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Steely Dan

Most rock & roll bands are a tightly wound unit that developed their music through years of playing in garages and clubs around their hometown. Steely Dan never subscribed to that aesthetic. As the vehicle for the songwriting of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan defied all rock & roll conventions. Becker and Fagen never truly enjoyed rock -- with their ironic humor and cryptic lyrics, their eclectic body of work shows some debt to Bob Dylan -- preferring jazz, traditional pop, blues, and R&B. Steely Dan created a sophisticated, distinctive sound with accessible melodic hooks, complex harmonies and time signatures, and a devotion to the recording studio. With producer Gary Katz, Becker and Fagen gradually changed Steely Dan from a performing band to a studio project, hiring professional musicians to record their compositions. Though the band didn't perform live after 1974, Steely Dan's popularity continued to grow throughout the decade, as their albums became critical favorites and their singles became staples of AOR and pop radio stations. Even after the group disbanded in the early '80s, their records retained a cult following, as proven by the massive success of their unlikely return to the stage in the early '90s.

Walter Becker (bass) and Donald Fagen (vocals, keyboards) were the core members of Steely Dan throughout its variety of incarnations. The two met at Bard College in New York in 1967 and began playing in bands together shortly afterward. The duo played in a number of groups -- including the Bad Rock Group, which featured future comedic actor Chevy Chase on drums -- which ranged from jazz to progressive rock. Eventually, Becker and Fagen began composing songs together, hoping to become professional songwriters in the tradition of the Brill Building. In 1970, the pair joined Jay & the Americans' backing band, performing under pseudonyms; Becker chose Gustav Mahler, while Fagen used Tristan Fabriani. They stayed with Jay & the Americans until halfway through 1971, when they recorded the soundtrack for the low-budget film You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It, which was produced by the Americans' Kenny Vance. Following the recording of the soundtrack, Becker and Fagen attempted to start a band with Denny Dias, but the venture was unsuccessful. Barbra Streisand recorded the Fagen/Becker composition ‘I Mean to Shine’ on her album Barbra Joan Streisand, released in August 1971, and the duo met producer Gary Katz, who hired them as staff songwriters for ABC/Dunhill in Los Angeles, where he had just become a staff producer. Katz suggested that Becker and Fagen form a band as a way to record their songs, and Steely Dan -- who took their name from a dildo in William Burroughs' Naked Lunch -- was formed shortly afterward.

Recruiting guitarists Denny Dias and Skunk Baxter, drummer Jim Hodder, and keyboardist/vocalist David Palmer, Becker and Fagen officially formed Steely Dan in 1972, releasing their debut, Can't Buy a Thrill, shortly afterward. Palmer and Fagen shared lead vocals on the album, but the record's two hit singles -- the Top Ten "Do It Again" and "Reeling in the Years" -- were sung by Fagen. Can't Buy a Thrill was a critical and commercial success, but its supporting tour was a disaster, hampered by an under-rehearsed band and unappreciative audiences. Palmer left the band following the tour. Countdown to Ecstasy, released in 1973, was a critical hit, but it failed to generate a hit single, even though the band supported it with a tour.

Steely Dan replaced Hodder with Jeff Porcaro and added keyboardist/backup vocalist Michael McDonald prior to recording their third album, Pretzel Logic. Released in the spring of 1974, Pretzel Logic returned Steely Dan to the Top Ten on the strength of the single "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." After completing the supporting tour for Pretzel Logic, Becker and Fagen decided to retire from live performances and make Steely Dan a studio-based band. For their next album, 1975's Katy Lied, the duo hired a variety of studio musicians -- including Dias, Porcaro, guitarist Elliot Randall, saxophonists Phil Woods, bassist Wilton Felder, percussionist Victor Feldman, keyboardist Michael Omartian, and guitarist Larry Carlton -- as supporting musicians. Katy Lied was another hit, as was 1976's The Royal Scam, which continued in the vein of its predecessor. On 1977's Aja, Steely Dan's sound became more polished and jazzy, as they hired jazz fusion artists like Wayne Shorter, Lee Ritenour, and the Crusaders as support. Aja became their biggest hit, reaching the Top Five within three weeks of release and becoming one of the first albums to be certified platinum. Aja also gained the respect of many jazz musicians, as evidenced by Woody Herman recording an album of Becker/Fagen songs in 1978.

Following the release of Aja, ABC was bought out by MCA Records, resulting in a contractual dispute with the label that delayed until 1980 the release of their follow-up album. During the interim, the group had a hit with the theme song for the film FM in 1978. Steely Dan finally released Gaucho, the follow-up to Aja, in late 1980, and it became another Top Ten hit for the group. During the summer of 1981, Becker and Fagen announced that they were parting ways. The following year, Fagen released his solo debut, The Nightfly, which became a critical and commercial hit.

