In stores
 International October 30th, 2000
North America November 21th, 2000

Format Label Number
CD MCA 088 112 055-2
CD MCA 088 112 407-2



088 112 407-2

From: Michael Phalen
To: Roger Nichols

Dear Mr. Nichols:
I'm not at all sure that you would remember who I am after all these years, so let me reintroduce myself - my name is Michael Phalen and I am the journalist who interviewed Donald and Walter over a couple of days during the Aja sessions and subsequently wrote the liner notes for Aja. You gave me a ride in your Pantera to the Chateau Marmont one night, my bloody shirt and tattered trousers notwithstanding, after Donald and/or Walter had taken the distributor cap off my rented car, as a prank - one of many tasteless gags that were perpetrated against me on the final fateful evening. We talked about a lot of things, you and I - your American flag jumpsuit, the future of high fidelity, the correct equipment needed for an authentic Chinese basket job, and much much more - but you may very well have forgotten that long-ago night drive up Sunset Boulevard, inasmuch as you've been working with the guys again and no doubt have had a lot on your mind lately.
Let me be perfectly frank - I've been busy too, and I have reached an impasse in my endeavors which can only be surmounted with your able assistance. Maybe I should begin my story at the beginning, okay?  I am, or was, after all, a journalist, and have some idea about how such things should be done.
You may recall that my interview sessions with the band (ha! some band! two manic malcontents, a "Harry the Horse" wannabe, and you) were, to say the very least, stormy. Most of the "fun and jokes" were at my expense, and I don't think anyonecan as much blame me for freaking out a little bit on that last evening at The Village Recorder as I was waiting for the paramedics to arrive to staunch the arterial bleeding. Feeling a bit put out, as I was at the time, and knowing that the last mixes had been completed, I calculated that a strategic theft of a precious master tape would likely go unnoticed for some considerable time, and that only at some distant future moment would the crime be discovered, to the utmost inconvenience of my tormentors, at which moment my revenge would be complete - Ha! - It Was I - long suffering Michael Phalen, who stole your priceless Aja multitrack master so long ago! and on whose account you are now unable to make nasty 5.1 surround sound remix blood money!
You may ask yourself, why does this cur of an ex-journalist confide to me, by all accounts an utterly loyal employee of Steely Dan, Inc., the details of this villainous act? Excellent question, dude! You are, I suspect, every bit as sharp as you ever were! To answer, I must digress a bit and give you some personal biographical information, the confidentiality of which I am sure you will respect. It is a sad fact that, in the aftermath of the Steely Dan-Aja debacle (that's what it was for me, an absolute career-killer), my professional and personal life began to fall apart in short order. By the winter of 1978, I found myself to be utterly cross-addicted to two over-the-counter remedies, the anti-diarrheal medication Lomotil and the decongestant Sudafed.
How did this sorry thing happen to me? Jeez, Rog, I guess the only answer is that it happened one day at a time. All I know is, I woke up on Easter morning in 1979 and realized that A) nothing had come out of either end of my body for a very long time, and B) I was most definitely not, as I had briefly supposed, "Jesus' Son", and C) my current living conditions, i.e., sleeping in an empty refrigerator carton underneath the Santa Monica Freeway, were not consistent with good mental health nor were they conducive to recovery. I knew that my life had become unmanageable and that , if I was ever to sneeze or excrete again, I  would have to surrender myself to a higher power, get off the pity pot [a complete waste of my time, under the circumstances (see A bove)], and get with the program.
Okay, this is running a bit long now, so - fast forward to 1997. Cured for the most part of my addictions but still somewhat delusional and maybe a wee bit obsessed with former interviewees Becker and Fagen, I find myself sharing an apartment in the East 90s directly across from their recording studio, where work is under way on the new Steely Dan album. My roommate, a young woman whom I will identify only as "Couch Girl," was, or believed herself to be, the frequent object of Becker and Fagen's voyeuristic reveries as they gazed from the 3rd floor landing of the River Sound headquarters building. I myself have seen them there often enough in the twilight where they would languish of an evening after having given up on the day's tedious overdubs. Couch Girl - this is the name with which they christened my attractive 23-year-old roommate, as I was later to learn from their studio employee, Per-Golem Nyquistlimid, during one of our all-night rap sessions at the Ski Bar, a neighborhood watering hole. Our friendship, Per's and mine, was overdetermined by our mutual loathing for the alleged artists Becker and Fagen, by our fascination with Couch Girl, or, more specifically, certain parts of Couch Girl's body, and our abinding love of Pure Theory and Mixed Drinks. No longer content to be simply the vile kidnapper of a famous master tape or, in Per's case, a disgruntled and obscure cyborg, we had decided one fateful evening to transmogrify, by any means available, the existing Aja master (ferociously bland and bourgeois capitalist tripe that it was) into a stunning and completely original work of mercilessly demythifying contemporary sound sculpture, with myself as author. By selectively and/or randomly replacing the original musical material ("tonespikes" or "slew plateaus") with new waveforms from my own self-generated library of musical and non-musical, or better to say, transmusical, sounds ("waveshapes," "package waves," or "containments," as the situation dictated), a bright and shimmering new work of A*U*D*I*O*L*A*G*E would gradually reveal itself on exactly the same piece of magnetic tape from which the old dour work had been dissolved, due to its stunning failure to reveal or even address the tonal incompatibilities or mimetic discordancies of the - where the hell was I? Never mind - the point is, I was erasing the old stuff and replacing it with stuff I liked better.
In retrospect, I am cognizant of the fact that I may not have chosen wisely in this undertaking. I should have realized at the time that a monumental spitework of the type I had conceived, aside from being grotesquely over the top and speaking poorly for the authenticity of my "recovery," would never be accepted by the bourgeois artistic community as equal or greater in value to the kitsch "masterpiece" it had supplanted. Alas, a neogothic cathedral of theory and doctrine anchored in the too-soft flesh of vituperative vainglory ultimately will not stand. Thus my hope for redemption in the eyes of my severest critics were, even at the outset, utterly forlorn. To my dismay, I discovered that, as I thought things through and realized the position I was now in, my radical resolve had congealed into a hard dry bolus of middle class guilt and sentimental recrimination of a sort that I had once believed to be truly unworthy me. From this sorry condition there was to be no relief. Allthough it has taken me several painfully long columns to explain all this to you, my only possible savior, I myself came to realization in a flash one morning in 1999 when I woke up from a deep drunken sleep thinking, "oh boy - am I ever f**ked!!!"
By the way, when I say "I am f**ked," I mean not just myself. but Per and Couch Girl, too. Because both had been willing accomplices in the comission of my "masterwork" from its very inception, with which I think any court would agree, if it came to that - something similar could easily happen to you, by the way, if you turn me in - but also because, in Per's case, he was the guy who actually erased about 3 minutes of the multitrack by accident on one of the last nights over at River Sound (Per had the keys, it was a nice place to work) - and in Couch Girl's case, because she was the second engineer, so-called, and because, unbeknownst to Per or myself, she was also servicing sttudio manager Phylo Goetz in the afternoons, long after she promised us she wouldn't do that sort of thing anymore.
Look - can you and your famous computer restore this rock classic or not? If so, you must help me/us - if not for our sakes then for the sake of posterity or or, say, the culture at large, or even for the $600 reward, which we could split if that's okay, no questions asked - Couchie and I really need the bread right about now, the conky tonks here cost six bucks a shot! Per is gone missing and thank God for that. The dermatological condition of this hapless creature is, in and of itself, sufficient to make his absence a boon to all concerned. I know you can help us - there has got to be some
flux or nanowebers or some fractal electromagnetic effluvium of some sort left on that reel of tape that somehow represents the original sonic gestalt of the song "Aja" or at least a reasonable approximation thereof. If so, I just know that you are the one and only guy who can make this American Tragedy come out right for all concerned. Help me, okay? Please - I'm begging you.
aloha, Mike
Just in case you can't or won't help me out on this one, we are laying low for a while at an unspecified resort locale, so don't look for us on 95th Street anymore.

