February 10, 2019

David Crosby on the opposite of mediocrity.


This was after Crosby announced that Steely Dan is his favorite band.

Sorry, I don't have a Steely Dan tag, and I'm not going to make one. I don't really get why someone would be that interested in them. "Reelin' in the Years"? "Rikki Don’t Lose That Number"? Here's Rolling Stone's "Steely Dan: 10 Essential Songs." I guess that depends on the meaning of "essential." I'm alive and the only Steely Dan title I could think of was "Reelin' in the Years." Meade said, "Rikki Don’t Lose That Number," and I said "That's Steely Dan?"

Could Meade think of any other Steely Dan song? He started playing "Bodhisatva" and #1, that's not one of the 10 essentials, but #2, in a matter of seconds, I was crying, "Turn it off, I hate that kind of music."

128 comments:

wendybar said...

The radio songs are NOT the best of Steely Dan. If you had never seen them in concert, you don't know what you are missing. Unfortunately, now that Walter Becker has passed, you may be too late.

Ralph L said...

"Big Black Rat" "FM" "Peg", I still come rat to you

Quayle said...

Aja was the only album I ever liked. Peg and Deacon Blues being top songs IMHO.

Ralph L said...

S&G has held up very well--they're difficult to date from the style.

It would have been funny if he'd said the Carpenters.

David Begley said...

Crosby’s brain is ruined by DRUGS.

jerpod said...

I always thought Steely Dan was a very talented band. I just never really liked their songs.

Exception: My Old School on Countdown to Extasy. That’s a good one!

Quayle said...

That kind of clean sound requires top musicianship, and exposes shoddy technique. The used the best studio musicians around, in my listening.

OTOH, The fuzz box, “overdrive”, and the wall of sound” hid a lot of crap playing.

Fritz said...

It's OK to not like a bands music, but it doesn't prove you're a bigger person.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

David Crosby lists S & G, though S & G might disagree:
But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity

Temujin said...

Saw Joe Jackson in Atlanta this past week. Great concert featuring songs from his 4 decades of work. In the middle of it all he played a cover of a Steely Dan song calling them one of his favorite bands.

Steely Dan's music covered a wide range of styles and went well beyond their two first albums you mentioned, Ann. Also went way beyond what the radio stations had on their playlists.

Joe Jackson and his band playing Walter Becker/Donald Fagen was pretty cool.

HT said...

They call Alabama the Crimson Tide!

Deacon Blues!

Browndog said...

I had heard early on, and believed until recently, that Steely Dan was basically a garage band that played college parties; got lucky with a couple hits.

Listening to music on Youtube I saw a documentary for the making of Aja in the side bar. Boy was I ever wrong. I often wonder if the lack of real, classically trained musicians is the reason rock-n-roll is virtually dead.

tim in vermont said...

I have a couple friends who play out. One of them, I really enjoy, but the other friend dismissed them as a "musician's band" and I looked around and he was right. Nobody's looking up from their beers.

wendybar said...

Temujin said...
Saw Joe Jackson in Atlanta this past week!


I've seen him too. Love Joe Jackson! Great concert!

Freder Frederson said...

Steely Dan is a topic, like politics or religion, that should not be discussed at family gatherings.

Annie C said...

The guitar solo in Reelin' In The Years gave me my first speeding ticket.

Still love the song.

mezzrow said...

Most musicians love Steely Dan because they only used the very finest players. Becker and Fagin scrupulously cherry picked the finest studio musicians they could find to build their meticulously crafted works. There's also a lot of world weary cynicism. It's only fair, as I can read Dylan more easily than I can listen to him. *shrugs* I imagine you can't take much Mahler at a sitting either.

Here are some lyrics to a Steely Dan song you probably don't know, Althouse. Trying this out on Meade as well. It was an anthem for me and my crew.

Back in the day.