Fagen didn't record another album until 1993, when he reunited with Becker, who produced Kamakiriad. The album was promoted by the first Steely Dan tour in nearly 20 years, and while the record failed to sell, the concerts were very popular. In 1994, Becker released his solo debut, 11 Tracks of Whack, which was produced by Fagen. The following year, Steely Dan mounted another reunion tour, and in early 2000 the duo issued Two Against Nature, their first new studio album in two decades. It won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Steely Dan followed it in 2003 with Everything Must Go. Fagan’s solo album Morph the Cat was released in 2006, and Becker released Circus Money in 2008 as Steely Dan embarked on another tour. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Everything Must Go

1. The Last Mall

2. Things I Miss The Most

3. Blues Beach

4. Godwhacker

5. Slang Of Ages

6. Green Book

7. Pixeleen

8. Lunch With Gina

9. Everything Must Go

x

Track List: Two Against Nature

1. Gaslighting Abbie

2. What A Shame About Me

3. Two Against Nature

4. Janie Runaway

5. Almost Gothic

6. Jack Of Speed

7. Cousin Dupree

8. Negative Girl

9. West Of Hollywood

x

Track List: Citizen Steely Dan

Disc 1

1. Do It Again

2. Dirty Work

3. Kings

5. Only A Fool Would Say That

6. Reelin' In The Years

7. Fire In The Hole

8. Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)

9. Change Of The Guard

10. Turn That Heartbeat Over Again

12. Razor Boy

13. The Boston Rag

14. Your Gold Teeth

15. Show Biz Kids

16. My Old School

Disc 2

1. King Of The World

2. Pearl Of The Quarter

3. Rikki Don't Lose That Number

4. Night By Night

5. Any Major Dude Will Tell You

6. Barrytown

7. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

8. Parker's Band

9. Through With Buzz

10. Pretzel Logic

11. With A Gun

12. Charlie Freak

13. Monkey In Your Soul

14. Bodhisattva (Live)

15. Black Friday

17. Rose Darling

18. Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More

19. Doctor Wu

20. Everyone's Gone To The Movies

21. Chain Lightning

Disc 3

1. Your Gold Teeth II

2. Any World (That I'm Welcome To)

3. Throw Back The Little Ones

4. Kid Charlemagne

5. The Caves Of Altamira

6. Don't Take Me Alive

7. Sign In Stranger

8. The Fez

9. Green Earrings

10. Haitian Divorce

11. Everything You Did

12. The Royal Scam

13. Here At The Western World

14. Black Cow

16. Peg

Disc 4

1. Deacon Blues

2. Home At Last

3. I Got The News

4. Josie

5. FM

6. Babylon Sisters

7. Hey Nineteen

8. Glamour Profession

9. Gaucho

10. Time Out Of Mind

11. My Rival

12. Third World Man

13. Everyone's Gone To The Movies (Demo)

x

Track List: A Decade Of Steely Dan

1. FM

2. Black Friday

3. Babylon Sisters

4. Deacon Blues

6. Hey Nineteen

7. Do It Again

8. Peg

9. Rikki Don't Lose That Number

10. Reelin' In The Years

11. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

12. Kid Charlemagne

13. My Old School

x

Track List: Gaucho

1. Babylon Sisters

2. Hey Nineteen

3. Glamour Profession

4. Gaucho

5. Time Out Of Mind

6. My Rival

7. Third World Man

x

Track List: Aja

1. Black Cow

2. Aja

3. Deacon Blues

4. Peg

5. Home At Last

6. I Got The News

7. Josie

x

Track List: The Royal Scam

1. Kid Charlemagne

2. The Caves Of Altamira

3. Don't Take Me Alive

4. Sign In Stranger

5. The Fez

6. Green Earrings

7. Haitian Divorce

8. Everything You Did

9. The Royal Scam

x

Track List: Katy Lied

1. Black Friday

3. Rose Darling

4. Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More

5. Doctor Wu

6. Everyone's Gone To The Movies

7. Your Gold Teeth II

8. Chain Lightning

9. Any World (That I'm Welcome To)

10. Throw Back The Little Ones

x

Track List: Pretzel Logic

1. Rikki Don't Lose That Number

2. Night By Night

3. Any Major Dude Will Tell You

4. Barrytown

5. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

6. Parker's Band

7. Through With Buzz

8. Pretzel Logic

9. With A Gun

10. Charlie Freak

11. Monkey In Your Soul

x

Track List: Can't Buy A Thrill

1. Do It Again

2. Dirty Work

3. Kings

4. Midnite Cruiser

5. Only A Fool Would Say That

6. Reelin' In The Years

7. Fire In The Hole

8. Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)

