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Peg

by

Steely Dan



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about an aspiring actress, with the director/photographer promising her a big break. Whether he's leading her on or not is unknown, and given where the band got its name, you can't help but wonder what kind of actress Peg is. (thanks, Mike - Santa Barbara, CA)
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan are very particular in their choice of musicians, and they picked some good ones for this: Michael McDonald sang backing vocals on this song, and Jay Graydon played the guitar solo. McDonald is famous for his work with The Doobie Brothers and as a solo artist, and Graydon is a very successful producer and songwriter in addition to his work as a guitarist. According to Graydon, Becker and Fagen brought in 7 or 8 guitarists to try the solo, and worked him for about 6 hours until he got it right. Years later when Graydon produced artists like The Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau and George Benson, he was very particular and worked them hard to get the desired sound. Working with the egos and the business side of the music industry wore on Graydon, and he stopped working in the late '80s, something he could afford since he continued to receive songwriting royalties and kept his expenses in check. In 2008, he teamed up with ace songwriter Randy Goodrum to form the band JaR, whose first album, Scene 29, has a Steely Dan feel. Says Graydon: "It's like Steely Dan, because of the following: the lyrics are very intelligent with really cool ideas. The chord changes are very melodic, hinging on jazz sometimes. Melodies are memorable. It's intelligent West Coast pop music. I think it's the best record I've ever been involved with. We spent two years on this, and I didn't mind any minute of it. I couldn't wait to get in the studio every night." (read more in our interview with Jay Graydon)
De La Soul sampled the refrain "I know I love you better" on their 1989 track "Eye Know." (thanks, Phil - Liverpool, England)
Steely Dan
Steely Dan Artistfacts
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More songs with girls' names in the title

Comments (27):