Agents of the law
Luckless pedestrian
I know you're out there
With rage in your eyes and your megaphones
Saying all is forgiven
Mad dog surrender
How can I answer
A man of my mind can do anything

I'm a bookkeeper's son
I don't want to shoot no one
Well I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don't take me alive
Got a case of dynamite
I could hold out here all night
Yes I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don't take me alive

Can you hear the evil crowd
The lies and the laughter
I hear my inside
The mechanized hum of another world
Where no sun is shining
No red light flashing
Here in this darkness
I know what I've done
I know all at once who I am

I'm a bookkeeper's son
I don't want to shoot no one
Well I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don't take me alive
Got a case of dynamite
I could hold out here all night
Yes I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don't take me alive

Omaha1 said...

What about "Do It Again" (go back, Jack, do it again, wheel turnin round and round). A very old song but lyrical and highlights Fagen's unique vocal style.

wendybar said...

"Don't Take Me Alive" off of "The Royal Scam" is about David Sylvan Fine, the
youngest of the Sterling Hall bombers (at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison) who was captured ins San Rafael, California in January of 1976.
Despite the title of the song he WAS taken alive, spent three years in prison
and eventually became a paralegal in Oregon.

Omaha1 said...

Or "Dirty Work"?

stevew said...

Always liked Steely Dan, they were YUGE when I was in college. Their musical arrangements tend to be more involved and intricate than lots of pop music, so all the smart music people had to love them. I second wendybar, the songs you list are not their best, though were most popular on the radio, I think. Can only listen to them in bursts though, not on my permanent artist rotation, and I don't have a Steely Dan station on my Pandora.

If I may note one of the members of my artists hate list it is David Crosby. Guy is not much of a musician and a total tool bag as a human being.

Dave Grohl loves Abba (and the Bee Gees and Beatles), I'm inclined to accept his expert opinion.

AllenS said...

Who on earth doesn't like Hey Nineteen? Great song.

Ann Althouse said...

"Aja was the only album I ever liked."

I know Aja only because it comes up in crossword puzzles all the time. It's like the way I know ELO.

Ann Althouse said...

"Steely Dan's music covered a wide range of styles and went well beyond their two first albums you mentioned, Ann."

I mentioned albums?

Ann Althouse said...

"What about "Do It Again" (go back, Jack, do it again, wheel turnin round and round). A very old song but lyrical and highlights Fagen's unique vocal style."

That's like Rikki for me. I know the song from the radio, but it's never stuck with me that it's "Steely Dan."

66 said...

Thanks for the insight.

Ann Althouse said...

For the penis fans:

" "Steely Dan III from Yokohama," she says, caressing the shaft. Milk spurts across the room. "Be sure that milk is pasteurized. Don't go giving me some kinda awful cow disease like anthrax or glanders or aftosa ..." "When I was a transvestite Liz in Chi used to work as an exterminator. terminator. Make advances to pretty boys for the thrill of being beaten as a man. Later I catch this one kid, overpower him with supersonic judo I learned from an old Lesbian Zen monk. I tie him up, strip off his clothes with a razor and fuck him with Steely Dan I. He is so relieved I don't castrate him literal he come all over my bedbug spray." "What happen to Steely Dan I?"' "He was torn in two by a bull dyke. Most terrific vaginal grip I ever experienced. She could cave in a lead pipe. It was one of her parlor tricks." "And Steely Dan II?" "Chewed to bits by a famished candiru in the Upper Baboons-asshole. asshole. And don't say `Wheeeeeeee!' this time." "Why not? It's real boyish." "Barefoot boy, check thy bullheads with the madam." "

William S. Burroughs. Naked Lunch (Kindle Locations 849-855). Kindle Edition.

tim in vermont said...

"Guy is not much of a musician and a total tool bag as a human being."

Guys hate him, ladies love him. You figure it out.

Charlie Currie said...

In '64/65 we were regulars at a coffee house in Santa Monica called The New Balladeer. David Crosby performed there solo. Played acoustic 12 string and sang songs I had never heard before, played the 12 string like I had never seen before. He had a voice and a presence that was mesmerizing.

Too bad he got so screwed up on drugs. He's just a fat old grouchy man now. I can understand why he likes Steely Dan, though.

