It's the bin end of the week and Steely Dan are acting oddly. They're (2023)

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At various points in a career dating back to the early Seventies, the founder members of Steely Dan, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, have made it abundantly clear that interviews are a pleasure they rank right up there with wading barefoot through broken glass. Early on, in front of journalists, Becker and Fagen tended to be frozen-faced, taciturn, elliptical, dry and, occasionally, on a really good day, silent. This seemed entirely in keeping with their music - cool, elliptical, dry, altogether the opposite of a warm handshake and collusive smile. By 1980, when the band dissolved, they had given up on interviews altogether.

Lately, though, there has been a thaw. In 1993, Fagen openly talked to the press about his solo album, Kamakiriad, on which he had been assisted by Becker. In 1994, Becker gave interviews to promote his excellent solo album, Eleven Tracks of Whack, on which Fagen appeared. And in between came a rapturously received Steely Dan reunion tour in America - an event which Steely Dan admirers hadn't even dared hope for, the band having given up touring long before they gave up giving interviews.

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Now, from those American dates in 1993 and 1994, comes a live recording, Alive in America, featuring a selection from the Steely Dan back catalogue ("Sign in Stranger", "Babylon Sisters", "Aja", "Peg" among others) and one song ("Book of Liars") from the Becker solo album. And to promote this item and the reunification it heralds, Becker and Fagen have agreed to sit before the world's press for an entire week at the swish Mark Hotel in New York.

Steely Dan doing interviews for a week? This is implausible, no matter how circumstances might have changed. And indeed, reassuringly, the band's old habits are dying hard. The pair will confess that boredom set in almost instantaneously on the Monday; that on the Tuesday they began lying blatantly to keep themselves awake; that by mid-Wednesday they were reduced to sweeping and entirely unnecessary rudeness; that come Thursday, they were numb with horror. I get to go in there on Friday. Last thing on Friday. This is about as short as straws come, rock interview-wise.

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The scene in the hotel suite at 4pm on Friday is reminiscent of the latter stages of a jumble sale. There is a table piled high with variously demolished plates of room-service sandwiches and bowls of room-service fruit and pots of room-service coffee - offered to the pair by the record company in the way, presumably, that one might try to quieten a child with colourful objects. Fagen, who in honour of the sweltering sunshine outside is wearing thick black cotton trousers and a black shirt, lies on his back on a sofa, his feet - in brand new trainers - hanging over one end, his head pillowed in his arms. Becker, in a brave Hawaiian shirt and jeans, is almost horizontal in an armchair.

They are staring at the television which is showing an old Victor Mature movie, The Egyptian. They continue to watch this for some five minutes, providing a running commentary on the images on the screen. A woman enters in a large hat: Fagen says: "Nice hat." A courtier enters carrying a plumed shade: Becker says: "Nice feather." Victor Mature enters in Egyptian dress: Fagen says: "Nice legs." And so on.

Then, finally, Becker clicks off the television and Fagen slowly levers his legs round onto the floor and they finally greet me with expressions which are whatever the opposite of "expectant" is. But abruptly, a change takes place. It seems to become apparent to them that, once they have finished talking to me, they will not have to speak to another journalist for a very long time, perhaps for as much as 10 years. They are suddenly de-mob happy, animated - or, in Fagen's case, as animated as one can be when one's cheek is cupped heavily in one's palm, forcing the folds of one's face up towards one's forehead. They josh and squabble and do a sort of double-act routine and there are no blatant lies (that I can discern), though Fagen does once resort to slagging off an unreasonably large portion of America ("In the mid-west, the food is terrible and the audience is all these stupid fuckers"). But even then, Becker apologises for him.

In rock terms, the live album is not inherently a noble form. It is the stuff of contractual obligation, of blatant time-marking, of shoddy production values and predictable cover-images. In jazz, on the other hand, the live album is sanctioned in an altogether different way. Any jazz album is pretty much a live album. And Steely Dan would consider themselves substantially a jazz act. For all that their later albums - Aja and Gaucho - are patiently constructed, high-sheen studio affairs, it's still above all a band you hear there, playing in real time, or at least a fantastic, months-in-the- making illusion of it. I asked what Becker's and Fagen's favourite live recordings were and they were nearly all jazz records.