I first heard this song in 1990 through the De La Soul sample on "Eye Know". I recognized the sample as a 70's tune I might have heard in my uncle's car as he was into more than just R&B. I stumbled upon a vintage record shop in Austin, TX in 1992 and really got introduced to Steely Dan at that point. Peg is one of just a few dozen perfect lyrical songs of all time - just the way it is!
- Frank, Houston, TX
Goodness, guys, why be so negative? Even if Fagan and Becker did write it with such seamy stuff in mind, we can listen to and enjoy it any way we wish... A song is just a song.
- bmn, Hisuan, Argentina
Annoying song...too repetitive. I got sick of hearing about "her favorite foreign movie."
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
Aja was to me like Sgt. Peppers was to a previous generation. I listened to it in its entirety at least once a day for months on end after it came out.
The Peg lyrics are vintage SD; vague, obscure and sarcastic. But I think at least some things here are clear in their intent.
Like many others here, I think it is about a nude pin-up model and/or porno actress...
"I like your picture, I keep it with your letter", the letter being the bio info on the back of a playmate picture foldout.
- Mark, Palm Harbor, FL
This song was actually written about my aunt!
- Kacy, Indianapolis, IN
I always thought it was about Aunt Peg... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aunt_Peg
- Tom, Philadelphia, PA
I heard a rumor that Will Lee was recording on the Aja album and quit in the middle of production due to creative differences with Becker and Fagen.
- Spence, Brooklyn, NY
Peg is a porn actress. Blueprint Blue refers to porn movies which were also called 'Foreign' movies. The line 'I like your pin shot, I keep them with your letters' refer to pin sized pictures that actresses typically sent with production letters to adoring fans. The telling line is in the chorus 'Then the shutters falls you see it all in 3-D. Its your favorite foreign movie' The term '3-D' speaks for itself on what you're seeing.
- Tony, Cleveland, OH
Bobb in LA, I was thinking the same: the story of young starlet Peg Entwistle who threw herself off the Hollywood sign, after her big debut. The studio hated the film, and cut most of Peg's part. What is noteworthy is that -- at the time in 1932 when she commited suicide -- the sign was then not a symbol of movies, but rather of "Hollywoodland," promoting real-estate development in the hills. So the reference to "Blueprint Blue" makes sense. The pin-up shot he keeps with "your letter" is her suicide note, found in Peg's purse and published in the local newspapers. And "it will come back to you," both a reference to the karmic retribution for her sin, and the fame that would accompany her as a result of Peg's action. Of course, favorite foreign movies are known for their tragic endings -- unlike the happy "Hollywood" ones. Would WB & DF give us a clue?
- thom, l.a., CA
I have really gotten into Steely Dan just recently, although of course I recognised the lead singer`s distinctive voice years ago, it is only now I am discovering just how many great songs they have made over the years.
- JUDE, LIMAVADY, COUNRT DERRY., Ireland
If it's true that this is about a porn actress, then the foreign movie line refers to exactly that: often foreign movies have way more sex and violence than do American ones.
- Ian, Paddock Lake, WI
Chuck Rainey, who played bass on this track, was specifically told by Fagan/Becker not to slap. He felt that the rhythm on the chorus called for it however, and set himself up in the studio behind a screen and in a low chair where he couldn't be seen easily. During the chorus, he turned away slightly and slapped away.
- Robert, Houston, TX
...."it's your favorite foreign movie" ??? what do you all suppose that line was about ?
- Shauna, Seattle, WA
this is my favorite Steeley dan song!
- Jennifer Harris, Grand Blanc, MI
One of the few Dan song's that has the crowd up and dancing at there concert.
- Andy, Rockaway , NY
Becker and Fagen auditioned seven guitarists before settling on Jay Graydon to perform the solo.
- Charles, Charlotte, NC
I was 14 years old in 1977 when Aja was released. My cousin, who was in college, tried to turn me on to his new Steely Dan album. I hated it. Like most white males growing up in the American Midwest that year, I was an obsessed Kiss fanatic. To be nice I told him some of the guitar licks were cool, which I actually thought they were. But I could not relate to any of the lyrics. He told me I would appreciate them more when I was older. I did not really become a Steely Dan fan until my mid 30's when I got some life and living under my belt. My cousin was right, each year I appreciate these incredible artists even more. Peg seems to fit the "love triangle" paradigm Fagan talked about where one person in a relationship is torn away by a particular lifestyle choice.
- Fredrick, Tampa, FL
This is such a smooth groove of a song, you don't really care what it is about. Michael McDonald singing background is just icing on the cake! His soulful voice blends perfectly with the lead vocals.
- Kate, Marietta, GA
I am a guitarist, and in my opinion session guitarist Jay Graydon's solo from 1:46-2:15 is one of the all-time great solos. I'd place it in the top ten.
- Kevin, Syracuse, UT
I think Becker and Fagan lol when they read these kinds of pages. They got the best of us sitting around trying to figure it all out. The grooves are awesome though. I'm a Dan junky. It's still best on vynal.
- Jackson, Wichita, KS
Cynthia, Margaret Thatcher was not prime minister in 1977.
- Liquid Len, Ottawa, Canada
Have you ever dusted off an ancient CD you never listened to much to begin with, popped it in, and then can't stop playing it? I've been compulsively playing my recently re-discovered "A Decade of Steely Dan", and it's given me a whole new appreciation for songs I grew up with, like this one, Deacon Blues, Rikki..., and so many others. (Even F/M has grown on me!! LOL) So Tom from Ann Arbor, I know where you are coming from. "Peg" especially intrigues me because of the implied message John from Wilmington gave. Like so many of Steely Dan's songs (so UNlike many other groups), the meanings of their songs, even their more "playful" songs such as this, are full of double entendres, leaving it to the listener to draw his/her own conclusions.
- Jena, Bonner Springs, KS
I was told that this song is about (then) British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
- Cynthia, Canton, OH
That happened to my father, Tom I've got him interested in music he never appreciated before. Def Leppard, Rainbow, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Steely Dan, etc.
- Joni, New York, NY
Couldn't Peg be Peg Entwistle - the actress who thre herself off the Hollywood sign?
- bobb, LA, CA
This song is about a woman who makes porn flicks.

"done up in blueprint blue" -referring to blue movies aka porn

"it's like a dream come true" -yeah she's in films but not the kind she really wants to be in.
- John, Wilmington, NC
This is yet another one of those songs that I immediatly scrapped/dismissed in my late teens/twenties, that is coming back to tell me" man you didn't have very good taste when you were yonger" Har.
- tom, ann arbor, MI
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