Steely Admiration

Source: Amazon

I just trashed a post on which I’d been working for the last two days. It was ostensibly about the late Walter Becker, but really more about Steely Dan and how much I’ve enjoyed their music over the years. It didn’t take long, however, for me to discover that my knowledge of Steely Dan is more limited than I thought. I’m better off listening to music than writing about it.

A better piece to read is the heartfelt tribute written by Rickie Lee Jones. Unlike me, she actually knew Walter Becker. I only listened to his music on my stereo and in my car.

What I can at least say is that Steely Dan are one of those bands which always reminds me of my college days. For instance, I’m pretty sure it was the album Aja that was on the turntable the first time I smoked pot. The title track was — and still is — mesmerizing to the ear. All those sounds stimulating the senses!

Becker and his musical partner Donald Fagen wrote music that grabbed you by the collar and pulled you into their world. The songs didn’t make you think of a former lover, painful memories of junior high school, or some other experience from your past. Nope, this was their story and you either paid attention to them or you didn’t. The tale told in “My Old School” certainly didn’t bear any resemblance to my own collegiate time, but that really wasn’t their point was it?

My very first Dan album was Pretzel Logic, which was released in 1974. I remember buying it on the strength of the radio hit,”Ricki Don’t Lose That Number.”I can still hear that strange but cool-sounding flapamba that opens the song at least on the album version anyway.

Steely Dan songs were rarely about things I could relate to at all. But their mix of jazz, pop, and R&B, along with those grown-up lyrics, made me a fan straight-away. A roommate in college used to utter Dan lyric nonsense as we were all straining under the pressures of exams and term papers. Years later, when he passed through Washington, DC on a business trip and called to see if we could get together, I answered my office phone only to hear faux-falsetto singing on the other end, “Is there gas in the car?

The only way to respond to that was to sing back, “Yes, there’s gas in the car” It was like a private club. Millions of others were also in it, which of course pokes a hole at the whole exclusivity thing. But it doesn’t matter. Steely Dan’s music made you feel like you were part of something special regardless.

Rest peacefully, Walter. And thanks for the tunes.

Source: The Telegraph


30 thoughts on “Steely Admiration

  1. I was a casual Steely Dan fan. They didn’t fall under the cute boy band umbrella (Cowsills, Beatles, Monkees), so I didn’t pay them much attention. I was pretty musically stunted. But I did enjoy their music.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Steely Dan is a band that my husband loathes, so the station has been switched after the first bar. I was never a huge fan, but I never understood such a strong dislike. After all, they aren’t Carly Simon! 🤢

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t know who Walter Becker was either. I’m sure I remember some of their songs and certainly remember the name.
    I never watch the news because I can’t stand the bullshit rhetoric so I miss out on things…like people dying.
    One good thing…maybe I won’t hear any news about my own death and I’ll just carry on. 😬

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aja is especially ripe with a pair of good headphones. I was a huge, huge fan. All us middle class white guys were. I’m an outlier. I thought Katy Lied was their masterpiece. I saw them last summer and their voices were lacking, shall we say. R.I.P.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I didn’t want to mention the live album. That was a huge disappointment when I heard it. They were a studio band. But yep, white guy rock and roll with headphones. Katie Lied was cool because it had a number of songs, my favorite being “Bad Sneakers.”


  5. I really enjoyed your tribute. I’m from the same era and remember their songs playing at frat parties. Love Donald Fagan’s voice. Though I like all their songs, my favorite by far is Brooklyn. Don’t ask me to explain why. A member of Poco who played on one of their albums was quoted on the radio yesterday as saying he thought he was a perfectionist until he played with Steely Dan. They made it sound so easy.


    1. “Brooklyn” is a great song. Though written long, long before 9/11, I’ve always thought it was the perfect salve for an injured nation afterwards. Was that Poco member Richie Furay by any chance? Another great band!

      Thanks for reading!


  6. Like a couple of your readers, I sadly didn’t know who Walter Becker was, or that he just died. But, like Janis, I loved your retelling of your friend and you singing to each other over the phone. Does that redeem me?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I caught the news the day he died and was very sad. I still look back on them as the bluesier, jazzier version of Pink Floyd. (I was introduced to both bands about the same time — 1977 — and loved the thought that went into their lyrics.) And you may not have that many people who are in on your “gas in the car” reference as each year goes by. But, apparently Lauren will always be there for you 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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