Steely Dan and “Black Friday”: Un asunto financiero

Year 2001.

Just after receiving, with all merit, 4 Grammy awards for his LP Two against naturelos históricos Steely Dan resultaron included, además, in the insignia and transcendental Fundación Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When, during the ceremony, they were presented by Mobyamong the public there are artists of the caliber of Bonus (U2) Robbie Robertson (The Band); los cuales applauded dicho recognition a la banda de Donald Fagen y Walter Becker. Then, in said gala, the very famous group from New York performed its classic themes Do it again (with the collaboration of Brian May a la guitarra) y también ese sophisticated y mordaz rock llamado Black Friday

As we all know, this last phrase refers, at present, to the last Friday of November in which the Christmas sales are inaugurated and many shops apply a series of considerable discounts to their products, with the consequent avalanche of customers in the stores, not only in the United States but also internationally. The adjective “black” is due, in the last decades, to the fact that in the said dates, traders went from losses, represented by “red numbers” to gains, symbolized by “black numbers”.

However, the origins of this famous expression can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century. Let’s translate the song Steely Dan to get the first clue about the issue and then we will also talk about the recording of the theme itself, among other things:

When Black Friday comes, / Cuando venga el Viernes Negro,
I’ll stand down by the door / estaré abajo en la puerta
and catch the gray men / y agarraré a los hombres grises
when they dive from the fourteenth floor / cuando se tiren desde el piso 14.

When Black Friday comes, / Cuando venga el Viernes Negro,
I’ll collect everything I’m owed / cobraré todas y cada una de las deudas
and before my friends find out, / y antes de que mis amigos se den cuenta,
I’ll be on the road / estaré en la carretera.

When Black Friday falls, / Cuando caiga el Viernes Negro,
you know it’s got to be. / sabes que así simso tiene que ser.
Don’t let it fall on me. / Don’t let me collapse on top of me.

When Black Friday comes, / Cuando llegue el Viernes Negro,
I’ll fly down to Muswellbrook / tomaré el avion hasta Muswellbrook.
Gonna strike all the big red words / Voy a eliminater todas las grandes palabras rojas
from my little black book / de mi pequeño libro negro.
Gonna do just what I please. / Here, solamente, lo que me plazca.
Gonna wear no socks and shoes, / No me pondré ni calcetines ni zapatos,
with nothing to do / sin nada que hacer
but feed all the kangaroos. / save food to all the kangaroos.

When Black Friday comes, / Cuando venga el Viernes Negro,
I’ll be on that hill. / I will find myself on that hill.
You know I will / Sabes que así lo haré.

When Black Friday comes, / Cuando venga el Viernes Negro,
I’m gonna dig myself a hole / cavaré un hoyo para mi mismo
gonna lay down in it / y me tumbaré en él
’til I satisfy my soul / hasta que satisfaga mi alma.

Gonna let the world pass by me. / I will let the world pass by.
The Archbishop’s gonna sanctify me / El Arzobispo me santificará
and if he doesn’t come across, / y si él no desea llevarlo a cabo,
I’m gonna let it roll. / I will let the matter go.

When Black Friday comes, / Cuando venga el Viernes Negro,
I’m gonna stake my claim. / I will claim what is mine.
I’ll guess I’ll change my name. / I suppose I will change my name.

Steely Dan and “Black Friday”: Un asunto financiero

The most probable theory about the birth of the term Black Friday began to forge in the United States, just after the War of Secession; which left this country far from bankruptcy in 1865. Everything became even more complicated when, in 1869, unscrupulous powerful investors, called Jay Gould and James Fisk, through a series of tricks and deceptions in elitist environments, they applied an ambitious and complex system in which they began to buy everything, without stopping, to ensure the monopoly of the same in the Stock Exchange; This is a game that brought astronomical benefits to both entrepreneurs.

It was then when the decisive date came: on Friday, September 24, 1869, by order of President Ulysses S. Grant himself, the North American government executed an aggressive and forceful financial counterattack and launched its own gold metal worth 4 millions of dollars; thus reducing its price and throwing out the fraudulent and agglutinating maneuver of the aforementioned investors, Gould and Fisk, although they fled and avoided prison terms. All this colossal monetary shock provoked a general panic and caused the value of the golden material to descend, vertiginously; with the consequent sharp drop in the market itself. Due to that dark and tragic financial episode in the trajectory of the US, the term was coined Black Friday.

Although the vocalist and keyboardist Donald Fagen he declared that the song referred to the great economic collapse of the year 1929, in the EUUU itself, in reality the verses could also be based, mostly, on the steps of the controversial process that we have summarized; belonging to the 19th century Really, this is an elusive single Steely Dan it could be applied and associated with any type of financier chaos, throughout history.