PJ57 said...

You have to listen to the album Aja, Ann. The Wayne Shorter/Steve Gadd tenor sax/drums composition on the song Aja. The Pete Christlieb sax performance on Deacon Blues. Amazing musicianship. Also listen to the Chris Potter sax solo on West of LA.

Fernandistein said...

It's OK to not like a bands music, but it doesn't prove you're a bigger person.

It does prove you're bigger if you don't particularly like several bands or musicians all at the same time, namely the ones Cosby mentioned 'cept the Beatles.

Jamie said...

“Babylon Sisters” and “Deacon Blues” were always my favorites. “Babylon Sisters” was my “driving into LA” song for years. But I will agree that, despite their unparalleled musicianship, they weren’t one of the bands that ever grabbed me emotionally.

wendybar said...

tim in vermont said...
"Guy is not much of a musician and a total tool bag as a human being."

Guys hate him, ladies love him. You figure it out.
2/10/19, 9:13 AM

I must be a guy, because I CAN'T stand him!

tshanks78 said...

Dirty Work Ann...Dirty Work. Enough said.

Omaha1 said...

I don't recall if you ever learned to play a musical instrument or read music. For me there are kind of "nuances" in Steely Dan songs that others might not notice. As noted previously, they did hire the best studio musicians for many of their recordings. The subtlety of rhythms and tones might not be noticeable to the untrained ear. Not trying to sound like a snob. Just as an example they auditioned several guitarists for the solo in "Peg" before settling on one.

Temujin said...

No- you didn't mention albums, Ann. You are holding me to being precise in my words. I'm always amazed that you don't slip on that...ever.

So to be precise- I jumped a step. You mentioned songs that are both from their first two albums. Those two albums are typically what a lot of people refer to when mentioning Steely Dan. But that would be like loving or hating Bob Dylan for just Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Of course you could love or hate him for just those albums, but there's so much more there.

Or so I'm regularly told.

Mary Beth said...

Dirty Work, Deacon Blues, Josie.

Benster said...

I like Steely Dan, but musical tastes are subjective, of course. However, smoking lots of pot can alter your tastes. I suspect that is the case for most Steely Dan fans.

rehajm said...

Their musical arrangements tend to be more involved and intricate than lots of pop music

This is why I appreciated them. My friends and I found the arrangements unique and uplifting. Squeeze in the same way...

Earnest Prole said...

Good Lord. Run, don’t walk, to embrace Aja, one of the greatest works in a hundred years of American popular music. If the music itself doesn’t grab you on first listen, watch the “Making Of” documentary on YouTube or, better yet, ordered on Amazon. Every song a masterpiece.

Mark said...

Yesterday I happened to be looking at Billboard's Top Hit for each week in the 60s.

In February 1964, the music world changed dramatically. Really it was a complete revolution.

There was a bunch of Lawrence Welk and 50s kind of music, with "I'm Leaving It Up To You" (Dale & Grace) and "Dominique" (The Singing Nun) to end 1963 and "There! I've Said It Again" (Bobby Vinton) to begin 1964. And then BOOM, a completely new sound, right from the start with that opening riff in "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (The Beatles, of course).

Going back and listening to all that pre-February 1964, and then putting on "I Want to Hold Your Hand" is really astounding.

Quaestor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mezzrow said...

@PJ57

This. Also, Tom Scott. Not just his sax, his arrangements.

Thinking of Pete Christlieb now. Thanks for that. You should hear Pete play bass clarinet.

Look for his work in the Sebesky albums. Great stuff.

Quaestor said...

I believe I'd more willingly read The Collected Works of Abby Normal than a single tweet by David Crosby.

chickenlittle said...

Rick, Don't Lose That Number is one of my Celebrity Ringtones.

Charlie said...

They created their own sub-genre of pop music, not many bands can say that.

rehajm said...

I can't differentiate one musical thing CSNY did from anything else they did. Maybe they're good writers or poets or they speak for some people or something. If only they gave out literary awards to musicians ;-)...

jerpod said...

