Today’s Song I’m Fixated On: Steely Dan – “Dirty Work”

Some bands are very easy to get into. Some bands can take a long time to form a lasting bond with their work.

It took me a while to get into Steely Dan.

My interest with Steely Dan started with very small steps. They were another band with an album in a crate with a bunch of other records I wanted to listen to. They were one or two songs I heard on rotation on classic rock radio.

When I saw that they were playing at Coachella, I decided to give them a try. I ended up standing in the second row, completely enamored by the musicianship and the careful precision of the songs. But they also knew how to make a fun show that could rock.

Then, I thought it was finally time to start doing some digging into their catalog. Starting out with Aja, I started to dip my toe into their work. I was casually listening, trying to just get a grasp of what this complex music was. After listening to Aja a few times, I dipped into their first record 1972’s Can’t Buy A Thrill. It was noticeably different from Aja‘s pristine, mellow vibes.

The song I immediately clung to was “Dirty Work.” There is something in the vibe of the song that just made it rise above the other songs. The wail of the organ in the beginning of the song, jumping out of the mellow, almost McCartney-esque electric piano chords, sets the mood for sultry self-reflection. It’s able to ride that electric piano groove throughout the song, including a saxophone solo that seems like the perfect fit.


Vocally, the song isn’t that amazing. David Palmer, who was only in Steely Dan for this record, sounds like a million early-’70s singer-songwriter or soft rock singers. His lead vocal, and the harmonies on the chorus, could have easily been ripped from an Eagles or CSN record of the time. But the music and lyrics, a low-lit scene of lovelessness disguised as love, keep this from being your run-of-the-mill soft rock tune.


Filed under Song Reviews

2 Responses to Today’s Song I’m Fixated On: Steely Dan – “Dirty Work”

  1. “Aja” is probably my favorite Steely Dan album.

    Watch a great making of here:

  2. Jeff Adler

    One of the first concerts I saw as a teen was Bread at the Los Angeles Forum. Their warm up band was Steely Dan! At the time I thought they were too loud and their music difficult to understand. Now I love them and appreciate their musicality and talent.

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