The Making of Steely Dan’s Aja

SopranosWhile waiting for last night’s Soprano’s to start, I decided to pop in a DVD I had lying around: Steely Dan – The Making of Aja.

Since someone else is sure to bring it up in comments, let’s deal with the finale: Creator/writer/director David Chase made his bones adding a level of reality — Cinéma vérité — to his plotting and characters. He never liked neat endings, always leaves a level of ambiguity and uncertainty. 

And while I didn’t love last night’s episode — it was just another episode, and not any way at all a special "finale" — I recognize what Chase attempted: He ended the show on a note of tension, uncertainty, and ambiguity. You know, just like real life. Hey, no one knows what will happen in the future, or what fate awaits us. He ended the show the same way . . .

Not that I really liked it — it was disappointingly slow, and except for Phil "Flat-Head" Leotardo, not a whole lot happened.

AjaBut I digress.

Where was I? Oh, yes.

A few months ago, I mentioned on Friday Night Jazz this great video on the making of Steely Dan’ Peg that I (somehow randomly) discovered on YouTube.

Turns out its part of a series of DVDs titled "Classic Albums" series that aired originally on VH1. So, while waiting for the last episode to begin, I popped in this DVD I’ve had lying around. 

FloydIt was simply terrific. Really high quality stuff — none of this "Behind-the-Boy-Band crap typical of VH1. Indeed, the great tragedy of VH1 is this very series — and many of the

UnPlugged shows
— are just so damn good, it makes you wonder how the rest of their programming can be so goddamned awful. It was that much better than what you would expect from typical VH1 stuff. 

If you are any type of Dan fan, you must go order this right now.

In fact, I was so impressed with the quality of the interviews, clips, and sound quality — I can’t recall the last time I did this — that,  even as the DVD credits were rolling, I ordered four more DVDs (all $10 or less) from the same series.

GracelandAs a music fan, I felt compelled to check out these "Classic Albums":

The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon

Paul Simon – Graceland

The Who: Who’s Next

U2: The Joshua Tree

I’ll update how these are at a latter date, but based on the Steely Dan DVD, and the high caliber of reviews at, I expect these all to be similarly excellent . . . 

What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Art Lang commented on Jun 11

    With Barry’s personal contribution to consumer spending, our economy should see significant Q3 growth.

  2. Carl commented on Jun 11


    Once a year I am not a contrarian and I go with the crowd. This time, the crowd is correct. David Chase was not a sublime professor of cinema verite, he was a washed up ole hack who decided to hedge his last paycheck by allowing plenty of leeway so that the Sopranos, in one form or another, can be picked up again by HBO or other.

    This season, like last season, and the season before that, sucked.

    He should hang his head in shame.

    Why couldn’t he bring back Furio to threaten Tony’s reign and steal Carmella? There are plenty of plot scenarios that could be winners. Would it be too much work to respect his audience?

    RIP…Sopranos. Why not go out on a high note like some professional atheletes who “get it”?

  3. Michael Covel commented on Jun 11

    The Pink Floyd one is great. Their passion and creativity in that documentary is inspirational as hell.

  4. Idaho_Spud commented on Jun 12

    Anyone who has read ‘The Naked Lunch’ has to be a fan of Steely Dan ;).

    I also happen to love their music. At one point I could roll through the guitar intro to ‘Reelin’ in the Years’. Alas it’s been a while since I played.

  5. dsquared commented on Jun 12

    The reason that this particular series is so good IIRC is that it is a co-production with the BBC. The one about “The Band” is excellent.

  6. Arthur Hill commented on Jun 12

    The making of The Dark Side of the Moon is simply fantastic!

  7. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jun 12

    Ooh, the Band — I’ll have to add that one.

  8. Paul commented on Jun 12

    I thought the last two seasons of Sopranos (no matter what anybody connected to the show says, you can’t have one “season” comprise more than two years; they’re two separate seasons) were too drawn out, and the finale had some of that quality to it as well.

    However, despite what seems to be the prevailing attitude, I thought the final scene was flat out brilliant. Tony wins. He’s beaten the New York mob, killed a boss and gotten away with it, preserved his life, his family and his Family. He sits down to an idyllic dinner, something nearly out of Norman Rockwell right down to the boy scouts at the next booth. But that’ll never be Tony’s life. He’ll never know who’s coming through the door next: his son, daughter, the Feds, a hit man. The threat of jail or assasination will always hang over him. The tension Chase builds up in that final scene is the tension Tony lives with every minute of his life.

    Cut to black.

  9. Mike commented on Jun 12

    I feel compelled to add my voice to the list of those saying the Pink Floyd Dark Side making of is absolutely beautiful. I saw it years ago and didn’t know how to find it – thanks for the reminder.

  10. Ben commented on Jun 12

    Making of Dark Side was the best VH1 Classic show so far.

  11. Matt commented on Jun 12

    I happened to catch Who’s Next and The Joshua Tree on VH1 a couple weeks ago. I thought they were both great.

    I had no idea that the origins of Who’s Next were part of a grandiose plan by Townsend to follow-up on Tommy. The plan didn’t work, but the songs that came out of it were (obviously) brilliant. The little snippets of Pete toying with his synth and describing how it all came together in Won’t Get Fooled Again were fantastic.

  12. Editor B commented on Jun 15

    The one on the making of the Sex Pistols’ album was pretty good too.

  13. Steve Casburn commented on Jun 16

    The 10th episode of Yacht Rock is a fanciful look at the making of Peg (and FM). The first minute suffers a bit from in-jokes, though…

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