“The Fez” by Steely Dan (1975)

“The Fez” was the song that solidified my standing as a Steely Dan fan. The first time I heard this song,  I’d been working in a record store for just a few short months, and my mind was already expanding from the sheer amount of music that I was exposed to. I knew of Steely Dan, and I’m sure I vaguely knew a couple of songs by them at this point, thanks to oldies/easy listening radio. But I can distinctly remember being in Tower Records one evening, filing cassettes in what was called the “Loud Room”  because it had a gigantic sign above the door that read “LOUD”), when a co-worker named Fred said “Mike, check this out”, and threw on a copy of The Royal Scam. “The Fez” is the fifth track on the CD, so he must have skipped right ahead to it. Soon enough, my head was bopping. I might’ve copped The Royal Scam on cassette that week.

Walter Becker & Donald Fagen’s usual studio perfection is at play here; there’s never been a Steely Dan record that didn’t sound clean. But “The Fez” has a funky bounce that hints ever so slightly at disco. It might be-next to the immortal “Peg”-the most danceable Steely Dan song of all time. I could throw this in a DJ set with a couple of mid-tempo boogie or funk tracks (or something like “Brick House”)  and it wouldn’t sound the least bit out of place.

Anything I’ve referenced when considering this song’s lyrics has indicated that the “fez” is a euphemism for a condom, so I guess when Donald is singing that he wants to be your holy man, he’s asking if he can fuck you. That’s a helluva interesting way to ask someone for sex.

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