Ask me who my favorite band is and I’ll give you a different answer on a weekly basis. But it will pretty much always be one among a group of four that stays in the regular rotation of answers. Those would be The Band, The Rolling Stones, NRBQ, and Steely Dan. (Note: I’m talking long-standing bands here. Things get complicated quickly when the topic moves to individual artists.)
As you might expect, been listening to a lot of Dan since I heard the news of Walter Becker’s passing. The word that has always come to mind for me is CLEAN. Can’t explain that other than to say that I can’t think of any ensemble that plays with greater sophistication or intelligence. (I was in a bar once talking with the house musician. He said, “You know why you don’t hear a lot of Steely Dan covers in bars?” When I shook my head in the negative, he replied simply, “Cuz they’re too hard to play.”) It could be the result of an unlikely blend caused by guys with jazz chops who decided to play rock and roll.
But rather than play music critic here, I think I’ll just offer a few examples of one of my favorite Steely Dan guilty pleasures: Their ability to serve up unique and really cool name checks. Here are 10 faves:
– “Hey 19, that’s ‘retha Franklin.” (“Hey 19”)
– “Drivin’ like a fool out to Hackensack, drinkin’ his dinner from a paper sack.” (“Daddy Don’t Live in that New York City No More”)
– “That’ll be the day that I go back to Annandale.” (From “My Old School,” their ode to their alma mater, Bard College in… Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
– “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide…” (“Deacon Blues”)
– “Cuz I crossed my old man back in Oregon, don’t take me alive.” (“Don’t Take Me Alive”)
– “Meet me at midnight at Mr. Chow’s…” (“Glamour Profession”)
– “…walkin’ down the avenue by Radio City.” (“Bad Sneakers”)
– “Turn up The Eagles, the neighbors are listening.” (“Everything You Did”)
– “I have never met Napoleon, but I plan to find the time.” (“Pretzel Logic”)
And of course, “…she got the Steely Dan t-shirt.” (“Show Biz Kids”)
RIP, Walter, and Thanks!
Onward, Malcolm Gauld