Hey Nineteen

Album: Gaucho (1980)
Charted: 10
Play Video


  • In this song, an older man is seducing a 19-year-old girl. He's a bit conflicted, as her inexperience frustrates him when she doesn't even remember Aretha Franklin. However, on this particular night and with the help of some Cuervo Gold tequila, everything is wonderful.
  • Steely Dan used a variety of musicians on their albums. On this track, Hugh McCracken played guitar, Rick Marotta was on drums, and Victor Feldman and Steve Gadd added percussion. Walter Becker also added guitar, and Donald Fagen played the Fender Rhodes electric piano and the synthesizer.
  • Roger Nichols, who was one of the engineers on the Gaucho sessions, fashioned a drum machine they used on this track. Dubbed "Wendel," it was one of the first of its kind, and it allowed them to record Rick Marotta's drum parts and play them back with perfect precision.

    The LM-1, which was the first programable drum machine sold to the public that sampled real instruments, was introduced in 1980, the year Gaucho was released, so many assumed that's what Steely Dan used. They didn't, but there was a connection. Roger Linn, who created the LM-1, told Songfacts: "By coincidence, Roger and I had both bought our first computers in around 1975 at a place called Computer Power and Light in Studio City, an area of Los Angeles. Wendel used that same computer and a early but high-quality digital audio interface, running a program he had written to enter simple looping beats on the screen. A very creative and talented guy."