If you want to talk about music Steely Dan is great. I f you want to dance, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

mccullough said...

I went through a brief Steely Dan phase in my late teens in the early 90s. I can see why musicians really like the music.

Hey 19 is their only song that sticks with me.

Virgil Hilts said...

Agree with Ann. SD may be extremely talented but their songs almost never grabbed me and it is hard to listen to more than one in a row. Just because a group has extremely talented musicians doesn't mean their music's great. Like the old joke about Stevie Ray Vaughan dying, wakes up, Jimi Hendrix is sitting next to him, Stevie looks around and sees all of the great dead rock musicians. Stevie's thinking "Holy shit, this is rock-n-roll heaven" when Karen Carpenter walks in, sits at the drums, and says "this time let's do Close to You."

Earnest Prole said...

And for those seeking out the essence of Steely Dan in their more obscure songs, I would offer:

Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)
Barrytown
Don’t Take Me Alive
Chain Lightning
Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More

chickenlittle said...

The Steve Gadd drumming and the Wayne Shorter sax solo on the song "Aja" never get old for me.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

There's no way Althouse would ever like the Dan. Fagen is the anti-Dylan, there's no no faux-poeticism in his lyrics she can try to mine for deeper meaning. They're all cynical in a gloriously Chandleresque way.

Ann Althouse said...

"You have to listen to the album Aja, Ann. The Wayne Shorter/Steve Gadd tenor sax/drums composition on the song Aja. The Pete Christlieb sax performance on Deacon Blues. Amazing musicianship. Also listen to the Chris Potter sax solo on West of LA."

I don't want saxophone in my rock and roll. I hated the arrival of horns into rock music. No horns!!!!

And I don't like a lot of in-your-face musicianship, even with guitars. I find it annoying.

I like garage rock, not prog rock.

Ann Althouse said...

"Always liked Steely Dan, they were YUGE when I was in college. Their musical arrangements tend to be more involved and intricate than lots of pop music, so all the smart music people had to love them."

When I was in college, the "smart people" snobbery cut in a different direction.

Enlighten-NewJersey said...

Pretzel Logic

MadisonMan said...

Aja remains the only album I ever traded away. I got "Breakfast in America" (Supertramp) for it.

mezzrow said...

I don't want saxophone in my rock and roll. I hated the arrival of horns into rock music. No horns!!!!

Your hell is my record collection.

Darrell said...

In February 1964, the music world changed dramatically. Really it was a complete revolution.

They are past 1964, but Endeavour returns tonight in case you don't know.

jerpod said...

MadMan: I’m no Steely Dan fan, but even so, I think you got taken.

jerpod said...

The Rolling Stones knew how to use horns in a rock song, Try, say, “Rocks Off”.

EDH said...

Hands down Steely Dan is the music most used by sound engineers for major touring acts to tune the PA set-up before the show.

tshanks78 said...

“I don't want saxophone in my rock and roll. I hated the arrival of horns into rock music. No horns!!!!

And I don't like a lot of in-your-face musicianship, even with guitars. I find it annoying.

I like garage rock, not prog rock.”

One listen to “The National Anthem” by Radiohead might alter your thinking.

tim in vermont said...

I was talking about his personal circle of friends, wendybar.

Dave in Tucson said...

I enjoy Steely Dan quite a bit, although "Bodhisatva" is one of my least favorite of their songs.

Although Dylan mostly leaves me cold, so different strokes and all that.

Quaestor said...

I like garage rock, not prog rock.

Titanic, meet Iceberg.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

EDH said...

Hands down Steely Dan is the music most used by sound engineers for major touring acts to tune the PA set-up before the show.

Actually, it's the song "IGY" from Fagen's solo album that used to be a favorite of sound engineers. It's since been surpassed, but at the time (1982) it was considered perfect for testing sound systems.

jerpod said...

Come to think of it, one of the things I like best about SD’s My Old School is the use of horns. They’re a rhythmic accent to the song, not “hey, listen to this sax bleat! Cool, Daddy.”