Fagen: "There was a Village Vanguard recording from the mid-Sixties - Coleman Hawkins doing a version of 'Perdido'. And there's a Ray Charles album with 'Makin' Whoopee' - at the Shriner Auditorium in LA from about 1962."

Becker: "What about that Dave Brubeck live album, with a version of 'Like Someone in Love' on it, and long sax solos by Paul Desmond? That's what got me hooked on jazz."

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With their own live album in mind, they were taping most of the shows, but not listening back immediately - "for fear of being spooked," according to Fagen. "In the Seventies, we would make a cassette of our performances and it was always depressing."

The scrutiny came later. In search of "sustained performances", Fagen says he wasn't spoiled for choice. "I listened to all the tapes. I'm sure they were good shows at the time, but there were amazingly few of them that I felt, for the purposes of listening and re-listening to them, held up that well. I didn't have that much to choose from."

There were further technical restraints. Most of the songs on the album were lifted from recordings at outdoor venues. Becker says: "If you're playing in a room that holds 15,000 people, it's just a question of how bad the room acoustics are and in what way they're bad." Also, some American indoor venues charge high fees for permission to make recordings, so Steely Dan saved money by not bothering. ("Union rules," Becker says. "Some places you play in America, it's like On the Waterfront.")

But what was salvaged works well. The album bears out its cover image, as explained by Fagen: "It's a still from an old Universal movie of a mummy coming back to life in a triumphant posture, symbolising our triumphant resurrection." They had picked a band talented enough to bring this music to life: its oddly angled harmonies and steep key-shifts, its impeccable rhythms. And right at the centre sits Fagen's nasal, New York mewl, continuously precise in its pitching. (For someone who didn't want to be a vocalist and who basically only got the job by default when everyone else in the band refused it, Fagen can certainly hold a tune.) Best of all is an entirely re-jigged "Reelin' in the Years", unrecognisable at the point of entry and in which the horn section gets to pull out a blissfully tight new tune from somewhere deep inside the song.

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Becker and Fagen claim to have enjoyed these dates more than previous experiences. Becker says: "There was a pretty elevated vibe right through to about Albany." But he adds: "The last week of shows, the summer was over and the guitar player had an infection in his hand and there were doctors backstage and it reminded me suddenly of our old tours - a half- sold house and medical emergencies."

One disappointment: the live shows opened with an instrumental Steely Dan medley, played by the band as an overture before Becker and Fagen appeared on the stage. It functioned at once as a teaser and as a send- up of the band's less than theatrical presence. But the live album omits it. Becker: "Reviewers took exception to the overture. In many cases, they didn't know what the hell it was. It was clearly the first overture they had heard in their lives. So they would write: 'The show started out with some kind of weird instrumental medley that was supposed to be dramatic or something, I guess.' But that was the only part of the show that Don and I got to watch every night, so we liked it."

Next, there will be an entirely new Steely Dan studio album, though this is probably years away. Fagen: "We have a list of very amusing titles, but that's about it. We also have tapes of discarded songs going back to the Seventies." Becker: "Maybe when we get round to trying to write new songs, those old songs will suddenly look very attractive."

Will they tour again? Fagen: "I think so. We're really into it." Becker: "We were sitting round my house in Hawaii, Don and I, discussing whether we would tour next summer and my young son was there and he said 'What do you mean? Of course there's going to be a tour. You mean I'm not going to be in a limo and a private jet next summer? What's going on? What about the police escorts?' "


Who is the current lead singer for Steely Dan? ›

Image of Who is the current lead singer for Steely Dan?
Donald Jay Fagen is an American musician best known as the co-founder, lead singer, co-songwriter, and keyboardist of the band Steely Dan, formed in the early 1970s with musical partner Walter Becker. In addition to his work with Steely Dan, Fagen has released four solo albums.

