Michael Herndon (Moody Mo) and I have already done one version of this so we thought why not do an acoustic version too! This time I sing vocals on the verse and Michael does those cool harmonies on the chorus.

Steely Dan Trivia... This song is about recalling times with a girlfriend and a romantic breakup. It's one of the most popular Steely Dan songs, but also one of their least favorite. In Rolling Stone, September 17, 2009, Donald Fagen said

It's dumb but effective.

Walter Becker added

It's no fun

"Reelin' In The Years," from Steely Dan's 1972 debut album “Can't Buy a Thrill”, is one of the band's most recognizable songs. Written by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, it features a blend of rock, pop, and jazz influences. The song is known for its catchy melody, intricate guitar work, and clever lyrics. Here’s an accessible breakdown of its musical and lyrical elements.

Key/Tonal Center

"Reelin' In The Years" is primarily in the key of G major. The song doesn't feature significant key changes, maintaining a stable tonal center throughout.

Chord Progressions

The chord progressions in "Reelin' In The Years" are relatively straightforward but are given character by the song's rhythmic feel and melodic lines. Here are the main progressions


G - D/F# - Em - Bm - C - G/B - A - D

In Roman numeral analysis for G major

I - V/7 - vi - iii - IV - I/3 - II - V


G - D - Em - C - G - D - Em - C

In Roman numeral analysis for G major

I - V - vi - IV - I - V - vi - IV

These progressions are foundational to many rock and pop songs, but Steely Dan's rhythmic variations and guitar embellishments make them distinctive.


"Reelin' In The Years" follows a classic pop/rock structure

  1. Intro (Guitar solo)
  2. Verse 1
  3. Chorus
  4. Verse 2
  5. Chorus
  6. Guitar Solo
  7. Verse 3
  8. Chorus
  9. Outro (Guitar solo)

This AABABCA format allows for lyrical storytelling and showcases the instrumental prowess, especially in the extended guitar solos.


The melody in "Reelin' In The Years" is memorable and engaging, characterized by its catchy, singable lines. The song's motifs are largely driven by the interplay between the vocal melody and the iconic guitar riffs and solos, performed by Elliott Randall. The guitar solo in the intro is particularly notable and sets the energetic tone for the song.


"Reelin' In The Years" is a blend of rock and pop with jazz influences. This mix creates a sound that is both sophisticated and accessible, appealing to a wide range of listeners.

~What Makes It Interesting?

Several elements make "Reelin' In The Years" particularly interesting

  1. Iconic Guitar Work: Elliott Randall's guitar solos and riffs are standout features, praised for their technical proficiency and memorable hooks.
  2. Clever Lyrics: The lyrics are witty and reflective, adding depth to the catchy tune.
  3. Dynamic Melody: The vocal melody is engaging and complements the song's energetic feel.
  4. Polished Production: The production quality is clean and balanced, with each instrument clearly defined in the mix.

Lyrical Themes

The lyrics of "Reelin' In The Years" reflect themes of nostalgia, regret, and frustration. The song addresses a former lover or friend with a tone of exasperation and bemusement, as seen in lines like...

"You've been telling me you're a genius since you were seventeen"

"The things that pass for knowledge I can't understand"

These lyrics capture the sense of looking back on a relationship with a mix of fondness and disappointment.

Chart Position and Awards

Chart Position "Reelin' In The Years" reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Awards While the song itself did not win specific awards, “Can't Buy a Thrill” has been critically acclaimed and is considered a classic album.