Ganderson said...

Been a Steely Dan fan for a long time- the liner notes on “Can’t Buy a Thrill” are very funny. I’d also point out to the throng assembled here that there’s a lot of later work that’s quite good as well- The album “Two Against Nature” has a bunch of good stuff- from the weirdly creepy “Janie Runaway” and “Cousin Dupree” to “What a Shame About Me” a clever reworking of the themes in Harry Chapin’s clunkiily obvious “”Taxi” . I also love the title cut from “Everything Must Go”.
When I was 28 I briefly dated an 18 year old- so “Hey 19” has always been a fave...

Ken B said...

“I don’t like in your face musicianship.”
Then you better avoid this https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0NigiwMtWE0

Me, I think that one of the greatest recordings ever.

MadisonMan said...

The nice thing about that trade: we both thought the other was getting taken.

Amexpat said...

For Dylan Fans:
Steely Dan's debut album, Can't Buy a Thrill, comes from a phrase in Dylan's song "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry".

I own their greatest hits. It's nice as background music, but if I had to cull my CD collection to a 100, it wouldn't make the cut.

Char Char Binks said...

"I don't want saxophone in my rock and roll. I hated the arrival of horns into rock music. No horns!!!!"

I agree. Clarence Clemons pretty much turned every Springsteen song into "Yakety Sax".

Sebastian said...

"Turn it off, I hate that kind of music."

Isn't exceptionally bad the opposite of mediocrity?

Tank said...

Crosby’s choices for opposites are all OK with Tank and include my favorite band, not SD.

Linda said...

We went to Steely Dan w/ the Doobie Brothers last summer at Breese Stevens. My husband and I liked Doobie Brothers way more than Steely Dan. I do think you had to listen to their albums rather than just the radio hits. But I was never into them much.

For me, The Allman Brothers were probably the best band. We continue to love the ‘southern rock’ with Tedeschi Trucks band - if you haven’t heard of them - you should listen - very talented group (Derek Trucks played with the Allman Brothers and Susan Tedeschi has the most soulful voice around) . . . but there are horns in the TTB!!!

AZ Bob said...

Steely Dan has a special appeal for some musicians. The arrangements allow for every instrument being heard. The chord voicing are complex. There is s jazz sensibility that makes the music stand out from others.

Producer Rick Beato dissects Kid Charlemagne in this video tutorial. I particularly enjoy the analysis of Larry Carlton's guitar solo at 7:30.

tim in vermont said...

In The Blues Brothers Althouse is the one throwing beers until they play Rawhide.

Amexpat said...

I don't want saxophone in my rock and roll.

I always had a weakness for the sax solo in Baker Street. But that's more pop than rock.

I'm not sure if I'd classify Steely Dan as pure rock. Perhaps jazz pop would be closer.

Amexpat said...

I hated the arrival of horns into rock music. No horns!!!!

What about Street Legal? I think the horns worked well on that album.

cf said...

At the time, I found Steely Dan OK, but was aware that my male peers were CRAZY for them. Their particular devotion has always been puzzlement to me. Something about their music touched a nerve that I did not share, and I shrugged and figured "it was a guy thing".

Art in LA said...

Different strokes for different folks. It's nice that we have choices, right? I like Steely Dan, but not everything they created. What band/musician is universally loved anyway? So many styles out there ...

Anthony said...

God oh God please no more Dylan. A radio station here in Phoenix (KCDX, which I otherwise love love love) plays Dylan a lot.

Christallmighty it just bores me silly. His songs are simplistic. Lyrics are standard blah blah blah rhyme, blah blah blah rhyme. Almost as dull as hip hop.

I'm not that big on Steely Dan but the musicianship and production are superb. Unlike, say, DYLAN.

Curious George said...

"This was after Crosby announced that Steely Dan is his favorite band."

That's just the weed talkin'.

daskol said...

Also more a fan of the garage sound than the perfect studio recording, but the stuff SD did with Bernie Purdie is fun to listen to. It doesn’t rock, but it shuffles real nice.

