I hear you are singing a song of the past.

Walter Becker wouldn’t have cared about my 10 favorite Steely Dan songs, and most likely you don’t either.

But it’s raining too hard to walk, and I don’t wanna think about work, so here ya go, in no order but chronological.

Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments …

1. “Dirty Work.” Steely Dan fans love Becker and Fagen’s quirkiness — their insistence on wedging jazz chords into pop songs, their frequent name-drops of specific (if sometimes imaginary) places and people, and like that.

I go for that too. But I also think 1972, pound for pound, was the best year of the Seventies for Top 40 music; and I love the fact that these two weirdos were able to create songs that walked right onto the mass airwaves and held their own. Becker and Fagen would have plenty of time to get weird — and they would take it — but Radio-Friendly Dan is a distinctly winsome creature of its own.

“Dirty Work” wasn’t one of the two singles from Can’t Buy A Thrill, but I’ve heard it on the radio a bunch of times and it sure sounds fantastic, starting with that flare of Hammond organ that makes me sit upright and pay attention. And just try not to sing along (in your head, if nowhere else) with that simplest of choruses.

2. “Razor Boy.” I wrote about this mournful little cha-cha once, several years ago, and everything there is still true. Ray Brown’s upright bass meets Skunk Baxter’s pedal steel guitar and it works wonderfully. The chorus is at once sad and soaring.

3. “Your Gold Teeth.” In which Becker and Fagen match angular licks to a hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett sort of lyric, over another uncategorizable Latin groove. I suppose the long solo section in the middle is awfully rockish, but I do enjoy hearing Fagen and Baxter stretch out. Fragments of the lyric from this one often occur to me at totally random moments (usually it’s “Got a feeling I been here before / Won’t you let me help you find the door?”)

4. “Any Major Dude Will Tell You.” From my least favorite of the classic Dan LPs, Pretzel Logic. (You will eventually note the absence of Becker and Fagen’s reunion albums from this list; I’ve just never gotten into them like I did the Seventies stuff.)

This one is uncharacteristically gentle and reassuring, like a pat on the back, and as a much younger lad I once derived reassurance from it for a brief period.

(Of course, knowing Becker and Fagen, they probably wrote this lyric in the voice of one junkie singing to another, or something perverse like that. But on its surface, at least, it is unique in the Seventies Dan catalog, and all the more charming for it.)

5. “Bad Sneakers.” From my favorite of the classic Dan LPs, 1975’s Katy Lied, which features the Dan’s most consistently successful marriage of subterranean lyrical darkness with the surface charms of jazz and pop.

The swelling up of piano and melody on the chorus here — “Bad sneakers and a pina colada, my friend / Stompin’ on the avenue by Radio City” — shines like a Manhattan marquee; it’s Cole Porter for the age of ‘ludes and paranoia. Also a nifty guitar solo (as if that need be specified in a Steely Dan review). And is that another electric sitar on the intro?

6. “Chain Lightning.” The single baddest, tightest, most laid-back, in-the-pocket shuffle of the Seventies, which is saying a mouthful.

And while I’ve always thought of Rick Derringer as an arena-rock mope — the sort of gent perfectly suited to the 11 a.m. slot at Cal Jam — he delivers the goods in a big way here. Dig the chord-clang at 1:25; or the way he dances down into the muck at the bottom of the neck and then skips up again; or the snotty Jeff Beck-ish pick-flick at 1:41.

Not gonna write about the rest of the songs until I listen to this one again.

7. “Sign In Stranger.” From the “Dirty Work”/”Razor Boy” school of mournfulisms, I guess, comes this downbeat reggae dirge (and how often do you get to write “reggae dirge”?) about a future Wild West in which you can dodge your past misdeeds just by jumping from planet to planet.

Fagen’s narrator sounds like a pitchman preying upon the disaffected and spat-out, offering promises of easy redemption in the kinds of terms you’d hear on late-night infomercials (“Do you have a dark spot on your past? / Leave it to my man, he’ll fix it fast”) along with appeals to his prospective clients’ less savory desires (“Or maybe you would like to see the show / You’ll enjoy the Cafe d’Escargot.”)

The second verse does kinda go on and on, and the bridge ain’t B&F’s finest, but I like it anyway. And the big-brass instrumental coda rises up out of nowhere to suggest a happy ending, or at least a dead-end paved in gold.

8. “Aja.” A stone beautiful piece of music; the usual quotient of abstruse-but-memorable lyrics, with a gently Eastern tinge; and a couple of marvelous individual performances, most notably by Steve Gadd on drums. This glows like a sapphire.

