On this day in music history: November 21, 1980 – “Gaucho”, the seventh album by Steely Dan is released. Produced by Gary Katz, it is recorded at Soundworks, A&R Studios, Sigma Sound Studios, Automated Sound in New York City, Village Recorders in West Los Angeles, CA and Producer’s Workshop in Hollywood, CA from March 1978 – September 1980. Issued as the follow up to the hugely successful “Aja”,
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
spend over two years and over one million dollars in studio time working on it. Ever the perfectionists, the duo are intent on producing tracks that are as technically perfect as possible, putting significant scrutiny on the drums. To aid in this quest, recording engineer Roger Nichols develops the Wendel II drum machine, used as the basis for many tracks, and in tandem with the live drummers on the album. The pair experience numerous setbacks during the time it takes to record the album. These incidents include the loss of the song “The Second Arrangement” when the multi-track tape is partially erased by a tape operator across all twenty four tracks. Becker is hit by a cab and severely fractures his leg, crossing a busy New York street while walking to the studio. The duos’ notorious perfectionism is carried to a new extreme while recording “Gaucho”, resulting in them cutting and re-cutting songs or discarding them altogether. During the two and half years the recording sessions last, they accumulate over three hundred twenty reels of two-inch tape, which represents only the outtakes. Becker and Fagen also wage a bitter battle with MCA Records over the list pricing of the album which is set at $9.98 against Steely Dan’s wishes. They are forced to capitulate when the label threatens to shelve the album unless they agree to the higher price point. In spite of all the behind the scenes drama, the album is well received upon its release, though it ends up being the last new studio album from Steely Dan for nineteen years. It spins off two singles including “Hey Nineteen” (#10 Pop, #64 R&B), and “Time Out Of Mind” (#22 Pop). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2000 with new liner notes written by Becker and Fagen, and is also released as an SACD disc.
It is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2008, as part of UMe’s “Back To Black” series.
“Gaucho” peaks at number nine on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.