Who was the original guitarist for Steely Dan? ›

Steely Dan is an American rock band founded in 1971 in New York by Walter Becker (guitars, bass, backing vocals) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, lead vocals).

Why do they call him Steely Dan? ›

Working with ABC producer Gary Katz, they secretly assembled Steely Dan (named after a prosthetic phallus in William S. Burroughs's novel Naked Lunch) with other young musicians, notably guitarists Jeff (“Skunk”) Baxter and Denny Dias, emerging in 1972 with Can't Buy a Thrill.

What happened to the members of Steely Dan? ›

As original members left – guitarist Jeff (Skunk) Baxter, for example, went on to the Doobie Brothers and the U.S. Defense Department – Becker and Fagan stayed, eventually resulting in Steely Dan operating as a duo. Session players and sidemen were hired for studio work and tours.

How many original band members are in Steely Dan? ›

Recruiting guitarists Denny Dias and Jeff "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.

Who is playing guitar on current Steely Dan tour? ›

He is the leader of the Jon Herington Band and has been the guitarist of choice with the iconic band Steely Dan for both recording and touring since 1999. With the launch of (quiet) encore, Jon now has eight solo releases in his discography.

Who is the song Peg by Steely Dan written about? ›

Which actor comedian was the first drummer for Steely Dan? ›

DID YOU KNOW: Actor Chevy Chase was the drummer for Donald Fagen & Walter Becker's band before they made their first record as Steely Dan?

What kind of guitar did Steely Dan play? ›

Fender Duo-Sonic Electric Guitar

The guitar can be seen in Steely Dan's sixth studio album, Aja. "A 1957 Fender Duo-Sonic electric guitar which is being played by Walter Becker in a photograph used in the liner notes to the 1977 Steely Dan album Aja.

Was Michael McDonald ever part of Steely Dan? ›

Michael McDonald (born February 12, 1952) is an American singer, keyboardist and songwriter known for his distinctive, soulful voice and as a member of the bands the Doobie Brothers (1975–1982, 1987, 2019–present) and Steely Dan (1973–1974).

What does shine the silver bowl mean? ›

“Local boys will spend a quarter, just to shine the silver bowl,” is a reference to addicts paying $250 just to get the drug residue from a cocaine serving bowl.

What do you call Steely Dan fans? ›

Who are they? The gold standard in rock and roll pretentiousness, Steely Dan. What I have in common with all of these guys is that I, too, have a fanatical love of The Dan. We call ourselves “Danfans” — amazing, right?

Was Chevy Chase in Steely Dan? ›

Chevy Chase was not a Steely Dan member. However, he used to play in the college band The Leather Canary, together with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Initially, Chevy got expelled from the college due to the “cow incident,” and the remaining band members would later form the band, Steely Dan.

Who is the current Steely Dan drummer? ›

Who is in the current Steely Dan band? ›

How many hit songs did Steely Dan have? ›

The band, founded by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, charted 15 entries, including three classic top 10s.

Why did Steely Dan cancel? ›

Steely Dan put out a statement on Facebook saying, “The Steely Dan concerts scheduled to play Hollywood, FL on 7/28; Ft Myers, FL on 7/30; Orlando, FL on 8/1 & 8/2; and North Charleston, SC on 8/4 have been canceled due to COVID and health and safety protocols. Tickets refunded at point of purchase.

Will Steely Dan tour in 2023? ›

Then Catch Steely Dan Live in 2023! Donald Fagen continues to pay tribute to his late partner Walter Becker through the ongoing Steely Dan project, and now that he's back on tour in 2023, you've got a chance to hear some of the most complicated, rewarding classic rock ever produced, live at a venue near you!

Who played guitar for Jay Leno? ›

Kevin Eubanks
Birth nameKevin Tyrone Eubanks
BornNovember 15, 1957 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresJazz, rock
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
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Why did Steve Winwood pull out of Steely Dan tour? ›

“There was a communication problem on our end,” he added. “I was misinformed as to how firm the commitment was to any particular opening act.

