If you had asked me a couple weeks ago what I thought of Steely Dan, I would have said I liked them well enough, though I have rarely blogged about them in the 12+ years I’ve been doing this. But after Walter Becker, half of the core duo with Donald Fagan, died this month at the age of 67 (!), I realized how much more engaged with the band than I had realized.

For one thing, I discovered that I owned all nine of their core albums, The Royal Scam on cassette (!) and all the others pictured here on vinyl, including that greatest hits album and Donald Fagan’s The Nightfly. The latter two Steely Dan albums, which came out after a 20-year hiatus, and a different GH compilation I have on CD.

For another, people were posting lyrics on Facebook, with no citations, and I knew, and loved, them all. “No static at all” – FM, from a movie I’ve never seen. “Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the caaar!” – Kid Charlemagne. And my favorite, “She don’t remember Queen of Soul” – Hey, Nineteen.

The group, which was actually a band, including future Doobie Brother Jeff (Skunk) Baxter, when I first bought Can’t Buy a Thrill around 1973, became a pair with various sidemen, including future Doobie Brother Michael McDonald; I hear his vocal so clearly in songs such as Peg. Only Becker and Fagan are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 2001.

I never saw them perform live, but listen to what is billed as What Is Probably the Greatest Steely Dan Show Ever, in 1974. Also, watch Steely Dan’s Final Concert With Walter Becker. “Group played a career-spanning set in Greenwich, Connecticut on May 27th.”

There are too many songs that I love to pick a Top 10 list. In addition to FM, they might include these, most of which I won’t find links to, for time’s sake:

Can’t Buy a Thrill – Do It Again, Dirty Work, Reelin’ in the Years
Countdown to Ecstasy – Bodhisattva, My Old School
Pretzel Logic – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
Katy Lied – Black Friday, Bad Sneakers, Doctor Wu
Royal Scam – Kid Charlemagne, The Fez, Haitian Divorce, title track
Aja – Deacon Blues, Peg
Gaucho – Babylon Sisters, Hey Nineteen
Two Against Nature – Gaslighting Abbie, title track

Also, Coverville 1184: Walter Becker Tribute & Steely Dan Cover Story II

One Response to “Walter Becker of Steely Dan”

  • CGHill says:

    I heard this just recently, and I had to pass it on.

    After “Deacon Blues” wrapped, it occurred to Becker and Fagan that the song really ought to have a sax solo, inasmuch as Deac himself had presumably leaned to work the sax. They knew who they wanted; they just didn’t know his name. He was that guy from Doc Severinsen’s band on The Tonight Show.

    So producer Gary Katz brought in that guy, Pete Christlieb, who recalls the session this way:

    “They told me to play what I felt. Hey, I’m a jazz musician, that’s what I do … so I recorded my first solo … we listened back and they said it was great. I recorded a second take and that’s the one they used. I was gone in a half hour. The next thing I know I’m hearing myself in every airport bathroom in the world.”

    (Source.)

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