Regular readers of this blog know of my love for so-called Yacht Rock in general and the work of Messrs. Fagen and Becker in particular, which began with my purchase of Mobile Fidelity’s 24k Aja CD (pictured) in 1988 and extends as far as two-man garage-band butcherings of “Josie”. My friends, as well, are aware of this love that dare not speak its name. As a consequence, I acquired no fewer than four different versions of Aja over the course of the past two weeks, only one of which I managed to completely ruin before I heard a note of it.
My Aja-fest started when Chuck found the MoFi vinyl for me. When said vinyl arrived, I lost no time in getting it on the turntable. Sure enough, it really is mixed “bass-y and boom-y” compared to the MoFi CD. But that’s okay with me; as an itinerant bass player I enjoy the extra punch given to Chuck Rainey’s lines. Shortly after, a friend who wishes to remain anonymous sent me a lossless “rip” of the Japanese VDP-27 first CD release. Even I, with my gunfire-and-club-racing-battered ears, could hear how different this was from the MoFi CD and the MoFi vinyl.
This would be enough Aja for anyone, right? Anyone but me. It didn’t help that immediately after getting my new MoFi vinyl I was forced to abandon it at home while I went on a seven-day trip from Huntington Beach to Woodinville, WA. But the spirits of Donald and Walter were with me. On the way from LA to San Jose I saw a swap meet with hundreds of stalls and thousands of Mexicans milling between them. Between the broken vacuum cleaners and the obviously stolen Ferrari 348ts with the flat tires I found this:
What did I buy for a dollar? How about the rarest of the rare — the original “AB-1006” pressing of Aja on ABC Records. The AB pressing is the hottest of the “hot stampers”, limited to the first two weeks of production. There wasn’t a scratch on it. The guy who ran the stall couldn’t have cared less. He was an old white guy trying to sell country music to Mexicans who didn’t want it. My appearance at his storefront, accompanied by a handsome but diminutive photographer in a LA-trendy vinyl jacket and “Captain Heavy”, the lumberjack-esque publisher of van-porn magazine Rolling Heavy, he treated as being only slightly more real than a mescaline-induced desert hallucination. Accepting my dollar bill without comment, he thought for a moment then asked for California sales tax just in case we were pigs on a mission of some type.
For the next week, Aja traveled with me through a variety of Kimpton hotels, late-night restaurant meals, and luggage. I tried to keep an eye on it, like Gollum with a precious bit of Yacht Rock in his jealous possession. At one point, Captain Heavy saw it sitting on the engine cover of the rather expensive mid-engined Euro-car I was driving and snatched it off, saying, “Dude, the vinyl could warp.”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” I responded. However, I didn’t trust it to my regular luggage, choosing instead to place it underneath my Rainsong jumbo in its case for the flight home. Eight hours later, I landed in Columbus eager to “back-to-back” it with the MoFi vinyl. I opened the gatefold, and…
Captain Heavy had been too late. This album had survived thirty-eight years without scratches or damage only to be cooked into a waffle pattern by the heat of a turbocharged three-cylinder. Destroyed. Worthless. Well, maybe. It’s possible to fix a warped record, as long as the warping isn’t too bad. Since this warping is far more terrible than even the photo indicates, I don’t hold out much hope.
I was in such a foul mood I stormed out the front door to walk it off. There, on the front porch, was a cardboard box from the same friend who had sent me the Japanese CD rip. “I’ve fucking had it up to here with records,” I grumbled, and I put the box aside with a snarl.
The next day, I felt emotionally up to the task of opening it up. Inside, with a note stating that my friend had purchased it new in 1977, was an ABC pressing of Aja. In the runout grooves, “AB 1006” had been scratched out and replaced with “AA 1006”, denoting that this was a record from immediately after the two-week period, sold with a slightly higher price to take advantage of the immense popularity immediately accorded Steely Dan’s magnum opus. Same stamp, same mastering.
I pulled on the white gloves that had come with my turntable. I carefully removed the vinyl from the gatefold sleeve, placed it on the platter, lifted the tonearm, turned on the motor, let the needle fall gently into the groove.
In the corner
Of my eye
I saw you at Rudy’s
You were very high
And, for a moment, I truly was.