Amexpat said...

That's just the weed talkin'.

At least he didn't say that Steely Dan were better song writers than the Beatles.

daskol said...

Home at Last

dbp said...

"Jimmy Page said Randall's solo on "Reelin' in the Years" is his favorite guitar solo of all-time."

Wilbur said...

"The arrangements allow for every instrument being heard."

Just like Guy Lombardo. Louis Armstrong's favorite band, if you care to believe it.

daskol said...

Pretty Purdie videos on youtube are good fun even if like me you’re not a musician but you’re moved by that shuffle beat.

Crimso said...

Beato does an epic 42 min dissection of "Don't Take Me Alive." Also gushes over Steve Gadd's drum solo on the song "Aja" on his 20 best drum sounds of all time video (think he included Bernard Purdie from another SD song in that video).

Obviously, I am a very strange person (for numerous reasons). Of all of my favorite bands, SD is the only one that I would say never made a song that was anything less than very good. 90% of what they created was either great or legendary. I have an iTunes playlist that is everything they ever released, plus the bootleg demos that somebody got hold of and released. They "condemned" the release of those demos, a few of which ended up in substantially different form on their albums. Even in that rough, unproduced form those demos were great.

Yancey Ward said...

"FM", "Peg", "Deacon Blues", and "Hey 19" come immediately to my mind along with those mentioned by Althouse. I was never a big fan, but they are good and I always stick with a radio station playing one of their songs.

dbp said...

I echo some of the comments that the best of Dan are the songs that don't make it onto the radio. What has been growing on my over the years is the 1980 album Gaucho.

William said...

I've got a lot of Steely Dan's music on my playlist, but I can't say I was ever especially interested in their backstory.. I like their music, but there's not much glamour to the group. Maybe if one of them committed suicide or got involved in a sex scandal, it would help their rep. They're like Frederic March. March was a celebrated actor, but he never generated the interest of Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart. Maybe it's the cool perfection of their musicianship that turns people off.......If you want mediocrity, there's nothing that can surpass the Grateful Dead!s recording of Dark Star--the long version that was recorded at Monterey and the days following.......Deacon Blues, if I'm not mistaken, refers to the nickname of some college basketball team that had lost thirty or forty straight games. If it had been about a girl who died at the wheel of her car while fleeing from her religious fanatic, Baptist Deacon father, then the song would have more resonance.

Grant said...

I’m a musicIan, but I don’t like Steely Dan. Their music is slick, viscous, and cold, like the lubricant for an ultrasound exam.

EDH said...

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...
Actually, it's the song "IGY" from Fagen's solo album...

The very song I had in mind and wanted to link, but for the life of me couldn't remember the title!

Known Unknown said...

Check out Day Glow Freaks created by a friend of mine.

"Day Glow Freaks is a collection of 12 original songs created entirely from the sampled works of Steely Dan. This homage, built from hundreds of samples of the band’s 82 studio tracks, is the result of a yearlong personal endeavor and is an expression of gratitude for a career of captivating music."

Bill Peschel said...

I hadn't heard "Bodhisattva" until now, so thanks for linking to it.

I'm as much of a fan of SD as I am anything else except XTC. I can see someone not liking them if they think that every song sounds the same. I find you have to get into the lyrics to discover that sometimes they can be a bit unsettling.

"Deacon Blues" can be read as the portrait of an artist who was once a young man, finding his fulfillment and destiny through the saxophone. But then you hear

I crawl like a viper
Through these suburban streets
Make love to these women
Languid and bittersweet

... and you wonder if this is a kid in the suburbs dreaming of what he thinks life in the city is like. You think he's out of touch, especially when he sings of being "a victim of laughing chance" as "the essence of true romance."

But for most of the song, you're feeling like you're just like him, but you can't help of wonder if he's really a fraud, and what does that make you?

EDH said...

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...
It's since been surpassed, but at the time (1982) it was considered perfect for testing sound systems.

What PA testing songs would you say have surpassed the IGY/DF/SD standard?

alanc709 said...

