Wingding: noun a party.

Yes we’re gonna have a wingding
A summer smoker underground
It’s just a dugout that my dad built
In case the Reds decide to push the button down
We’ve got provisions and lots of beer
The key word is survival on the new frontier

(Donald Fagen, ‘New Frontier’)

Donald Fagen‘s classic 1982 debut solo album, The Nightfly, allowed the performer to indulge his fascination with the rose-tinted view of the future that dominated his own early years.  In tracks like ‘I.G.Y.’ (named for the International Geophysical Year) he sung of the technological wonders that were reputed to be just around the corner, like lightning-fast train journeys from New York to Paris via undersea railways and ‘Spandex jackets for everyone’, while in the album’s title track he romanticised the dying breed of late-night radio DJs he idolised as a kid.

In ‘New Frontier’, Fagen conjures a world of sophistication far from the suburban youth he spent in New Jersey, leading with the description of a fine ‘wingding’ in an old nuclear fallout shelter, echoing the preoccupations of 1950s American suburbia that jarred with the glowing optimism of the modern age: how were the kids going to enjoy their flying cars and trips to the Moon if a nuclear war destroyed humanity?  The track is a winning example of Fagen’s keen observation and his command of the swinging jazz-rock style that made Steely Dan, his group with fellow talented musician Walter Becker, such stalwarts of FM radio in the 1970s.

Here’s a dodgy concert recording of Steely Dan performing the track at a Colorado festival in July 2008:


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