9. Change Of The Guard

10. Turn That Heartbeat Over Again

Comments

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The cuervo gold, the fine coke numbing,,,ma k e tonight a wonderfuk thing,,,,yoh z e e e e r ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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Favorite Steely Dan album of all time. Greatest lyrics...dri n k scotch whiskey all night long, and die behind the wheel...
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Gaucho!!
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dragonlady60 8 8
SD. IS THE GREATEST LOVE THIER SONGS..WHEN I FELL LOW. I PUT SD ON

I FEEL BETTER ALWAYS
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❤❤❤❤❤
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legis225
Here in the western world your gold teeth thinks like pretzel logic.
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hlore58
Nylesfrench7 . . . Y E S !
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The unmistakable sound of Steely Dan!!!!
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Nyles /Bronx

Man I've dug this forever. Reminds and brings me back to the days of yore. Bad BASS and Keyboard groove. Electric piano chords are a groove. Solos kill. But the PERCUSSION, DAMN. The Congas and Guiro and drums add the magic. Donald Fagan's voice, poignant lyrics. Sheeiit that's Steely Dan Y'ALL, Dig?
Report as inappropriate
They got the shapely bodies
They got the Steely Dan T-shirts
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Brings back memories riding in dad's volkswagon beetle,had 8 track of sd
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bburklin0
Santa Monica definitely done been set on fire!!!1
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dragonlady60 8 8
NO ONE LIKE SD...NO ONE
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dragonlady60 8 8
Most excellent wax by SD
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stacycollier . s c
Now this is what I'm talking bout...befor e there was BET there was MTV. This is the s**t!!!
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High school daze!
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dragonlady60 8 8
SD TAKES MY STRESS AWAY TY GUYS
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Steely Dan brings me back, being a kid.... Yesteryears. :)
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kelvinator10
The Boston Rag .. WOW
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dragonlady60 8 8
Best wax ever by SD
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dragonlady60 8 8
Steely Dan the best
Report as inappropriate
One of Steely's best (Kid Charlemagne) & really sweet guitar work!
Great album (Royal Scam).
Report as inappropriate
I never knew a girl could be so cruel and I'm never going back to my old hey nineteen cuz we can be in the Western world unless I shoot my old man back in Oregon while dealing with a man who stole my water doctor paying the lawyer for my Haitian divorce after drinking scotch whiskey all night long
Report as inappropriate
Got this album back in the 70's. LOVED ths song because of Jeff Skunk Baxter's steel guitar jam .... just awesome.
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Hell ya! Lavertis Johnson!
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Smoke 1 to this. S**t yeah!
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Great songwriting/ a r r a n g i n g . What great material/alb u m s ! !
Wore most of them out!
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hlore58
High school!! Fla. sun and fun!
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FREE DONALD FAGEN
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Breaking Bad brought me here. Walter White claimed there was no better band than SD
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Riverwood class of 78
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No better band on the planet, hands down.
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Steely Dan , is and will always remain cool!!!!
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love the beautiful ones the one n only ones...Mr. steely Dan...nnn whateva....l o l
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I too never understood the animosity or love them/hate them attitude. They play with some of the most accomplished musicians... i t may not be your cup of tea...but hate? As for me....I'm a fan and can appreciate the talented players.
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My wife loves Katy Lied from back in the day, but, said she has no idea why.
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I remember checking my daughter out of school early to attend a Steely Dan concert! She was in the 6th grade at the time! We both had a great time. Funny now because she is now 25 and about to have a daughter of her own. May her times she share with her daughter be as joyful!!
Report as inappropriate
In my workplace we had the kind of job where we ALWAYS had music playing on speakers, and one of my co-workers HATED Steely Dan ! I couldn't understand how their music could cause such aversion. .... I mean I could see it not doing anything for some people ......but such a strong reaction ? Steely Dan !
Report as inappropriate
The Album Aja sounds as fresh as it did when it was first released
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When you think of the 70s Reelin in the Years by Steely Dan no doubt
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Brings me back to High School. Love Steely Dan. Good ole' music like me. (almost old)
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saw them at ravinia over the summer still great in concert
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Rikii don't loose that number
On thumbprint radio. Steely Dan
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Smooth as a good joint
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A classic Steely Dan...my favorite
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gpski54
its a Saturday nite Barry square Hartford Connecticut at Shannon's bar in the 70's .wooooooooo
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Classic Album and classic song
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Zass meets cool!!!
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How many have you smoked up???
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Cool rock ever!!!!!
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