The semi-fictional tone, in fact, could refer to a Wall Street agent who, with huge profits in his pocket, covers his retirement and flees, from the United States to the town of Muswellbrook, in the region of New South Wales ( Australia); taking advantage of a global stock market crash and ruined competitors. Suppose this city aussie an additional element of history, which he adds Steely Dansince Fagen himself explained that the band chose it on the map, almost at random, because it was the place furthest from Los Angeles (the headquarters of the combo for most of the 70s) that occurred to him and bass player and guitarist Walter Becker; besides that said southern city mentioned rhymed with the word book (“libro”), which appears in the verses; straight away The mythical pair of New York composers also mentions the kangaroos, they are always a reference in that huge country of Oceania.

In relation to the above, the phrase “little black book” could, perhaps, refer to an agenda in which the indigent commission agent has his benefits listed and also, in the notebook, various defaulters and people who the leading broker considers blackmailable. . In short, a very particular “Black List” of his, as an interpretative possibility about this part of the song.

On my own Donald Fagen he declared, at that moment, that Steely Dan he always wrote to have impact and that, in that 1975, the combo had gotten involved in social protest issues like with, for example, its own Black Friday. Although, as always happened with this band, their lyrics were always fairly encrypted, it can be said that it is very possible that, on this specific occasion, the composer duo Becker/Fagen launched one of their usual acid darts against the class of financial speculators that A lot of other people are in ruins.

The listeners, as always happens with the songs of “Dan, El Acerado”, formulated various explanatory hypotheses about this chronicle of Becker and Fagen, which talks about “Black Friday”. Recalcar that a similar issue was treated in another caustic melody “steely” as is the title Everything must go (an expression that in slang means “Closed for liquidation”), from 2003; referring, very probably, to the scandal that some executives of the multinational company Enron unleashed, which had to close its activities because of a scandal and a gigantic scam.

As for the recording Black Fridayit’s his own Walter Becker the one that leaves us stunned with that flawless rock-blues solo with a Fender Telecaster guitar, which another member of the band had lent him, Denny Dias and it is that, effectively, this last one already took a more secondary role at that moment; after a much greater protagonism of Dias a las seis cuerdas, in the first official times of the project; between 1972 and 1974.

This is a time in 1975, during the recording of the album Katy Liedin which Becker and Fagen had suspended their relationship with their manager Joel Coenhad given up touring to focus on recording their LPs and had dissolved the usual band format, to surround themselves with a legion of studio musicians and collaborators deluxe So, for the specific case of Black Fridaythe reliable regulator Michael Omartian pressing the keys of a Wurlitzer electric piano and on the other hand, David Paich (founder of the group Toto) playing a Hohner electric piano, they made a stereo recording with highly effective intentions; always under strict orders and under the meticulous supervision of the marshals Walter Becker y Donald Fagen.

Por su parte, Michael McDonaldafter having served a single season as a keyboard player Steely Danin 1974 y habiéndose ido luego a los Doobie Brothers, in 1975, he continued to participate with choruses of soul texture in many songs by Becker and Fagen, between the years 75 and 80; as is the case of her own Black Fridayfor example

As added, the then very young battery of 21 years, Jeff Porcaro (also initiator Toto), was extremely self-demanding and was not satisfied with his interpretation of this same song in question. So, being honest with himself, Porcaro himself communicated them to the “bosses” Becker, Fagen and the producer Gary Katz that, for the part of the battery, the latter must have resorted to more than experienced studio drummers Jim Gordon (el cual en aquel momento, ya había tocado, por ejemplo, con George Harrison, Traffic, Joe Cocker, CSN & Y, Frank Zappa and the rest of the amazing resume).

Finally, the definitive mix of Black Friday and the other songs from the album Katy Lied, they were executed through an advanced noise reduction system called DBX (purchased from a Boston company). However, the final result of the work did not satisfy those extreme “millimeterists” of rock, surnamed Becker and Fagen; so, éstos se negaron a volver escuchar dicho LP durante varios lustros.

On the other hand, Steely Dan he brought it without care that this single, from 1975, only reached the position n.º 37 in the United States charts, even though it ABC / Dunhill Records no le hiço tata grace eto mismo.

Temas como la magnifica Black Friday they began to reveal, already completely, the true artistic nature of the composers Walter Becker y Donald Fagen during the second half of the 70s, that is: spending 24 hours a day in the studio to polish his enigmatic and sarcastic songs, being completely listened to by the most impressive session musicians of the time and expressing, at 120%, the most avant-garde recording equipment that was available at that time.

Steely Dan: one of the most outstanding groups of the entire temporal line of music.

Written by Txus Iglesias for Rock Culture

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