Apr 262013


Ok, so every time I hear Steely Dan on the radio, I immediately think of Bond’s Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd. Maybe part of the reason is that I don’t really know the “Band” — Fagen and Decker — other than small snatches I’ve seen of them — but their legend looms large in my mind.

On the surface, this is a band that I should not like a wit. Jazz Fusion! Studio musicians!! Odd vocal stylings. What gives?? Yet — although I don’t OWN any SD — I like them when I hear them. And the solo for “Reelin’ in the Years” by said studio axeman is one of my all-time faves.

By looming large, I mean I picture a studio teeming with ’70s excesses — women in jumpsuits, coke, shag carpeting, etc.

So I probably won’t be downloading and Steely Dan for the old iPod. But if I’m ever at some cool party, chock-full of modern, Eames-inspired furniture, and this is coming out of the Blaupunkt’s, I’ll nod my head and say, Yes…I can live with this.

I know most bands have a persona that is larger than life. But did Steely Dan ever try to cultivate it the way that, say Zeppelin did?

Should I break down and buy this band? Help …


  31 Responses to “Steely Dan, I think I love you. I think.”

  1. Ugh! First your better half posts something on Facebook about loving Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter in The Rain” and now this. You better be sportin’ some good facial hair the next time we see you!

    Do we need an RTH intervention?

  2. I love your “Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd” reference. I just watched the “Aja – Classic Albums” episode on Netflix and came away with the feeling that I really don’t want to know any more about the two of them and will just let myself occasionally enjoy a selective track when I hear it. I don’t own any of their stuff and will keep it that way.

  3. Never owned any Steely Dan, which is kind of strange because I usually had at least one record by a 70s supergroup of their stature at some point or another. They were all over the radio for so long, I just became immune to them and didn’t want to hear any deep cuts, either.

    I did have Fagen’s The Nightfly, but didn’t everyone?

  4. Steely Dan was my dad’s favorite band in the world. I was neither a fan or hater growing up, they just existed on my dad’s new “CD Player” as one of his 3-4 Cds in the early 80’s.

    In 2003 I moved home for 6 months while my new house was being built and he loaned me the Citizen Steely Dan box set to listen to on my commute. I became a huge fan.

    There are two Steely Dans

    The Early stuff is a “real” band and has more blues, R&B, even country than jazz. This is my favorite era, the 2nd and 3rd LP

    Their Best: Any Major Dude, Pearl Of The Quarter, Pretzel Logic, Daddy Don’t Live In NY City No More, Rikki, King Of The World, Thow Back The Little Ones.

    The most POPULAR era was the late 70’s when they used all studio guys and went super slick (my least favorite song is PEG, alothough it has a cool guitar break. Aja has a cool drum solo but is also very slick and jazzy)

    I’d say get Pretzel Logic, Kady Lied and Countdown To Ecstacy. They are $5 at Best Buy, Target etc.

    The 1st LP has another singer for 1/2 the record and is kinda scattered.

    With a “best of” you will trade the stronger LP cuts for the weaker later era “hits”

  5. 2000 Man

    I like Steely Dan a lot. Citizen Steely Dan is a great bargain. Every album for one reasonable price, and finally the sound was actually even as good as or better than the original records. I like all of their albums. They took pride in their work and put real effort into what they did. I think jungleland2 has good suggestions for where to start, but I think Aja and Gaucho are pretty cool. The Royal Scam is probably the one I play the most, though. If you want to hear just how good your stereo can sound, Two Against Nature is terrific. When i was auditioning speakers a guy kept my speaker tester cd after hearing that. I got to the next store and noticed he had kept it!

  6. I have the greatest hits package “A Decade of Steely Dan” and Aja and I like those songs a lot, but the cream rises with Steely Dan. If you haven’t heard it on the radio, there’s a good chance it will blow. The song Kings is an exception: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAX6wOZ37lU

    Of the songs that make it to the radio, my favorites are Home At Last, Haitian Divorce, My Old School, and Kid Charlemagne, which I only discovered a few years ago is about Owsley Stanley.

    Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the car

  7. See, I really enjoyed that episode of Classic Albums. The thing I like the best about it is the interviews with Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. But the Fagan and Becker interviews (and the brief Fagan rap) rival Larry David and Ricky Gervais in terms of entertaining awkwardness.

  8. Mr.Wint & Mr.Kidd….heh heh heh…I’ll never look at Becker & Fagen the same way again.

  9. ladymisskirroyale

    I like Steely Dan, but that’s based primarily on reminiscences of elementary school and high school, and hearing the hits being played on the radio. I think that I should like them more: I like obtuse lyrics and interesting time signatures. We ended up buying “Goucho” a few years ago, again because we both recalled liking it when it came out. But I recall that the remembrance of it was better than the actual music.

    If someone loaned or gave me their Steely Dan to listen to, I would play it through with concentration, but somehow it seems to be one of those bands I’m just not going to go out and buy.

    I AM intrigued by cdm and mrclean’s references to Classic Albums on netflix – that is something I want to hear more about.

  10. If you search Netflix for “Classic Albums” you’ll find a whole series of documentaries on albums of yore considered “classics”. They are usually less than an hour long and some are better than others. I’ve recently watched episodes on “Rush- 2112 / Moving Pictures”, Elton John – Goodby Yellow Brick Road”, and “Black Sabbath – Paranoid”…

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    Thanks for the info! Ever since a bunch of movie distributors took their movies and ran, we’ve had a hard time finding a lot of good things on Netflix. I now have some faith renewed.

  12. As an aside, the Classic Albums series is spectacular. The ‘Aja’, ‘Anthem to Beauty’ and ‘Apostrophe’ episodes are not to be missed! ‘Night at the Opera’, ‘Who’s Next’, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, Electric Ladyland’, ‘Rumors’, ‘The Band’, and ‘Elvis Presley’ are others that I’ve picked up cheap. I bought the ‘Damn the Torpedoes’ disc on blu-ray and I don’t own a blu-ray player, so I’ve got that going for me.

    The series was produced in England so there’s a little bit of translation involved. I skipped the ‘Simply Red’ episode.

  13. As an aside to the aside – on the etymology of the term ‘album’ -my dad was a jazz musician and church organist and he had a collection of ‘albums’ from the 40’s on 78 rpm discs – Stan Kenton and Yma Sumac come to mind. When you bought an ‘album’ in the 40’s you literally got an album – a binder with six or so sleeves each holding one 78 rpm disc. Somehow, the term ‘album’ has hung on through several iterations of medium – lp’s, tapes, cd’s and now charges of electrons floating thru space – somehow they are still ‘album’ releases…

  14. God! You young whippersnappers! I love the ‘Fagen and Decker’ observation even more than I love the ‘Wint and Kidd’ reference – and I love that even more!

    ‘Where the hell am I?…she don’t remember queen of soul….’

  15. ladymisskirroyale

    We started watching the Primal Scream episode and it has been great. Good to know about being produced in England – there were no subtitles for the Glaswegian as I’m guessing may have been tempted for American audiences. I don’t typically have difficulty with British accents but Rob Young’s talk was almost indecipherable at times. That or he was drunk.

  16. ladymisskirroyale

    Bodhisattva is one of those Steely Dan tracks I never tire of.

  17. ladymisskirroyale

    Interesting, very interesting.

  18. revisit the early stuff, it was not my favorite originally but now I prefer it to the slick-er era.

    Skunk Baxter added some great guitar and pedal steel to Steely Dan. I had a chance to meet him in 1998 and “tried” to thank him for his contributions to SD but he told me to be quiet, Hot Tuna were about to start playing (ok I picked the moment that Hot Tuna were about to start to get his attention).

  19. “Classic Albums” is like “Behind The Music” to me, I will sit through almost any episode about almost any band.

    Missed BTM last night on Deep Purple. I’m sure it will re-run this week.

  20. jeangray

    First Black Sabbath & now Steely Dan??? Where have you folks been?

  21. jeangray

    “King of the World” is one the best songs ever!

