Steely Dan’s “Peg” from their 1977 album Aja is a sonically complex piece that showcases the band’s studio-centric approach. The song tells the story of an aspiring actress making her big debut in the film industry, as seen from the perspective of her ex-boyfriend who was left behind after their breakup.
“Imagine that ‘Peg’ takes place at a seedy photo shoot in LA in the 1950s,” Fagen revealed to the Wall Street Journal. “All of the lyrics are from the perspective of the jilted boyfriend, who was still hanging around. The scene is seedy because show business is seedy. Even what most people think are the heights of show business still has the seediness of a vaudeville dressing room.”
To create ‘Peg’, Fagen began with a blues riff he had developed on the piano, which was later turned into a rock song with a sunny vibe. The song’s guitar solo became famous, but it took a lot of effort to achieve.
Seven session guitarists, including Larry Carlton and Robben, attempted to perform it, but ultimately, Jay Graydon provided the best take after six hours of recording. Graydon discussed his approach to playing guitar, stating that he always strives to play what the song requires and adjusts his playing style to suit the song’s needs. He believes that it’s not always about showcasing his own skills but rather about creating a fitting piece of music.
Listen to the isolated track below: