Steely Dan’s 70’s Beer Jingle Unearthed
via Cimcie Shares All / Youtube
Steely Dan, the iconic jazz-rock band known for their musical brilliance, has delighted fans once again with the discovery of a long-lost gem from the 1970s. This time, it’s an early-’70s jingle written for Schlitz Beer, a Milwaukee-based company. The track, tucked away in the archives of late Steely Dan engineer Roger Nichols, showcases the band’s signature style and wit, providing a fascinating glimpse into their early career.
Steely Dan’s Encounter with Schlitz Beer
The Schlitz Beer jingle came to light from the depths of Roger Nichols’ archive, only a month after the rediscovery of “The Second Arrangement,” another elusive Steely Dan track. The jingle dates back to the early ’70s, during an eight-month hiatus between the band’s debut album, “Can’t Buy a Thrill,” and their sophomore LP, “Countdown to Ecstasy.” The opportunity arose when someone approached the band to write a song for a Schlitz commercial.
Donald Fagen, the band’s co-founder, had a condition: they would write the song themselves. Longtime Steely Dan producer Gary Katz recounted:
“And as I remember it, Donald [Fagen] said, ‘OK, but we’re gonna write it.’ By which he meant, they didn’t want to do a commercial somebody else wrote.”
A Signature Steely Dan Jingle
True to their style, the sub-two-minute jingle captures the essence of a classic Steely Dan track. It flawlessly blends a jazz-rock arrangement with Fagen’s distinct vocals and clever lyrics. The jingle exudes the band’s trademark aloofness while playfully promoting Schlitz Beer:
“Once around life / Once around livin’ / Once around beer / And you’ll keep around Schlitz.”
Fagen’s rendition of guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s Spanish narration adds another layer of charm:
“When I get home from a hard day’s work / He says he likes to grab for all the gusto he can get / ‘Cause you only go around one time.”
Despite the jingle’s brilliance, Schlitz faced an unexpected roadblock.
Steely Dan’s Unyielding Independence
During the studio session, Steely Dan made it clear that they wouldn’t compromise their artistic integrity for Schlitz’s ad agency. A representative from the agency attempted to take control, but Fagen promptly asserted his authority, warning that the jingle would be erased if they meddled with the creative process.
Gary Katz recalled the encounter, saying:
“He started asking questions about the song. Donald said aloud to me, ‘Do you have your hand near the red button?’ Then he addressed the ad guy: ‘If you say another word about this song, we’re just gonna erase it.’ So the guy left. I didn’t hear about it again.”
Listen to the jingle below: