room in the plant where the huge sheets of mylar were coated with oxide, taken a bite and squirted a tiny drop of mustard onto the mylar on the exact spot where we were going to put Denny's guitar part. In effect, our efforts had been sabotaged in advance by a careless worker. This was to haunt us over and over in the years to come.
gap.gif (816 bytes)Listening back to COUNTDOWN now (something we haven't actually done ourselves), who could know that the track "Razor Boy" originally had a reggae drum part that was replaced after all the other stuff was almost done? Or that Denny's all-night-long perfectionist mix of "King of the World" had to be scrapped because it was "too perfect"? Or that several figures were added to Dorothy White's original cover painting at the insistence of ABC president Jay Lasker, who found the discrepancy between five band members and three figures on the cover unacceptable?
gap.gif (816 bytes)When the album was finally finished and mastered, a playback was arranged for the executives and promotion staff of ABC Dunhill Records. The idea was to get everybody excited about the new "product" and send the radio guys running out into the streets foaming at the mouths. Folding chairs were set up in the playing room of the little studio upstairs and the big boys filed in, Hawaiian shirts, cigars and all. They listened in silence to the playback and at the end offered up some tepid congratulations. The confusion and disappointment that filled the room was thick and nasty as a horny mother. Coming on the heels of the commercially successful first album, the company had been hoping for a second album blockbuster that would zoom to the top of the charts and stay there for weeks, months, years. Instead they found themselves with what must have sounded to them like some sort of weird German art music, or worse. Later, when they found out that we have fired our suave Daltryesque lead singer, stolen the proofs for the album cover during a dispute over the final layout, and perversely insisted on choosing for a single a tune whose lyrics contained the word "fuck," they were not surprised. They'd seen this kind of thing before. We were forced to edit out the offending line, leaving the setup line intact - a joke without a punchline.
(to be continued)

Countdown To Ecstasy

DENNY DIAS: Guitar, Stereo Mixmaster General
Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar
WALTER BECKER: Electric Bass Guitar,
Harmonica, and Vocals
JIM HODDER: Drums, Percussion, and Vocals
DONALD FAGEN: Piano, Electric Piano,
Synthesizer, and Mainly Vocals

Additional background vocals: Sherlie
Matthews, Myrna Matthews, Patricia Hall,
David Palmer, Royce Jones, James Rolleston, Michael Fenelly

Victor Feldman: Vibes, Marimba, and
Ray Brown: String Bass on Razor Boy
Rick Derringer: Slide Guitar on Show Biz Kids
Ben Benay: Acoustic Guitar

Grunt: Warren Wallace
Pilot: John Famular
Weekend Knob Job: Tim Weston
Four Bits: Sue Clark

All Songs written by Donald Fagen
and Walter Becker
©1973 MCA Music Publishing, A Division
of Universal Studios, Inc. (ASCAP).

Produced by Gary Katz

Engineered by Roger (The Immortal) Nichols

Originally Assisted by Miss Natalie at
Village Recorder, Santa Monica
Rick Derringer recorded at Carabou Ranch,
Nederland, Colorado
(Courtesy of Columbia Records)

Original Album Design: Dotty of Hollywood
Photograph by Ed Caraeff

*Reissue Produced by Walter Becker
& Donald Fagen
Remastering Engineer: Roger Nichols
Remastered at Riversound Studios, New York
Reissue Design: Red Herring Design/NYC

Track List

Razor Boy
Boston Rag
Your Gold Teeth
Show Biz Kids
My Old School
Pearl Of The Quarter
King Of The World

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Would You take me by the hand
Would You take me by the hand
Can you show me
The shine of your Japan
The sparkle of your China
Can you show me

I'm gonna sell my house in town
I'm gonna sell my house in town
And I'll be there
To shine in your Japan
To sparkle in your China
Yes I'll be there

Drums: Jim Hodder
Bass: Walter Becker
Guitar: Denny Dias (1st solo)
Jeff Baxter (2nd solo)
Piano/Synthesizer: Donald Fagen

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Razor Boy

I hear you are singing a song of the past
I see no tears
I know that you know that it may be the last
For many years
You'd gamble or give anything
To be in with the better half
But how many friends must I have
To begin with to make you laugh

Will you still have a song to sing
When The razor boy comes
And takes your fancy things away
Will you still be singing it
On that cold and windy day

You know that the coming is so close at
You feel all right
I guess only women in cages can stand
This kind of night
I guess only women in cages
Can play down
The things they lose
You think no tomorrow will come
When you lay down
You can't refuse


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Boston Rag

Any news was good news
And the feeling was bad at home
I was out of my mind and you
Were on the phone
Lonnie was the kingpin
Back in nineteen sixty-five
I was singing this song
When Lonnie came alive

Bring back the Boston Rag
Tell all your buddies
That it ain't no drag
Bring back the Boston Rag

You were Lady Bayside
There was nothing that I could do
So I pointed my car down
Seventh Avenue
Lonnie swept the playroom
And he swallowed up all he found
It was forty-eight hours til
Lonnie came around


