In It’s About Time: Jeff Porcaro, The Man and His Music, author Robyn Flans relates the story that the title track to Steely Dan’s Gaucho album was nearly cut when the musicians couldn’t get a good take, causing Donald Fagen and Walter Becker to leave the studio. Jeff Porcaro and the other players stayed in the studio all night, and the eventual final rhythm track had “something like 47 edits.” Whatever the number, it would have been a tragedy had this song been cut from the album.
The song and its drum part are masterpieces. Porcaro’s impeccable time, feel, and exquisite musical taste pervade the entire track. Drummers should carefully study the beautiful placement of every single note—and remember, this is in the days preceding digital recording and being able to move notes on the grid. Although there are many edits in the final cut, the placement of every note on the drums is all Porcaro. It’s one of the most eloquent drum parts I’ve ever heard.
The tune starts out with a buzz on the snare into a 16-note groove. I debated whether to transcribe this song in half-time, with one backbeat per bar, as this is how the piano chart is written. But I ultimately decided it is easier to understand the architecture of the drum part while seeing beats 2 and 4 on the snare in each bar.