Who is playing guitar for Pantera? ›

The group's best-known lineup consisted of the Abbott brothers (drummer Vinnie Paul and guitarist Dimebag Darrell), along with Brown and Anselmo, who joined in 1982 and 1986 respectively.

Did John Lennon like Steely Dan? ›

As time went by, Steely Dan garnered a huge fanbase and several notable fans, including Paul McCartney. However, Macca's former bandmate, John Lennon, wasn't so enamoured.

Who played the guitar solo on Steely Dan's Peg? ›

Music and lyrics

The song's guitar solo was attempted by seven top studio session guitarists—including Robben Ford and recurring guitarist Larry Carlton—before Jay Graydon's version became the "keeper". He worked on the song for about six hours before the band was satisfied.

What is the meaning of Deacon Blues by Steely Dan? ›

On the origin of the song's name, Fagen says, it was inspired by football player Deacon Jones, as they like the sound of his name: "It also had two syllables, which was convenient, like 'Crimson. '" The song, however, is really about "the ultimate outsider, the flip side of the dream, boy-o . . . call me Deacon Blues."

Did Steely Dan invent the drum machine? ›

In 1978, studio engineer Roger Nichols developed the Wendel to sample audio and drums, and in 1979, he put his machine to the test on “Hey Nineteen” on Steely Dan's album, Gaucho. His invention gave birth to a new class of musical technologies, and today, Nichols is considered the pioneer of digital drum replacement.

Who played piano for Steely Dan? ›

In Steely Dan, guitarist Walter Becker and singer-pianist Donald Fagen are masters of irony and erudition.

Who was the first heavy metal drummer? ›

The name Carmine Appice is synonymous with Vanilla Fudge and heavy metal. Often credited with being the first “heavy metal” drummer, Carmine gave psychedelic rock group Vanilla Fudge an extra shove.

Does Ashton Kutcher play guitar? ›

In the video for "My Sober," Kutcher, 32, plays guitar and provides backup vocals, while Willis — Demi Moore and Bruce Willis' second daughter — croons what they describe as a "little song about a loved one." The most impressive part?

What pedals did Steely Dan use? ›

The Incredible Music Gear Legacy of Steely Dan's Walter Becker - 645 Pedals, 628 Guitars and 375 Amps/Cabs.

What guitar did Jimmy Page play in Led Zeppelin? ›

But the guitar with which Page is most closely linked is his 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish, a guitar he played for many years of his career with Led Zeppelin. Page had owned and played a three-pickup Les Paul Custom in the early Sixties and played a Fender Telecaster while with the Yardbirds.

Who sang most of The Doobie Brothers songs? ›

The Doobie Brothers are an American rock band from San Jose, California. Formed in the fall of 1970, the group was originally a quartet that featured lead vocalist and guitarist Tom Johnston, guitarist and second vocalist Patrick Simmons, bassist Dave Shogren and drummer John Hartman.

Who was in both Steely Dan & Doobie Brothers? ›

McDonald, who joined the Doobies as a singer, songwriter, and keyboardist in 1975 to replace an ailing Tom Johnston, steered the band in a creative direction that was less Hells Angels and more Steely Dan, with albums Takin' It to the Streets (1976), Livin' on the Fault Line (1977), Minute by Minute (1978), and One ...

How many of the original Doobie Brothers are left? ›

Two of the Doobies' co-founders, Johnston and fellow singer-guitarist Patrick Simmons, are still on board today. So is ace guitarist John McFee, who joined in 1979.

How can you tell if a bowl is real silver? ›

You should see one of the following markings or something similar: "9.25," "925/1000," "Sterling," "S/S" or "Sterling 9.25." If you do not see any of these markings, it's highly unlikely the item is genuine silver. If you do not see the sterling marking, the item is probably silver plated.