[Chorus and fade]

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Your Gold Teeth

Got a feeling I've been here before
Watching as you cross the killing floor
You know you'll have to pay it all
You'll pay today or pay tomorrow
You fasten up your beaded gown
Then you try to tie me down
Do you work it out one by one
Or played in combination.
You throw out your gold teeth.
Do you see how they roll

I have seen your iron and your brass.
Can't you see it shine behind the glass
Your fortune is your roving eye
Your mouth and legs
Your gift for the runaround
Torture is the main attraction
I don't need that kind of action
You don't have to dance for me
I've seen your dance before
Do you throw out your gold teeth
Do you see how they roll

Tobacco they grow in Peking
In the Year of the Locust
You'll see a sad thing
Even Cathy Berberian knows
There's one roulade she can't sing.
Dumb luck my friend
Won't suck me in this time.

Got a feeling I've been here before
Won't you let me help you find the door
All you got to do is use
Your silver shoes
A gift for the runaround
Use your knack darlin'
Take one step back darlin'
There ain't nothing in Chicago
For a monkey woman to do
Do throw out your gold teeth
Do you see how they roll

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Show Biz Kids

While the poor people sleepin'
With the shade on the light
While the poor people sleepin'
All the stars come out at night
While the poor people sleepin'
With the shade on the light
While the poor people sleepin'
All the stars come out at night

After closing time
At the Guernsey Fair
I detect the El Supremo
From the room at the top of the stairs
Well I've been around the world
And I've been in the Washington Zoo
And in all my travels
As the facts unravel
I've found this to be true


They got the house on the corner
With the rug inside
They got the booze they need
All that money can buy
They got the shapely bods
They got the Steely Dan T-shirt
And for the coup-de-gras
They're outrageous
Honey let me tell you


Show biz kids making movies
Of themselves you know they
Don't give a fuck about anybody else

You know you go to ...
Lost Wages, Lost Wages, go to Lost Wages

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My Old School

I remember the thirty-five sweet goodbyes
When you put me on the Wolverine
Up to Annandale
It was still September
When your daddy was quite surprised
To find you with the working girls
In the county jail

I was smoking with the boys upstairs
When I heard about the whole affair
I said oh no
William and Mary won't do

Well I did not think the girl
Could be so cruel
And I'm never going back
To my old school

Oleanders growing outside your door
Soon they're gonna be in bloom
Up in Annandale
I can't stand her
Doing what she did before
Leaving like a gypsy queen
In a fairy tale

Well I hear the whistle but I can't go
I'm gonna take her down to Mexico
She said oh no
Guadalajara won't do


California tumbles into the sea
That'll be the day I go
Back to Annandale
Tried to warn you
About Chino and Daddy Gee
But I can't seem to get to you
Through the U.S. mail
Well I hear the whistle but I can't go
I'm gonna take her down to Mexico
She said oh no
Guadalajara won't do


[Solos to fade]

Drums: Jim Hodder
Bass: Walter Becker
Guitar: Denny Dias,
Jeff Baxter (solo)
Piano: Donald Fagen

Backup Vocals: Sherlie Matthews, Myrna
Matthews, Patricia Hall
Horns: Lanny Morgan, Bill Perkins, Ernie
Watts, John Rotella

Horns arranged by Jimmie Haskell

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Pearl Of The Quarter

On the water down in New Orleans
My baby's the pearl of the quarter
She's a charmer like you never seen
Singing voulez voulez voulez vous
Where the sailor spends his hard earned
Red beans and rice for a quarter
You can see her almost any day
Singing voulez voulez voulez vous

And if you hear from my Louise
Won't you tell her I love her so
Please make it clear
When her day is done
She got a place to go

I walked alone down the miracle mile
I met my baby by the shrine of the martyr
She stole my heart with her Cajun smile
Singing voulez voulez voulez vous
She loved the million dollar words I say
She loved the candy and the flowers that I
bought her
She said she loved me and was on her way
Singing voulez voulez voulez vous


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King Of The World

Hello one and all
Was it you I used to know
Can't you hear me call
On this old ham radio
All I've got to say
I'm alive and feeling fine
If you come my way
You can share my poison wine

No marigolds in the promised land
There's a hole in the ground
Where they used to grow
Any man left on the Rio Grande
Is the king of the world
As far as I know

I don't want your bread
I don't need your helping hand
I can't be no savage
I can't be no highwayman
Show me where you are
You and I will spend this day
Driving in my car
Through the ruins of Santa Fe


I'm reading last years papers
Although I don't know why
Assassins cons and rapers
Might as well die

If you come around
No more pain and no regrets
Watch the sun go brown
Smoking cobalt cigarettes
There's no need to hide
Taking things the easy way
If I stay inside
I might live til Saturday


Drums: Jim Hodder
Bass: Walter Becker
Guitar: Denny Dias, Jeff Baxter
Piano: Donald Fagen

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The Midi-sequense , on this page is My Old School.

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Revision of July 31, 2023 - A Lost Wages Production..