Lou Hayter’s Time Out Of Mind

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“Gaucho” was hobbled by the three years since “Aja” and the $9.98 price point, a dollar more than all that came before, back when record price used to be a thing and labels were eager to make more money, damn the fans, or the acts. Tom Petty protested this same $8.98 price point successfully, then again Steely Dan were never salt of the earth, they never hit the road, they seemed to exist outside the sphere of their fans, but it was fans who bought “Gaucho” and if you played it enough you came to love it. “Hey Nineteen” was a mild hit but the rest of the album never connected with the mainstream, you needed to be somewhat cynical, lazing on a late afternoon contemplating the universe and then “Gaucho” would reach you better than any other album. And who else starts off an album with such a slow song as “Babylon Sisters”? There was no pandering involved, Steely Dan went on its own adventure and succeeded, you’ll have a hard time naming the other albums of the era, and “Gaucho” sounds as fresh today as it did back then.

The truth is “Aja” was a surprise, a hard turn, left or right I’m not sure, but it was definitely different, it was jazz-influenced in an era when rock was becoming corporatized, all tracks sounding alike, but not “Aja.” 

And there was anticipation, because there was always eagerness for a new Steely Dan album, but in truth the act hadn’t had anything resembling a hit since 1974, with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

I’m partial to “Katy Lied,” even though no one ever talks about that album anymore. Just listen to the vocal on “Bad Sneakers.” And “Daddy Don’t Live in that New York City No More.” As well as “Your Gold Teeth II.”

And I know every lick of “The Royal Scam” because I drove cross-country and listened to it and only it and five other brand new cassettes…you get in a groove and you like hearing the same music over and over, it’s like being in a trance. Ever drive eight or ten hours at a stretch, especially on flat, straight highway, you become hypnotized, but I had to keep my pedal to the metal because this was before all cars had cruise control, although my car didn’t even have power steering, but if I could resurrect my 2002 I’d still be driving it, if it hadn’t been wrecked by an unlicensed and uninsured drunk driver on St. Patrick’s Day with 186,000 miles on the odometer back when no American car could even break six digits. And my favorite from “The Royal Scam” was “Don’t Take Me Alive,” because of Larry Carlton’s stinging guitar and the changes and those lyrics, the words:

“I’m a bookkeeper’s son

I don’t want to shoot no one”

But whereas “The Royal Scam” was personal, “Aja” could be played at cocktail parties, and was. Even “Bosch” would have liked it. You see all the people who didn’t even buy albums, the Top 40 acolytes who couldn’t tell Denny Dias from Skunk Baxter, bought “Aja,” in truth it worked in absolutely every environment. Steely Dan succeeded giving the public what people said they didn’t want, but it turned out they did, want it that is. And there was that misheard lyric in “Deacon Blues,” everybody thinking Donald was asking to be sued if he played it “wrong,” but he said LONG, and it made all the difference.

“I cried when I wrote this song

Sue me if I play too long

This brother is free

I’ll be what I want to be”

That’s the rock ethos, even though Fagen and the dearly departed Becker wouldn’t want to be categorized, be members of any group but their own. Art is personal, if you’re thinking about the audience you wreck it, it’s when you dig down deep and bare your soul that others can relate. The key is to be free to do it the way you want to, irrelevant of others’ reaction, their feedback, and Steely Dan was, and did.

But now it was three years later. In truth the record business was in the doldrums, disco and corporate rock both crashed, based on hatred from the audience, both had devolved into lowest common denominator pablum, but not Steely Dan.

In truth one of the best cuts on “Gaucho” was “Third World Man,” the final song on the second side, something so slow that radio would never play it, but if you did at home… Play it now, it feels like magic hour, when the sun is setting over the horizon and everything is in relief, when life and its penumbra seem so much more important.

And the second side opened with another slow number, the title song, “Gaucho,” a story told at a slow pace with exquisite instrumentation that was alien to in-your-face rock.

