Thursday, March 08, 2012
"Gaucho," is one of Steely Dan's great songs: an etched-in-acid, curiously tender Tinseltown story that brings to mind the novels of Bruce Wagner. It employs an unusual perspective. Just who is talking here? To me, it seems like the speaker is a Hollywood agent, telling his client that he's doing lasting professional damage to both of them by hanging out with this gaucho amigo, this flamboyant gay friend, a guy who'll draw too much attention, get bad press, create a bad scene, hurt the rand. I get the impression from the speaker that the person he's addressing is a good, sympathetic person, and that the gaucho is a real live wire, the direct opposite of the speaker himself. That's pure SD of course -- the contrast between the squares who run the world and the people in Barrytown. It's hard for me to listen to the song without thinking about famous actors who spent their life in the closet. I would love to have heard what Rock Hudson thought about this song. This may sound a little too direct an explanation for a band that preferred to keep things ambiguous, and there are things in it that keep it a little obscure -- what does "try again tomorrow" mean? -- but it's a rather compact three-character drama. Also, the jazzy, loungy music gives the song the languid, bittersweet heft it needs.