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19 Kinds of Smartass

Mandatory Music: you must age along with everyone else while reading this post. Go on, press the button.

The Olympic-level smartasses in Steely Dan*, whom the internet long ago revealed as epic mischief makers, wrote the seamless groove “Hey Nineteen” about the frustration of an older man dating a younger woman who doesn’t share his cultural experiences. It bears the immortal lines “Hey Nineteen, that’s ‘Retha Franklin / She don’t remember the Queen of Soul / It’s hard times befallen the sole survivors / She thinks I’m crazy but I’m just growing old.” All the Dan Fans know that line, so the fellas naturally initiated a years-long prank on their fans.

Beginning with their 1993-1994 performances, as documented in the Alive in America release, the phrase “Hey Nineteen/That’s Aretha Franklin/She don’t remember/Queen of Soul” was replaced with “Hey Nineteen/That’s Otis Redding/She don’t remember/King of Soul.” While singing the song in the Two Against Nature tour of 2000, Fagen often left the name attribution blank for the singing-along audiences to fill in, and when most of them sang “Aretha Franklin,” he corrected them by saying, “No, that’s Otis Redding.” In the 2007 Heavy Rollers tour, Fagen has reverted to the Aretha Franklin reference, presumably for comic effect, since the veteran fans have by now been trained to shout, “Otis Redding.”

*For examples of their hijinx, take a tour through their extensive site, where they’ve trafficking in the hilariously absurd since the mid 1990s. Enjoy the first of the letters from their campaign to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Which may’ve actually worked—they were inducted in 2001, although likely in spite of their letter-writing campaign rather than because of it). Another must-see is their 1996 tour rider, which makes demands like these:

  • [the band members’] multiphasic personality inventory results have to be on our desks by no later than April 1 – this time the bloodwork is mandatory and we’re not kidding – and finally, everybody has to know in front that unnecessary eye contact with D & W is completely out of the question. 
  • There will be a mandatory charitable donation to D & W’s favorite project this year, namely the Paia Center for Feral Misses (working title). 
  • All technical personnel shall be referred to by the name “Tony.” 
  • You, Craig, are way too fucking tall – try and stoop down a little when we’re around, would you please?

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