  22. BigSteve

    I’m always mystified when people with otherwise good taste in music profess not to like Steely Dan. Younger hipsters seem to think of them as some kid of ‘dad rock,’ or god forbid ‘yacht rock.’ To me their songs represent a drugged out Burroughsian nightmare world that I’m glad I don’t have to live in. And of course the idea that only ‘real’ bands make good music, and session musicians do not is pure bullshit.

  23. I especially agree with your last point. I simply don’t like most of their songs, but they probably have 10 songs I like, even like a good deal. My main problem with them is a way more severe case of the problem I had with Bowie for so many years: all the songs by Steely Dan that I can’t stand make me feel less about the 10 songs they recorded that I happen to think are very good. If the rest of their output merely bored me or something like that, I’d probably think of Steely Dan as a band on par with, say, Crowded House, who made only one full album that I like a lot compared with a couple of good songs per otherwise boring album. Todd Rundgren is another artist, for me, whose 8-10 great songs are not diminished by a wealth of aimless, boring material. In his prime, when he was going to produce music that truly annoyed me, he often did so in another guise. Steely Dan should have had an offshoot band for all their annoying music, or an offshoot band for the 10 songs that I like as much as the best post-Terry Chambers XTC songs. I hope this clears things up from my perspective.

    I think I’m in the minority, even among lukewarm fans of Steely Dan, but that “Bodhisattva” song along makes me want to smash the lone Steely Dan album in my collection, Pretzel Logic, which contains 3 of the Steely Dan songs I like: “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” and “Barrytown.” Tight, showy jazz harmonies are as annoying as a tripping Deadhead waving his hands in front of your face, asking if you see trails.

  24. BigSteve

    I recently decided that I ought to be able to play some more Steely Dan songs on the guitar. First it was Kid Charlemagne, and then Rikki. Even with chord sheets from the internet, both were humbling experiences. Don’t try this at home unless you know how to handle 7+9.

    Barrytown is more my speed, basic rock chord changes with one slightly oblique modulation in the middle eight, and I’ve been playing that one for years.

  25. jeangray

    You are so contrarian! Mos’ folks I know, thank that XTC’s best material came after Chambers quit. Devil’s advocate?

  26. I am sorry to offend, but most folks you know have really bad taste in matters of XTC. I do love Mummer, which Chambers quit midway through, but the band ceased being a real, vital band after his departure. I like my share of latter-day XTC, but it’s reduced to armpit-sniffing experimentation, in the case of the “good effort” of The Big Express or the Ken-doll smooth pop music of Skylarking. Chambers gave the music its pubic hair.

  27. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Machinery — you should absolutely, positively start trying to dig Steely Dan, and you should start with “Pretzel Logic.” Even Gergley likes that one. Their most “pop” LP, I would say.

    For the record, I, too, am a “Boddhisatva” hater.

    Oh, and you owe it to yourself to at least acquaint yourself with the original version of “Dr. Wu.” Yes, the Minutemen covered a ‘Dan song!

  28. ohmstead

    Feel like I have to jump in and admit to being a mild Steely Dan fan. But I attribute it to a severe case of growing-up-sharing-a-bedroom-with-an-older-brother syndrome. I don’t know how many other Townspeople have had a similar experience, but even after I inevitably went may own musical way, it was really, really hard for me to shrug off the music my big brother exposed me to (inflicted upon me) when I was 10 or 12 years old and he was in high school. I associate wanting to be cool and accepted by him and his friends with liking his music…like Steely Dan, Steve Winwood, Genesis, Yes, and other prog rock bands. Much later on my “mature”, detailed knowledge of ’70s rock learned from the blaring speakers of our shared basement bedroom (that always seemed crowded with my brother’s friends shooting pool or playing air hockey) would impress my college friends. But while I can’t say that much of that music ultimately made its way onto my iPod I have to admit to certain stirrings of comfort and familiarity when I hear it on the radio. For me listening to Steely Dan transports me back to sitting on the edge of the action and being marginally accepted or at least acknowledged by older-brother-of-Ohmstead and his cool friends…what more could a 12 year-old ask for?

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