9. “Deacon Blues.” The tale of a loser who’s decided he’s tired of watching the victors write history.

I find this more mournful than hopeful — do you really think the narrator’s going to find what he imagines when he crosses that fine line? — but brilliantly affecting in any case.

10. “Babylon Sisters.” Another flavor of shuffle here (it’s the wonderful Bernard Purdie on drums, IIRC) — polished and malevolent, with a Rhodes navigating a dark, snaky series of changes on top.

The mood eventually brightens, a little, but the whole thing sounds driven by energies, desires and situations that are untenable over the long term — lavish parties, younger women, general debauchery. Turn this one into a screenplay, and the narrator’s floating in a pool at the end.

(The Santa Ana winds are the perfect natural phenomenon to include here … and what is that weird sax-or-voice thing that rises up like a cobra at 3:21?)

So why is this tawdry offering one of my 10 favorite Steely Dan songs? Because, having spent the Seventies combining sunny exteriors with questionable interiors, Becker and Fagen had come pretty close to perfecting it at this point. If “Aja” shines like a sapphire, “Babylon Sisters” gleams like gunmetal.

Five for the Record: Steely Dan, “Razor Boy.”

A recurring feature in which I look at something I enjoy but have never thought deeply about, and force myself to clearly state five reasons why I like it.

Today’s subject: Track Two, Side One, from Steely Dan’s second album, Countdown to Ecstasy. Released July 1973. Also released as the B-side to the “Show Biz Kids” single (peak: No. 61) the following month.

And here’s why I like it:

1. The groove. What … exactly … is that groove? It’s laid-back and vaguely Latin — sort of a dejected, rain-soaked cha-cha. Or maybe it’s bossa nova; the mellow vibraphone licks would support that diagnosis. But then Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s swooping pedal steel guitar fits more perfectly atop it than any pedal steel has ever fit atop a Latin jazz groove. I have no idea what this shotgun combination is in the long run, but I love the way it kicks its tin can down the street.

2. The players.Even in their earliest days, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen weren’t shy about calling top guns to bring their songs to life. “Razor Boy” gets its pulse in part from Ray Brown, one of jazz’s greatest upright bass players and an absolute rock, whose handiwork is briefly audible at the very end of the song. Also, Victor Feldman, one of Becker and Fagen’s first-call session men, plays the vibes parts (and possibly some of the percussion, as well.) The song is subtly but noticeably better for their presence, and I’m glad Becker and Fagen had the cojones — and the budget — to augment their core rock n’ roll band with some jazz aces.

3. The subject. “Razor Boy” is one of those songs that leaves you wondering who the narrator might be singing to — and what they’ll do when the razor boy comes to take their fancy things away. I tend to prefer the “Like a Rolling Stone” theory: In “Razor Boy,” like Dylan’s masterpiece, the singer is addressing the baser, more materialistic side of his own personality:

You’d gamble or give anything to be in with / The better half
But how many friends must I have to begin with / To make you laugh?

(The later line “You think no tomorrow will come when you lay down / You can’t refuse” echoes Dylan’s “Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse,” too.)

4. The harmony. I would rather hear Fagen sing harmony with himself than hear the hired studio guns do it. (I like to hear the studio cats play, but the sound of Steely Dan is Fagen’s voice.) The arranging touch that lifts this song at the chorus and opens it up is as simple as a second track of high harmony in that distinctive Passaic drawl.

OK, I guess the entrance of the triangle helps too.

5. The chart placement. You knew my inner chart geek was going to make its way into this somewhere (he usually sneaks in at the end.) And sure enough, the ARSA database of local radio play turns up an interesting nugget: “Razor Boy” is listed on exactly one survey, from WLRA-FM in Joliet, Illinois, where it reached No. 18 on the local chart the week of Sept. 10, 1973.

The standard disclaimer applies: The ARSA database is not comprehensive. It consists only of surveys that people have not only saved, but scanned and submitted. “Razor Boy” might have snuck onto other surveys, on other weeks, at other stations that took the liberty of playing a B-side, as Top 40 stations used to be able to do.

I kinda like the thought of “Razor Boy” being a rare treasure, though.

Sure, Steely Dan’s following is large enough that no officially released song of theirs is truly obscure. But some are better-known than others. And I like to think of “Razor Boy” as a less-traveled street — a pleasure reserved for people who really know Countdown to Ecstasy, and people in one particular city in the late summer of 1973 who recognized the subdued genius of a song about “a cold and windy day.”