The brilliance behind Steely Dan's "Reelin' in the Years"

In the spring of 1973, I was 15 years old. Musically, I was just starting to venture beyond mainstream rock, pop, and soul. But not much beyond middle of the road music ever made its way to the sleepy tobacco town of Chester, Virginia, at least not on the radio.

Driving around that spring and summer with my parents in the big blue Buick Electra, I would wait for one song that had found its way into heavy rotation on the MOR station we listened to, Steely Dan's "Reelin' in the Years." Hearing that exuberant opening guitar riff by Elliott Randall would tear the top of my head off every time. I didn't know much about Steely Dan's compositional or studio brilliance at the time, all I knew is that this song pointed in a direction I wanted to go. I was so happy to have anything on mainstream radio to feed my head in the spacious back seat of the Buick, as we tooled down the shoulderless blacktop of southern country roads.

In this episode of Songs You Need to Know, Warren looks at the origins of the Dan and does a deconstruction of "Reelin' in the Years." With the help of session guitarist, Jamie Humphries, he especially focuses on the brilliance of the Elliott Randall one-recorded-take guitar solo that Jimmy Page has famously said is his all-time favorite.

Image: Screengrab