p.p.s. Rog, we are both aware that the original purloined reel contained two songs, not one - so you are probably wondering what happened to "Black Cow." A complete explanation would exceed the permissible scope of this modest postscript - but, if I were you, I would start the search with a thorough sweep of Pete Fogel's apartment and be ready to reimburse him the $96 for the tab at Le Bar Bat which he not so graciously picked up one night last fall. 

p.p.p.s. I haven't actually spoken in person to D or W for many years, but I did meet their personal retainer Freddie Tuttle, Esq., in a cathouse in Denver last Thanksgiving. He seemed like a nice guy, and the two Czechoslovakian girls he was with seemed nice, too.

All Tracks Produced by Gary Katz

Reissue credits
Compiled by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker
Digitally remastered by Roger Nichols,
Digital Atomics, Miami, Florida
Coordinated by Andy McKaie, Mike Ragogna
and Beth Stempel

Design: Carol Bobolts/Red Herring Design
Photo Research: Jason Pastori
Photography: Michael Nortrop (cover), Kei Muto/
(back cover) MCA files (pages 2, 8-9, 15),
Marie Rose (inside inlay)

Representation: Craig Fruin/HK Management

Track List

Do It Again

Dirty Work
Reelin' in the Years
Only a Fool Would Say That
Change of the Guard
The Boston Rag
Show Biz Kids
My Old School
Rikki Don't Lose That Number
Night by Night
Pretzel Logic
Any Major Dude Will Tell You
Black Friday
Bad Sneakers
Doctor Wu
Any World (That I'm Welcome To)
Chain Lightning
Kid Charlemagne
Don't Take Me Alive
Haitian Divorce
The Fez
Here at the Western World
Black Cow
Deacon Blues
FM (No Static At All)
Babylon Sisters
Hey Nineteen
Time Out Of Mind
Third World Man

The Midi-sequense , on this page is "Do It Again" from "Can't Buy A Thrill

Navigation Bar

Navigation Bar
This page was produced without commercial intentions of any kind. If you, kind reader, feels that you find something that is offending or violating any persons or applicable laws please E-mail me. All mentioned products and company names are™ or ® trademarks of their respective owners. Please read the disclaimer.
Revision of December 07, 2021 - A Lost Wages Production..