Comments: 37

  • AnonymousCuervo gold was put. Not talking about tequila
  • Eeklair from Raleigh Ncin 1980, fine Colombian was Weed in my circles, maybe we got it wrong with a false assumption, especially living on the east coast..
  • Mark Thomas from TaipeiI’ve always believed that the ‘Colombian’ lyric was referring cocaine. In fact, I felt sure the the singer was actually pronouncing the lyric as ‘Fine Cokelombian’ in a sly reference. That’s how I still hear it!
  • Giovanni Illuminaughti from Lower GroundWeed, coke, booze...I don't really care. What bugs me is cuervo is a product of mexico, not columbia. Yeah I know, who cares...I let stuff that I have no control over bother me(crappy drivers and fat people that we know damn well walked into the walmart riding around in those carts blocking the whole isle, people that still wash their cars at home using all that water(car washes recycle), and the probability that these two dorks got laid way more than I could ever hope to...damnit! I should've stuck with music lessons as a kid (even crappy guitar players/drummers/bass players that i know have women all over them...I won't even go into how jealous I am of saxophone players!)
    I kidding, hope this comment doesn't bother you as much as this song does me.
  • Boto from 52404I thought if it as more of a 19 year old coming on to him and although he was aware of the age difference, after trying to convince himself it wasn’t a great idea he thought what the hell.
  • Chris from NjFine Columbian is not weed, it is cocaine.
  • Travler from West-by-godJust as Zappa always managed to accomplish....arranging the right musicians in the correct places to turn out the optimum tune! Nobody comes close to reaching the pinnacle like Becker&Fagen did,No one spends that much mental energy composing music anymore!......and that's Sad!
  • Robin from Brooklyn NySkate a little lower was a dance reference (The Skate). Cuervo Gold is tequila and fine Colombian is good weed. That's it! Not sure what "soul survivors" is a reference to...there was a band in the 60's called The Soul Survivors who did a song called "Expressway" but it does not seem to relate to that.
  • Neil from Long IslandThe fine Colombian was a reference to weed. The skate was roller skating, period( very popular at the time) Not a dance, or disco skating, or whatever some wacko said. The age thing, he didn’t go out that evening looking for young ladies. He was looking for ladies, and this particular lady happened to show. You know what, friggen cool. It’s then he realizes “she looks good, but she’s friggen killing me”. He has sex with her away, because we’re all dogs. These guys are from Queens and NJ. You’re making to much out of it. Thanks
  • Marty from NashvilleI think the "skate" reference is talking about a dance step called the Skate that was popular in the late-ish 60s, when the older guy in the song (Fagen and Becker, too) was likely young and into such things. It's his way of trying to be hip, but it's a laughable attempt. A classic SD snarky takedown of the character, IMO.
  • John from CanadaCuervo Gold is a blend of reposado (aged) and younger tequilas - which makes it the perfect drink for this song.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenHard to embrace the motives of some older guy who, seeing that he has nothing in common with a much-younger girl, still wishes to have sex with her.
  • Bigpack54 from Berlin, Germany@Melinda from Australia. Your definitely right with your Interpretation. And I can tell you, it feels just like that and it never ends.
  • Hector Herrera from Los Angeles, CaVery interesting facts about Roger Linn, drum sampling technologies of mid to late 70's, - Hip Hop also benefited from these technologies & other Japanese manufacturers, using them for their beats, track samples, and mix songs into rap lyrics ::
    I think the reference to "fine Colombian" is definitely weed or coke, or.. wait!! Could the "fine Colombian" be a Colombian 19 yr. old girl?
    Cuervo Gold yes a young tequila, not one of the finest, since they added caramel coloring to make it look aged. This will add power to headache next morning.
    It is a super tight track, love it!!..all high quality musicianship and people in here.
  • Joseph P Liptak from CampbellThe Quervo Gold was a brand of tequila, not pot, not cocaine. I was 21 when this song came out back in late 80 early 81 and Quervo Gold tequila and orange juice was my main drink at the bars.
  • Melinda from AustraliaIt’s a really good song. And a good description of the generation gap, a guy immediately feels when he tries to hit on a girl from an entirely different younger generation. He feels awkward, She doesn't appreciate real music. Cause she doesn't even know it.
    The interesting thing in this song is not whether he’s mentioning Cocaine or marijuana.
    It’s the description of how he feels adrift since he left college years ago. At college he felt relevant, happy. Had plenty of young girls.
    ‘Sweet things from Boston, so young and willing ‘
    Now he feels out of touch. With the current music. Everything. He can’t even dance comfortably with this 19 year old girl.
    The reference to skating is ‘maybe’ roller skating. Because in 1980 it was cool to roller skate with your Walkman playin in your ears. The 1st ones became available in 1979.
    This song came out in 1980.
    Now it’s ipods etc. Mmmm.
    Steely Dan we’re old school by 1980. And the 1980’s kids only discovered them by accident. And loved their references to drugs. But those who discovered them did appreciate they were good. Very Polished well constructed music.
  • Coy from Palestine, TexasRIP to Walter Becker who passed away on Sunday, Sept. 4th, 2017, at age 67.
  • Alexa Xtul from Mclean, VirginiaSchmoul is correct. Weed used to be identified by where it (supposedly) was grown, thus Acapulco Gold, Oaxacan (Wa-HOK-an), Michoacán (MISHA-wa-can), Panama Red, and so on. Columbian came along and was particularly fine because it was stronger than most. Later came Maui Wowie, and Thai Stick and Buddha supposedly from SE Asia that guys brought back from Vietnam. It was a fun time.
  • Schmoul from South Of The BorderKnopfler does not appear on this track. His only work with Steely Dan was a solo on 'Time Out Of Mind' on the Gaucho album- and it was buried in the mix.
  • Schmoul from South Of The Border'The fine Columbian' is unquestionably a reference to marijuana, not cocaine.