Steely Dan wasn't a 'band' as such, they were Becker and Fagan and an ever-rotating cast of guest players

alanc709 said...

But no saxophone in your rock and roll? Listen to some early rock, or even early 60s, like the Dave Clark 5. That raunchy saxophone sound was made for rock and roll.

Unknown said...

"I hated the arrival of horns into rock music." Horns were in rock music before they weren't.

DAN said...

Maybe, like David Crosby, you had to live most of your life in LA. "Drive west on Sunset to the sea/Turn that jungle music down, at least until we're out of town/This is no one night stand, it's a real occasion/Like a weekend in TJ, it's cheap but it's not free..."

rcocean said...

I'm reading Miles Davis' autobiography. He's classifies all this as "Old tired White people's shit".

DAN said...

It's what Phillip Marlowe would listen to.

Omaha1 said...

Steely Dan lyrics don't really touch the emotions like Neil Young or Bob Dylan, they were pretty cynical and overly intellectual most of the time. Unlike Althouse, I enjoy their in-your-face musicianship.

I "coulda been a contender" as a concert pianist if as a teenager I had been willing to commit to several hours of practice every day. I was a decent choral singer at one time because I could read and learn music quickly, and had perfect pitch. Carpal tunnel, smoking, and allergies made it so I can't really do any of that any more but music occupies a great deal of my mental activity. I often analyze the notes and harmonies of the songs playing in my head, even when I am falling asleep. It's a good distraction from everyday concerns.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

In a hundred years, people in the know will be familiar with the names "Beatles" and "Rolling Stones", but they will be listening to Steely Dan.

Crimso said...

"I find you have to get into the lyrics to discover that sometimes they can be a bit unsettling."

That's a major reason why they are viewed as being among the most ironic of bands. The music, no matter what its vibe on any given song, is usually set to lyrics that are about depressing and distressing people and situations; e.g., "King of the World."

Shane said...

"Dirty Work"! The best Steely Dan song ever.

Earnest Prole said...

"Deacon Blues" can be read as the portrait of an artist who was once a young man, finding his fulfillment and destiny through the saxophone.

In the "Making Of" documentary, Walter Becker says “The protagonist is not a musician. He just sort of imagines that would be one of the mythic forms of loserdom to which he might aspire. And you know, who’s to say that he’s not right?"

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Thanks Professor, just discovered that I can stream aja for free with my Amazon Prime membership.

Clyde said...

Ann Althouse said...

I know Aja only because it comes up in crossword puzzles all the time. It's like the way I know ELO.


That's sad. I loved ELO growing up, and the first concert I went to was ELO's 1978 "Out of the Blue" tour when they were in Kansas City. Great show with the trademark spaceship stage and laser light show. I saw both ends of their "Time" tour in 1981-82, catching a show early on the tour at Boston Garden and then the final show of the European tour in Munich the following summer. If you haven't allowed yourself the opportunity to enjoy their music, you don't know what you are missing.

bagoh20 said...

I mostly feel sorry for those who cannot appreciate Steely Dan. There is a lot there on multiple levels to enjoy, and while I could go into all the complexity, musicianship, execution and care they put into their music, it just always makes me feel really good when I hear it. For me it is really a lot of what music should be, at least one important genre of it. It simply sounds good to me. Depth, color, detail, intelligence and fun, and it always makes me wish I could play all the instruments the way they are showcased in their music. It is the opposite of mediocrity, and to my ear sounds like nobody else.

rightguy said...

SD was a very sophisticated group: their ability to marry catchy pop tunes (and interesting lyrics) to modern jazz harmonics -and have a hit record- was rivaled only by the likes of Joni Mitchel, Brain Wilson, & Sting. Aja and their last record Gaucho are both superb, with Aja being a true classic. Anyone who isn't familiar with these two fabulous recordings, and has an opinion about Steely Dan, cannot possibly have a valid opinion

Unknown said...

Steely Dan's Aja album is the best whole album ever produced. Black Cow, Aja, Deacon Blues, Peg, Home at Last, I Got the News and Josie.

