Molson Canadian have taken over the airwaves as part of the Long Weekend Long Play on Radio Nova and tonight we will be playing Donald Fagan – The Nightfly in full, back to back with no commercials.
The Nightfly is the first solo album by Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, released in 1982. It was one of the first fully digital recordings of popular music. Although The Nightfly includes a number of production staff and musicians who had played on Steely Dan records, it is notably Fagen’s first release without longtime collaborator Walter Becker.
Unlike the majority of Fagen’s work before this point, The Nightfly is almost blatantly autobiographical. Many of the songs relate to the cautiously optimistic mood of his suburban childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and include such lyrical topics as late night jazz deejays, bomb shelters, and tropical vacations.
The Nightfly was certified Platinum in both the US and UK, and produced two popular hits with “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)” and “New Frontier”. It also received several 1983 Grammy Award nominations. This relatively low-key but long-lived popularity led the Wall Street Journal in 2007 to dub the album, “one of pop music’s sneakiest masterpieces.”
A message in the liner notes of The Nightfly reads: “Note: The songs on this album represent certain fantasies that might have been entertained by a young man growing up in the remote suburbs of a northeastern city during the late fifties and early sixties, i.e., one of my general height, weight and build. – D.F.”
The Nightfly was recorded in 1981-82 at Soundworks Digital Audio/Video Recording Studios and Automated Sound in New York City, and at Village Recorders in Los Angeles. Production was done by Gary Katz and the album was engineered by Roger Nichols; both men had worked on every single Steely Dan record up to that point. Many of the musicians had also played on Steely Dan records, including Jeff Porcaro, Rick Derringer and Larry Carlton. Similar to the Aja and Gaucho albums, a large number of studio musicians were employed, with the liner notes crediting 31 musicians as having played on the record.
The Nightfly reached the #11 position on the US Billboard Charts, and the #24 position on the US Billboard R&B charts. In the UK, the album was certified Platinum in 2004, despite only reaching #44 on the charts following its release. It has also gone Platinum in America.
A number of prominent artists have covered songs from The Nightfly. Howard Jones covered “I.G.Y.” in 1992, while Mel Tormé included “The Goodbye Look” on his 1988 album Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dektette – Reunion, as well as recording “Walk Between the Raindrops” on another album. Tormé also reportedly covered “Maxine” at some of his live shows in the 1980s. John Pizzarelli covered both “Raindrops” and Fagen’s arrangement of Dion’s “Ruby Baby” on his 2012 album Double Exposure.
Track listing (original LP)
All songs by Donald Fagen, except where noted
- “I.G.Y.” – 6:03
- “Green Flower Street” – 3:42
- “Ruby Baby” (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller), Arranged by Donald Fagen – 5:39
- “Maxine” – 3:49
- “New Frontier” – 6:21
- “The Nightfly” – 5:47
- “The Goodbye Look” – 4:50
- “Walk Between Raindrops” – 2:38