I suppose Steely Dan is the thinking man's classic rock band. While they tend to be lumped into the classic rock canon due to the time frame of the majority of their output. Delve deeper into Steely Dan's music and you will find references to beat culture, complex jazz structures, sarcastic lyrics, and a cast of fictional characters that are beyond dark and twisted. They are known for the virtuosity in their songs and being perfectionists in the studio, doing many, many takes and using sometimes dozens of studio musicians on each album. The A.V. Club has a nice article about Steely Dan in their "Gateways to Geekery" series where they say, "For the most accessible example of Steely Dan's clever pop craft, look no further than 'My Old School...'"
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have been the driving force behind the band ever since its formation in the early 70s after graduating from Bard College. An early incarnation of the band, known as The Bad Rock Band and later as The Leather Canary, featured classmate Chevy Chase on drums. (Yes, THAT Chevy Chase.) Last little tidbit...they took their name from a strap-on dildo ("Steely Dan III from Yokohama") referred to in William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch.
This song is all about an actual event that occurred at Bard College that saw Becker, Fagen, his girlfriend, and some 50 other students being arrested after a dorm raid at the college. Feeling that the college was complicit in the arrests and what he saw as pure harassment, Fagen wrote the song about his grudge against the college, which was so strong that he refused to attend his own graduation. He sings, "California tumbles into the sea / That'll be the day I go / Back to Annandale." Remind me not to piss this guy off.
The cowbell lives exclusively in the musical bridges following each chorus, each of which also feature different guitar solos. After the first two runs through the chorus, there is more of the instrumental break sans cowbell. After the last run through of the chorus, the cowbell continues throughout the outro to the end of the song. I find it interesting that this is the only Steely Dan song from the early years that uses cowbell, considering the preponderance of cowbell use in the era and the variety of instrumentation used throughout their albums.
The Bell Score: 4.43795