    In the mid 1970s USA, most decent pot on the street was smuggled in from Mexico and Columbia, hence some pop culture references to Oaxacan, Michoacán (especially by Cheech & Chong) & Columbian (everyone). Columbia wasn't even regarded as a player in the cocaine scene at the time. That honor went to Peru.
  • Jeff from St. Louis, MoKind of gives a new meaning to Rum and Coke.
  • Robert from Chicago , IlI always thought since this song came out that "the fine Colombian" was a slang name for marijuana.
  • Tanya from La Verne, CaYeah, I think the line, "skate a little lower now" is instructing the listener/girl to actually skate in that way as if they're in a roller disco. I'm sticking with that theory.
  • Alan from Joliet, IlGreat single, one of the Dan's four or five best, on a troubled LP that took three years to complete and basically split the duo. One has to take the good with the bad here.
  • Joe from Kansas City, MoTye and others - "skate a little lower now" refers to a dance called the Skate, that was popular for a time in the sixties. It has nothing to do with skates, except that the dance simulated ice skating. The reference, I think, was just to emphasize how pathetic he felt with this nineteen-year-old. I was 32 when I first heard the song in the early 80's and it really hit a nerve - in a nice way of course. You have to love this song.
  • Thegripester from Wellington, New ZealandThis song was banned on the radio back during Lady Diana's engagement to Prince Charles - disc jockeys kept dedicating the song to Di, who was 19 at the time. I guess the royal family got sick of the age difference being rubbed in.
  • Joe from Chicagp, ArgentinaI always thought because of the "skate a little lower" part of the song, that it is set in a roller disco. And not roller disco in a hipster, douchey, ironic way, but in a Larry from Three's Company singles bar kind of way.
  • Wez from Oakland, AlbaniaValerie from Eureka, I think you're confused about the era in which the song takes place--remember that it's "way back when in '67." The protagonist is reminiscing about his college days, and complaining that he cannot relate with the younger woman he's trying to get with. We can assume that this is the late '70s (when the song was written) and the 30-something narrator feels out of touch with the younger generation and this nineteen-year-old in particular.
  • Beth from Winston-salem, Nc"I do believe that he also shared some cocaine with her as in 'that fine Columbian' or perhaps it's marijuana ? - Shauna, Seattle, WA"

    No, it's definitely cocaine. The song came out in 1980, well in the middle of society's love affair with the white stuff. The disco era may have been on its way out by then, but it was still the drug of choice for most people. Pot was too ubiquitous, LSD was all but non-existent....coke was the rage. Besides, when people think of Columbia, right after Shakira, they think cocaine.
  • Valerie from Eureka, CaHey Tye in Guthrie WA, you say everyone was doing coke back then...um if you are referring to the time span in the song it was in the 1960's. I am sure some were doing coke and roller skating was sooo popular..are you talking about all this happening in Washington? Guthrie Washington? It sure wasn't happening on the East Coast back in those days...are you old enough to know those days?
  • Claude from Kingston, MaKnopfler did not play on this song. He played on "Time Out Of Mind" and thought Donald and Walter were assholes.
  • Tye from Guthrie, OkSkate a little lower - - ummm.... he likes what he see's. Remember girls roller skating in shorts.. Everybody was doin coke at that time, and roller rinks were soo popular. I wish things were like that still!!! Definately tequila and cocaine... think about when the song was written.
  • Will from Seattle, WaGood call Shauna, he did say that as well. What a combo!
  • Shauna from Seattle, Wa... one more thing, towards the end of the song during the music you hear "skate a little lower" I wonder what that was in reference to ?
  • Shauna from Seattle, WaI do believe that he also shared some cocaine with her as in 'that fine Columbian' or perhaps it's marijuana ?
  • Tim from Houston, Tx...3 words "may december romance"
  • Andy from Rockaway , Ny"I'm just growing old"
    Becker told the story at the Beacon show in NYC last week.
    He was living in Forest Hills ,Queens as a kid and traveled two and half hours to his girlfriends house on public transportation to see her.
    Of course when he finaaly got to her house, and shared some Cuervo with her, it was worth the trip
see more comments

Editor's Picks

N.W.A vs. the World

N.W.A vs. the WorldSong Writing

How the American gangsta rappers made history by getting banned in the UK.

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?

Artis the Spoonman

Artis the SpoonmanSong Writing

Even before Soundgarden wrote a song about him, Artis was the most famous spoon player of all time. So why has he always been broke?

Grateful Dead Characters

Grateful Dead CharactersMusic Quiz

Many unusual folks appear in Grateful Dead songs. Can you identify them?

Pete Anderson

Pete AndersonSongwriter Interviews

Pete produced Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked, Meat Puppets, and a very memorable track for Roy Orbison.

Song Cities

Song CitiesMusic Quiz

Nirvana, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are among those who wrote songs with cities that show up in this quiz.