New Frontier
ASCAP title code: 440130743

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Composer: Donald Jay Fagen
Original Album: The Nightfly (Warner Bros., 1982)

Personal notes
I first discovered Donald Fagen with the release of this song's video on Music Television, way back in the day of their original five VJs: Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, J.J. Jackson and Alan Hunter. There weren't many music videos around back then, and the few that were available got a lot of rotation on the young cable channel. Fagen, still on the couch as Steely Dan was slowly disintegrating, convinced Warner Brothers to produce a video to promote his first solo effort, and it paid off handsomely with impressive album sales. Compact discs were a brand new technology back then, and The Nightfly was probably the third CD I ever purchased after I finally acquired a CD player around 1985 or so. Before that, I had a cassette copy of the album, and I wore that sucker out. "New Frontier" was one of two singles released from the album, the other being "I.G.Y."

The video
The music video for "New Frontier", perhaps among the first hundred to ever be shot on film, depicts the story that Fagen tells in the song's lyrics. Directed by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton (the creators of Max Headroom), it's set at some time during the late 1950s or early 1960s, but clearly before the JFK assassination, when Americans were still very idealistic. A geeky, bespectacled young man and his girlfriend escape from their prom to the privacy of his family's backyard fallout shelter. He tries unsuccessfully to get to second base during the course of the song, which is intercut with animated sequences of jazz musicians playing select instrumental portions of the song (think of Dave Brubeck's original album covers, or Ken Nordine's album cover for Best of Word Jazz, Volume 1). They fumble and giggle and so on, until the girl decides she's had enough, at which point they both emerge from the shelter and run off together. It's ripe with imagery of both a coming-of-age experience and an innocence that no longer exists in society today.

Liner notes
The Nightfly is a "theme" or "concept" album if there ever was one. Every track speaks to the mood and setting envisioned by Fagen, but none (in my opinion) quite so much as "New Frontier". He summarizes the record with this note: The songs on this album represent certain fantasies that might have been entertained by a young man growing up in the remote suburbs of a northeastern city during the late fifties and early sixties, i.e., one of my general height, weight and build. — D.F.


Lyrics

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

Introduce me to that big blonde
She's got a touch of Tuesday Weld
She's wearing Ambush and a French twist
She's got us wild and she can tell
She loves to limbo, that much is clear
She's got the right dynamic for the new frontier

Well I can't wait til I move to the city
'Til I finally make up my mind
To learn design and study overseas

Have you got a steady boyfriend?
'Cause honey, I've been watching you
I hear you're mad about Brubeck
I like your eyes; I like him too
He's an artist, a pioneer
We've got to have some music on the new frontier

Well I can't wait 'til I move to the city
'Til I finally make up my mind
To learn design and study overseas

Let's pretend that it's the real thing
And stay together all night long
And when I really get to know you
We'll open up the doors and climb into the dawn
Confess your passion, your secret fear
Prepare to meet the challenge of the new frontier

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