SweatBee said...

"My father was a bookkeeper."

Mark Nielsen said...

alanc709 said...
Steely Dan wasn't a 'band' as such, they were Becker and Fagan and an ever-rotating cast of guest players

Michael McDonald was part of that cast at one point. (He's on "Can't Buy a Thrill" -- don't know if he stayed longer.) How can you have that guy's voice at your disposal and not use it? But they didn't, other than backing vocals in a few places. SD was definitely the Becker and Fagan show. And that was plenty.

Jack Wayne said...

I can only say that horns with rock is awesome when the player is Rory Gallagher on alto AND tenor sax at the same time!

Earnest Prole said...

If I could make a direct pitch to Althouse, put Aja in your car or on your phone, listen to it repeatedly and more or less exclusively over the course of a week, and let it seep into you. The tension between its surfaces and deeper structure is part of its charm. After you've given it a week, watch the "Making Of" documentary.

rightguy said...

EP : mega dittos to that. Aja took multiple listens to fully appreciate how good it was.

gbarto said...

This weekend I was walking down the street in Mountain View when I heard "Don't bring me down" blasting out of a club. Looked it on Amazon: ELO. Downloaded their greatest hits, recognizing one or two titles. Put it on shuffle and kept going, "Oh, that's that one!"

Everybody always talks about Steely Dan, but I couldn't name a song if my life depended on it. Don't know how much I would recognize. Just put on Aja on Alexa (thanks, Ron!). We'll see. First song I put on is listenable, but it feels like something Herb Alpert would write for piano and strings.

Christy said...

Linda, thanks for the heads-up on Tedeschi Trucks. I've just had a nice tour of their videos on YouTube. The performance with B.B. King at the Royal Albert was glorious.

chickenlittle said...

@MadisonMan: I think it’s possible like and own both “Aja” and “Breakfast In America.” If your tastes are truly catholic, you can even enjoy Fear’s “New York’s Alright (If You Like Saxaphones).”

chickenlittle said...

After 40 some years of collecting rock, pop, and jazz, I’ve pretty much stopped. I listen mostly to classical these days, thanks to KUSC.

gbarto said...

I've now been listening to Aja for half an hour. I feel like I've spent half an hour in the most happening elevator in Indiana. NTTAWWT.

Earnest Prole said...

Aja took multiple listens to fully appreciate how good it was.

Its surface is deceptive but below it swings -- "Peg" teases before giving up a deep funk groove; "Deacon Blues" seems MOR on first listen. It's one of those works of art that changes (it or you) as you give it time.

eddie willers said...

You gotta love a band that can sneak 'fuck' onto the radio:

Show Biz Kids:

While the poor people sleepin'
With the shade on the light
While the poor people sleepin'
All the stars come out at night


After closing time
At the Guernsey Fair
I detect the El Supremo
From the room at the top of the stairs
Well I've been around the world
And I've been in the Washington Zoo
And in all my travels
As the facts unravel
I've found this to be true

CHORUS

They got the house on the corner
With the rug inside
They got the booze they need
All that money can buy
They got the shapely bodies
They got the Steely Dan T-shirt
And for the coup-de-gras
They're outrageous

CHORUS

Show biz kids making movies
Of themselves you know they
Don't give a fuck about anybody else

CHORUS

The the constant, driving singing [ya go to Las Vegas] in the background is sung as "Lost Wages".

D said...

I like Steely Dan, which is to say I like the music played by the musicians that the mediocrities, Fagen and Becker, somehow managed to assemble. Their lyrics are supposed to offer biting commentary on the pigs that comprise US society. I wonder if they ever included themselves. From the Walter Becker Wikipedia entry:

"In an interview many years later, Fagen said, 'I hear this guy practicing, and it sounded very professional and contemporary. It sounded like, you know, like a black person, really.'"

Frank Zappa and Primus are far superior at both social commentary and musicianship than Fagen and Becker. And, they don't leave you feeling like you should shoot yourself in the head when you're done listening to them.