27 May 2011

TGIF Rock-n-Roll Oldies: STEELY DAN

"Sue me if I play too long..."


Steely Dan is an American pop band who developed refined and highly-original compositions blending elements of rock, funk, blues, jazz, and R-n-B, among other influences. Executed to perfection by founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker -along with the finest studio musicians on the planet- there simply never was a band like Steely Dan before, and it's unlikely there ever will be, not like this...
The music that they brought was complex and well orchestrated, with most songs displaying a significant jazz influence. Fagan's unique voice backed by sweet harmonies and irresistible musical hooks made the sound beautiful and timeless, and the cerebral and ironic lyrics were hip, sarcastic, and witty- touching on topics such as international crime, affairs, personal demons, regrets, society, and lost love.

Initially -pre Steely Dan- the two played in a handful of bands together, including Bad Rock Group, featuring comedic actor Chevy Chase on drums (!). They also performed under pseudonyms in Jay and the Americans' backing band, but a real break came when Babara Streisand chose to record the Fagan/Becker-penned "I Mean to Shine" in 1971.  

Interestingly, Donald Fagan initially lacked confidence in his voice and suffered from substantial stage-fright... it took some effort to convince him that he could -and should- sing lead later in the newly-formed Steely Dan.


Steely Dan also strove to go against the prevailing late 60s/early 70s hippy culture, seeming to think they were above the earthy San Francisco scene- in fact, they despised it. The two had become fast friends at college in upstate NY after Fagan heard Becker playing guitar at a coffee shop he was strolling by, and after some collaboration had a whole other take on what was cool, musically: they then proceeded to go out and create it.

In contrast to hippy icon Janis Joplin falling-down drunk at Woodstock, Fagan and Becker are known for near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio, very difficult to work with... they really took their business and art seriously.

The Dan toured for a couple years in the early 1970s, but by 1975 had gone studio-only. After seven albums the pair disbanded in 1981, leaving the music world for a decade. But in the early 90s, the group (surprisingly) resumed playing live concerts: since, they've released two albums of new material, the first of which earned a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. As it stands, Steely Dan has now sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. 

And in my humble opinion, the songs below are nothing short of musical masterpieces- but not unusual for Steely Dan, pretty much the only kind of stuff they ever did, including Fagan's solo album The Nightfly.

Yeah, in case you can't tell: 
I absolutely adore this band, always have: can't imagine ever getting sick of listening to such greatness... what a class act.







14 comments:

Randy-g said...

Reeling in the years...These guys had some great music RR!

Reaganite Republican said...

THE BEST, my friend- the list goes on and on

FelixAndAva said...

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and Steely Dan is STILL very good, especially compared to more current stuff with screaming and/or AutoTune replacing actual ability.

Reaganite Republican said...

It's odd, there's got to be real talent like this out there somewhere, but somehow the record industry isn't interested in those it can't control or plug into a lame formula

Joe Texan said...

Great write-up on Steely Dan. Steely Dan is utterly unlike anything else in the music world.

At one time, in high school, I was a fry cook at a chicken restaurant in a small East Texas town. I remember one evening, the manager gave me some money and had me drive the 70-mile round trip to a Best store in Humble, TX to pick up some Steely Dan albums for him--on the clock. :)

Reaganite Republican said...

Yep, Joe... they're THAT good lol

Matt said...

Good one RR. They were that good.

Amusing Bunni said...

Sweet pick, RR! SD have such a cool and unique sound.
They are very relaxing, and also know how to rock out.

Reaganite Republican said...

Well put, m'dear- COOL, that's them

And they're still touring, Matt... PA this summer, actually! I'm not usually much on way past their prime shows, but these guys seemed to have it 8 yrs ago in these clips posted above

Red said...

One of my all time favorite bands. Great pick James. Man. Now I've got to go buy an album or two...

Red said...

"The girls don't seem to care what's on as long as they play til dawn...Nothing but blues and Elvis and somebody else's favorite song..." ;-)

Reaganite Republican said...

You got it, girl~ to me, the poetry is mindblowing

Anonymous said...

RR: I just figured it out, too....SD may well have been predicting--perhaps---our current economic mess, all those years ago..."One more expensive kiss-off / Who do you think I am?" Good work, friend.

Reaganite Republican said...

Thx Anon

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