Less than two years after splitting with Steely Dan hetero life-partner Walter Becker, Donald Fagen made one of the all-time great concept albums, 1982’s The Nightfly. If you don’t own it, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy at once. And maybe a pair of absurdly expensive headphones to do it justice. Fagen created a masterpiece, and in almost nothing flat.
After that… nothing. For several years. Writer’s block.
All we got out of him between then and Kamakiriad in ’93 was a single from the soundtrack to Michael J. Fox’s Bright Lights, Big City. I haven’t watched that one in over 20 years, and just added it to the Netflix queue to see how it’s aged.
The song is called “Century’s End,” and if you were in your late teens to mid-twenties when it came out, it described exactly how we feared love and sex would look at the end of the century. A sample:
Scratch the cab
We can grab the local
Let’s get to the love scene, my friend
Which means look, maybe touch
But beyond that not too much
Dumb love in the city at century’s end
But then we didn’t all die of AIDS or cocaine and the ’90s turned out to be even more big fun than the ’80s were. But when the song came out, things sure didn’t feel like they’d turn out that way.
Typical studio perfection from Fagen, along with a sly lyric and a surreptitious little hook. The worldview might be dated, but the pangs of youth are still as real as ever.