by Steely Dan

Original Release Date: 1980-11-21


Released in 1980, Steely Dan’s last album before a 20-year break from the studio was always the most divisive in their catalogue: Is Gaucho a last gasp—or a logical conclusion? Is it the product of too much time and money—or the disquietingly perfect companion to the lives of the creeps who’d populated their songs from day one? Throughout the album, you can almost feel the staleness of the central air running a little too cold from the corner office where a glum, middle-aged white guy wonders: “Wasn’t I supposed to feel better by now? The doctor—maybe I’ll call the doctor again.” In Gaucho’s opening moments, the reggae is stiff (“Babylon Sisters”), the romance is predatory (“Hey Nineteen”) and the ordinary people—such as they brush against the upper crust—are as disposable as hotel toothbrushes (“Gaucho”). By the time you get to the midway point of “Third World Man”. it’s hard to know how to feel, other than numb.

Like Frank Zappa’s 1968 “hippie” album We’re Only in it for the Money, Steely Dan’s Gaucho is both an example of a specific sound, and a perversion of it. You can almost hear Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s own discomfort with the polish and ruthlessness of LA showbiz running through the record. Of course, the guys took the money anyway—that’s dystopia, baby. Reflecting on Gaucho’s state-of-the-art computerized drum machine—one that had been custom-built by engineer Roger Nichols, and included a six-figure price tag—Fagen wrote, “At the time, it all seemed worth it.” When the album went platinum, the Recording Industry Association of America issued the machine—which the band called Wendel—its own plaque. Like a face freshly injected with botox, Gaucho is miraculously wrinkle-free. Just don’t expect it to smile.


  1. Babylon Sisters (5:51)
  2. Hey Nineteen (5:04)
  3. Glamour Profession (7:28)
  4. Gaucho (5:32)
  5. Time Out Of Mind (4:10)
  6. My Rival (4:30)
  7. Third World Man (5:14)

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Release Information

Key Value
Wikipedia URL
Format Vinyl LP Album Reissue
Label Geffen Records
Catalog Number B0034896-01
Notes Distributed in the U.S.A. by Universal Music Enterprises
Discogs URL Steely Dan - Gaucho