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June 29th, 2011 NATHAN CARSON | Music Stories
 

Primer: Steely Dan

primer.steelydan!_3734IMAGE: Danny Clinch
     
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Formed: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen met at Bard College in 1967.

Sounds like: Yacht rock!

For fans of: Michael McDonald, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan and Esquivel.

Why you care: Guitarist Walter Becker and singer-pianist-lyricist Donald Fagen shared a love of jazz radio and contemporary music. Too smart for their own good, the two named their band Steely Dan after a dildo in a William S. Burroughs novel. Their 1973 debut, Can’t Buy a Thrill, sent singles “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Do It Again” into the stratosphere, and the band sailed through the rest of the ’70s in the jet stream. A self-imposed retirement from touring in 1974 led to even more polished studio work, and commercial success allowed Becker and Fagen to hire the best studio musicians in the world. Perfectionism, cynicism, cocaine and briefcases full of money followed, as did classic albums like The Royal Scam, Katy Lied and Aja. By 1981, Fagen and Becker had called it quits in a quagmire of lawsuits, accidents and death. Both pursued lukewarm solo careers in the ’80s, but when the scent of money grew strong enough, the first of many Steely Dan reunion tours commenced in 1993. The most recent was sarcastically dubbed the “Rent Party” tour. Whether your dad was a fan, you watched too many episodes of Yacht Rock, or you’ve actually delved into Fagen’s obliquely paranoid, proto-cyberpunk lyrics and Becker’s unparalleled jazz/rock guitar solos—this is your chance to “buy a thrill” for upward of $108.50. 


SEE IT: Steely Dan plays the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Sunday, July 3, at 8 pm. $57.50-$97.50 plus service fees. All ages. 

 
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