What is the benefit of silver bowl and spoon? ›

Eating in silver utensil helps in building strong metabolism and strengthening immunity. Moreover, it has been proven that eating in silver utensils prevents several diseases.

What are silver marks and their meaning? ›

What Are Silver Hallmarks? Silver hallmarks are used to identify the origins and purity of an item of silver. Silver hallmarks comprise four main elements to tell you this: the town mark, the date letter, the maker's mark, and the lion passant.

What do you call a fan of a band? ›

The term groupie is a (primarily American English) slang that refers to a fan of a particular musical group who follows the band around while they are on tour or who attends as many of their public appearances as possible, with the hope of meeting them.

What is a Steely Dan 3? ›

For those of you who haven't read the meandering, psychotropic book, 'Steely Dan III from Yokohama' is the name of an oversized, steam-powered strap-on dildo that is used by Mary during the chapter of the book entitled 'A.J.'s Annual Party'.

How old is Steely Dan? ›

Steely Dan is an American jazz rock band which formed in 1972.

Is Chevy Chase a Republican? ›

An active environmentalist and philanthropist, Chase holds liberal political views. He raised money for Bill Clinton in the 1990s; and for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

Are the founding members of Steely Dan? ›

Steely Dan is an American rock band founded in 1971 in New York by Walter Becker (guitars, bass, backing vocals) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, lead vocals).

Was Steely Dan a person? ›

Steely Dan is essentially Donald Fagen and Walter Becker; students who met at Bard College in New York during the late 1960s. After working as songwriters at the Brill Building and later for ABC/Dunhill Records in Los Angeles, the two formed a band and released their first album, Can't Buy A Thrill, in 1972.

Who is the main singer with Steely Dan? ›

How many members of Steely Dan are alive? ›

His death triggered a current legal battle for ownership of Steely Dan, with the estate of Becker feuding with the band's lone remaining member, Fagen.

Who played guitar on Steely Dan FM? ›

It was built up from a click track. Fagen played piano, and Becker handled all the bass and guitar work, including the solo on the song's outro. This was the only Steely Dan song where Becker and Fagen performed most of the instrumentation.

Who is replacing Walter Becker in Steely Dan? ›

“All he wanted to do was play; that was his life. It's great that he could do it.” Becker has not been replaced as Steely Dan is moving on with just one guitarist, Jon Herington. Donald Fagen's piano has been adjusted to a location near center-stage.

Who are Steely Dan backup singers? ›

Carolyn Leonhart (born July 10, 1971) is a jazz singer, daughter of jazz bassist Jay Leonhart and sister of the trumpeter Michael Leonhart. She has performed as a back-up vocalist for Steely Dan on several tours and recordings.

Did Walter Becker sing lead on any Steely Dan songs? ›

Becker sang lead on only one Steely Dan song, “Slang of Ages” from Everything Must Go.

How much does Steely Dan make per show? ›

The final Steely Dan booking price is contingent on many variables and the booking fee we may show is based on a range derived from our past experience with what will Steely Dan charge for an event. An example fee to book Steely Dan is in the starting range of $500,000-$749,000.

What songs did Walter Becker write for Steely Dan? ›

Original songs
TitleWritten byOriginally by
Don't Take Me AliveWalter Becker, Donald FagenSteely Dan
Dr WuWalter Becker, Donald FagenSteely Dan
Everything You DidWalter Becker, Donald FagenSteely Dan
Fire in the HoleWalter Becker, Donald FagenSteely Dan
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Is there a warm up band for Steely Dan? ›

The group Snarky Puppy is currently opening for Steely Dan but Stryker will step into that role, starting June 21.

Did paul McCartney like Steely Dan? ›

As time went by, Steely Dan garnered a huge fanbase and several notable fans, including Paul McCartney.

Who originally played lead guitar in Bon Jovi? ›

When did Richie Sambora join Bon Jovi? Sambora joined Bon Jovi in 1983, replacing the band's original lead guitarist Dave Sabo, who went on to form Skid Row.


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