“Peg” by Steely Dan

“Peg” is quite an unusual song, and it’s interesting that this particular piece stands as a Steely Dan fan favorite. As explained by Donald Fagen, what this narrative revolves around is the vocalist taking on the role of a character who is watching his ambitious girlfriend engage in a photoshoot of the “pin-up” variety.

But there are peculiarities beyond that. For instance, Donald also described said boyfriend as being “jilted”. So as such what he is putting forth in the lyrics, such as encouraging the addressee, his girlfriend “Peg”, to perform well “for the camera”, can be taken as sarcasm. 

Actually Donald is speaking from the perspective of a tag-along boyfriend, i.e. one who has already been cut off but for whatever reason – obviously an inability to get over Peg – is still lingering around, watching another guy take pics of this woman he loves. So of course, there’s going to be some animosity in his heart.

Furthermore, in a way there’s more being inferred in this song than stated forthrightly. And what is being implied is that the photographer is proceeding to take increasingly-seedy pictures of Peg. That would really be the only logical reason as to why the vocalist is predicting that this session “will come back to [haunt]” her.

All in all

Basically, the vocalist is encouraging the apple of his eye to do something which he’s confident she will regret later. Therefore we also have to presume (being a “jilted boyfriend” and all), that he probably tried to talk Peg out of it beforehand, but she decided to do anyway. Owing to this, now he’s getting his roundabout revenge.

What this ultimately reads like is a song which is, most simply put, critical of over-ambitious females or what Donald Fagen referred to as “starlet fever”, which we will take as a woman feening to be famous. And it was inspired by an old Bette Davis film along a similar vein titled All About Eve.

And yes, even many of our favorite actresses in the here and now have done such things on their rise to the top which they’ve come to regret afterwards. 

There are also countless aspiring actresses whom we’ve never heard of that have behaved similarly, i.e. allowed themselves to be imaged in compromising positions. Well in this case, said individual’s pseudo-boyfriend, if you will, is more or relishing the idea that one day that’s what’s gonna happen to Peg. 

So even though he is not the one snapping the pics, it can be deemed that he is both petty and vindictive as he continues to encourage her to take them nonetheless.

Steely Dan, "Peg" Lyrics

When was “Peg” released?

“Peg” is a Steely Dan song that was released on 23 September 1977 via ABC Records (though now being under Geffen). 

This track can be originally found on “Aja”, from which it served as the project’s lead single.  

“Aja” is Steely Dan’s sixth album and the most-successful in their catalog. “Aja” is the band’s only album to have broken the top 5 of the Billboard 200. It has thus far achieved double-platinum RIAA certification.

How successful was this song?

Chart-wise it most notably peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 which, all things considered, isn’t really anything to write home about. However, this track is apparently a favorite amongst actual fans of the band. Fans of the band adore it so much to the point where it has even been debated as the greatest Steely Dan song ever.

More Interesting Facts about “Peg”

“Peg” features a notable guitar solo which, by the way, was not rendered by Steely Dan’s guitarist Walter Becker (1950-2017). Instead, after trying a number of session musicians to hold down that responsibility, the honor ultimately went to one Jay Graydon, who is also a prominent behind-the-scenes’ man in general. 

Besides for Becker, the other official members of Steely Dan at the time were Michael McDonald and of course Donald Fagen.

This track was produced by Gary Katz. Gary is famously said to have sacked Don Henley, of Eagles’ fame, from participating on “Peg”.

“Peg” was written by Walter Becker and the sole musician currently keeping Steely Dan alive, Donald Fagen.

This song was notably sampled onto the classic De La Soul love song “Eye Know” (1989).

Peg

The “Aja” Album

“Aja” was released as Steely Dan’s 6th studio album. Its official release dates back to the 23rd of September, 1977.

The album was named after its second track, “Aja”, a song written by D. Fagen and W. Becker.

The album was recorded using a lineup of about 40 musicians in a number of recording studios across the United States. 

“Aja” was produced by longtime collaborator of the band, Gary Katz, an American record producer. It was officially released through New York based American record label, ABC Records.

Accolades

The album became one of the most successful albums from the American band. It won the hearts of many music publications and featured on a number of prominent lists of top albums. In 2000, it was placed at No. 63 on Rolling Stone’s famed “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list.

It also appeared in the famous musical reference book of 2005, “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” by Robert Dimery. Furthermore, the album was selected by the Library of Congress to be part of the United States National Recording Registry in 2010.

At the Annual Grammy Awards in 1979, which happened to be the events 20th edition, “Aja” earned nominations for the following awards:

  • “Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical”
  • “Album of the Year”
  • “Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals”

At the end of the day, it took home the award for “Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical”.

Decades after the band’s remarkable achievement at the Grammys, the album again got honored with an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.

Chart

“Aja” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, No. 5 on the UK’s OCC. It also ranked top-10 in these countries:

  • Netherlands (9)
  • New Zealand (3)
  • Norway (10)

It has been certified gold in the UK, and 2x platinum in the US as well as Canada.

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