The Nightfly – Donald Fagen

The MARK’S VINTAGE VINYL page features something from Mark’s collection of recordings from over the years. Most of it is on vinyl – hence the name – though there will be a few entries from his CDs (remember those?).

The Nightfly, by Donald Fagen

  • Debut studio album by Fagen, founding member of the band Steely Dan. Released in 1982.
  • Steely Dan is one of my five favorites of all time (see my July 12, 2017 post for more on this great band). When Fagen released his first solo album, I had to have it. Of course, it sounds just like a Steely Dan album.
  • By 1981, Steely Dan had split up. More specifically, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had reached a point where they couldn’t work together anymore. The rest of the members of the band weren’t members – they were the best session musicians in the industry, playing whatever Fagen and Becker could coaxed out of them.
  • Fagen was ready to return to the studio in 1981. He credited 31 musicians who performed on the 8 songs on the record.
  • The record was one of the earliest ever to be recorded digitally rather than by analog. They used equipment developed by 3M, and after weeks of problems with the technology, Fagen sent his recording engineers to 3M headquarters to take classes on how to use the machines.
  • The album shows Fagen’s love of jazz – lots of old school jazz sounds on this record. His lyrics are more nostalgic and not so biting compared to Steely Dan songs (undoubtedly due to Becker’s absence). The title track, The Nightfly, is about a late night talk show radio host, taking calls from crazy listeners while dealing with his own loneliness and regret. It’s my favorite on the album.
  • The critics loved the album. It was nominated for 7 Grammy awards (though it did not win any), including Album of the Year. It made it to #11 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and eventually was certified platinum. The single I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World) (I.G.Y. stands for International Geophysical Year) was its highest charting song, reaching #26 on the Hot 100 and #8 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • Here is the video to New Frontier, a song about a geek who takes his girlfriend to his family’s backyard fallout shelter. Another amazing song!

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