And then came “Time Out of Mind.”


“So you better be ready for love

On this glory day

This is your chance to believe

What I’ve got to say”

You could be so good-looking, or so rich or famous that you’re batting off admirers, but for the rest of us… In order for it to work we’ve got to feel good about ourselves, we’ve got to psyche ourselves up and get in the mood, believe we’re irresistible, that no one can elude our personality, our magic. I’m not talking about being oppressive, I’m not talking about rape, most men are too afraid to ask women for a date, they’re wallflowers, but it’s the loner sans groupthink who has a chance of resonating, assuming he’s confident and doesn’t break down, that he evidences his real personality. And the truth is most people don’t have much of one, a personality that is, they’re so busy trying to fit in, so busy doing what’s expected, that they don’t have the unique edges that appeal to women.

“Tonight when I chase the dragon

The water may change to cherry wine

And the sliver will turn to gold

Time out of mind

Time out of mind”

CHASE THE DRAGON? Back in 1980 we had no idea what Donald was talking about. It took a while to come out, assuming you read the rock press, which was still prominent and monolithic. He was singing about smoking heroin. Which has one re-evaluating the whole song, is this an addict trying to get someone on his page, telling them if they just get high everything will be all right even though it’s a road to ruin? And one thing about addicts, they always want company, people to support them, be in the same boat, a separate society, feeling superior, even though they’re anything but.

And after “Gaucho”? Crickets. And then the band decided to go back on the road when they were famous for not working live, sans new music, and their fans came out, they did very good business. And then there were two new albums, twenty plus years since “Gaucho,” and although those may ultimately have limited mindshare, the end result of decades of touring, being in the public eye, is that all those earlier albums came back alive. “Countdown to Ecstasy,” which barely sold, was seen as their best, not that I agree, and tunes from “Gaucho” are part of the firmament, like “Time Out of Mind.”

And now comes Lou Hayter’s version of “Time Out of Mind.”

Interesting last name, since the truth is Steely Dan has so many haters, dyed-in-the-wool rockers, especially the punks and skinny tie set of the late seventies and early eighties. This same crew hates prog rock, but that sound never really had the same reach as Steely Dan, and there were many prog acts, but only one Steely Dan.

And the truth is a cover is a cheap shot. An easy way to get recognition in an era where it’s almost impossible to do so. So at first I dismissed Lou Hayter’s “Time Out of Mind.” But today it started to resonate. Maybe because the underpinnings, the song itself, are so good, maybe because of the fuzzy guitar solo, maybe because of the rhythm, but suddenly it worked, it was more than a cover, something new, attractive, engaging.

Not that I knew who Lou Hayter was. She doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page. But if you do some research you’ll see she’s been at it for over a decade and she’s a multi-hyphenate, a DJ, a model… The truth is that’s the way of the modern day, unless you hit out of the box if you want to stay in the game you’ve got to broaden your horizons, you’ve got to do more than music.

But Hayter is on Instagram, which is the new Wikipedia, the new album cover, that’s where you display your image, establish an identity. It’s like the sixties all over again, it’s all based on image.

Meanwhile, the internet tells me Steely Dan is Lou Hayter’s favorite band. And she wasn’t even born when “Gaucho” came out. Funny what penetrates, it’s usually not the hits, the younger generation is searching, for something great, the roots, the progenitor, they understand today but it’s so different from yesterday. Today the faders are always pushed up, everybody’s fighting for attention, the concept of the music being so damn good that people are drawn to it, that you don’t have to sell it, go on the road to flog it, is revolutionary.

So if you can let your prejudices go, if you can be open, if you don’t focus on the track but let it play as you go about your business, you might find yourself bobbing your head, digging Lou Hayter’s take on “Time Out of Mind.

P.S. If you’re adventurous, if you want more, there are two additional mixes, the Reflex Revision and the Generalisation Dub, but you definitely want to be hooked on the original before you expand your horizons.

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