…and all the girls I’ve ever dated do not.
We decided to rerun this playlist from way back in 2008 of some of our favorite Steely Dan songs as a tribute to the late great Walter Becker. We think it holds up pretty well.
I’m gonna make a prediction, Steely Dan are the next band that the hipsters will dig up and revere, and it will be cool again to like them. If not Steely Dan, then definitely Fleetwood Mac, if that hasn’t happened already. Or wait, maybe Yes. Whatever, Steely Dan may be the only cool jazz/rock band on the planet, I don’t care what you say.
What makes Steely Dan so special is that they appeal to niche fans – musicians, production geeks, jazz aficionados, literary scholars, etc, yet they’re Grammy winning, top 40, FM mainstays. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are some wicked intelligent ironic smartasses. It’s time for scenester embracing. I mean, they named their band after the dildo in Naked Lunch for chrissakes.
Do It Again – Track 1 from album 1, and it still holds up brilliantly today. One of the many “ooooh, this is Steely Dan? yeah yeah I love this song” tracks. A lot of the Steely Dan joy comes from specific moments in songs that stick out and force involuntary head bobbing, the only approved Steely Dan dance move (aside from noodlin’ air guitar), which you’ll see in full swing tomorrow. The moments for this song are right at the get go :16 second mark when the keybaord drops in and then at the 3:35 min mark when the keyboard solo overtakes the guitar solo.
FM – the title track to some piss-poor movie of the same name in 1978, it ended up being one of the best songs they ever wrote. Best moments are when whenever Fagen sings “Give her some funked up music, she treats you niiiiice, feed her some hungry reggae, she’ll love you twice”
Show Biz Kids – From their rushed, poorly selling, and utterly brilliant 1973 sophomore record Countdown to Ecstasy. Such great lines in this one “They got the shapely bodies, they got the Steely Dan T-shirts, and for the coupe de grace, they’re outrageous” and of course one of the best F-bomb drops in the history of popular music, the Super Furry Animals sampled “Show bizness kids makin’ movies of themselves, you know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else”
King of the World – Another from Countdown to Ecstacy, that guitar part in the beginning and the build up at the 3 min mark, Jesus! So good!
Kid Charlemagne – From 1976’s The Royal Scam. Might be my favorite Steely Dan song of all time, if not, at least the 3:20 min mark is definitely my favorite Steely Dan moment – “Is there gas in the caaaar? Yes, there’s gas in the caaaaaaar”. In typical Steely Dan fashion it’s a happy pop song that’s dark and tragic (and hilarious) when you go deeper.
Turn That Heartbeat Over Again – an odd track from their 1972 debut, doesn’t sound like them at all, but I love it.
Haitian Divorce – this song, also off The Royal Scam, never gets much love, but that talk box work throughout is like a Steely Dan fans wet dream.
Peg – from what many people consider to be their finest moment, 1977’s Aja. If you’re a really big geek you can track down the Classic Albums DVD that goes into the detail of the recording of this song, including hearing some rejected guitar solos from unnamed session players and isolating those crazy background vocals.
Green Earrings – Another great, and sometimes overlooked track from The Royal Scam. Probably the best album to pick up first actually.
The Fez – safe sex kids!
Pretzel Logic – Title track to the 1974 classic album. It’s about time travel or something. This is where the critics realized there was more to this band than radio hits, and Becker and Fagen decided they hated playing live. They became a studio band-only after this, until their reunion tour in 1993, and haven’t stopped playing shows since.
The Caves of Altamira – another fan favorite from The Royal Scam, the guitar solos on this record are out of control.
Your Gold Teeth – The epic Part 1 is my fav, but Your Gold Teeth II from Katy Lied is also great. The best moment is where everything goes nuts at 6:05.
Josie – another classic off Aja. Love Fagen’s inflections on this one. One of the best sounding records ever made.
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – I think this may be their most recognizable tune. The Horace Silver intro is brilliant. Who knows if they’re bullshitting or not, but this lady claims she is the real Rikki.
Deacon Blues – I think this song from Aja best sums up Steely Dan. Absolute perfection. Ok, yeah, this is the quintessential track.
So Steely Dan put out another decent record after all this, Gaucho, and it has some great songs on it, like Hey Nineteen, Babylon Sisters, and Time Out of Mind which are all essential buuuuut I had to draw the line somewhere. After that album, Becker and Fagen broke up for 20 years. There are two decent solo Fagen albums out there worth picking up, especially in their super slick 5.1 DVD-Audio versions. I.G.Y. from 1982’s The Nightfly almost made the cut and is the track that old school audio engineers use to test out systems. Becker put out some solo album too that I don’t think anybody ever bought. So then in 2000 they put out their first new material in 20 years. And it sounds like it came right after Gaucho. Amazing. There are some decent cuts on there (What A Shame About Me & Cousin Dupree) but it doesn’t quite hold up to the older material. This was followed by Everything Must Go in 2003 which didn’t really do anything for me. So even though this new material doesn’t match them in their heyday, I don’t think it detracts from it either, they’re still keeping it classy.
Here is an old BYT review of Steely Dan @ Merriweather