Favorites: Steely Dan (1988-1995)

They looked upon the promised land

Steely DanI’m doing Favorite Songs by Favorite Bands thing that J. Eric Smith did. He also picked Steely Dan, albeit at a far earlier period, 1976 to 1978. I liked them well enough then, but there were always other artists I was listening to more often.

But by the late 1980s, that was no longer the case. As I stated when Walter Becker died a few years ago, “I discovered that I owned all nine of their core albums, including that greatest hits album and Donald Fagan’s The Nightfly.”

And as Eric noted in his tribute to Becker, “The wisdom of Steely Dan was so sublime that one could get all of life’s answers from it.”

You’re at a party of people with diverse musical tastes. Yet almost everyone could at least tolerate Steely Dan, whether they were fans of grunge or pop or soul or jazz. There was a certain universality about them, that they were VERY GOOD and quite clever, to boot. As their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page begins, “Wry. Crafty. Cerebral. Acerbic. The perfectionists of Steely Dan made deviously slick music.”

Tunes

I was loathed to come up with a list three years ago, and that hasn’t changed. But I will anyway.

Haitian Divorce (The Royal Scam) “They wrangle through the night.”
My Old School (Countdown to Ecstasy)
Aja (Aja) “Up on a hill…”
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (Pretzel Logic) “But if you have a change of heart…”
Hey, Nineteen (Gaucho) – “That’s ‘Retha Franklin!”
Do It Again (Can’t Buy a Thrill, which was more of a band effort than the subsequent Becker/Fagan and session musicians)

Bodhisattva (Countdown)
Peg (Aja) As is true in a number of cuts, LOVE the Michael McDonald vocal.
Black Friday (Katy Lied)
Babylon Sisters (Gaucho)
Deacon Blues (Aja) “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide”
The Royal Scam (Royal Scam) – the first time I heard this song, I immediately played it again

Vaguely related, I was happy to see the Doobie Brothers were selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. That means original Steely Dan guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and contributing SD vocalist Michael McDonald got in.

2020 Rock Hall of Fame noms

If I have a bias…

Doobie Brothers
Doobie Brothers
They are doing something different for the fan balloting with the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations. You can vote every day via Google until January 10, 2020 for five nominees, which, collectively, will be considered in the process.

My picks tend to be partly based on how long it’s been since they were first nominated, how many times they’ve been nominated before, their musical significance, and, frankly, whether I like them.

My Sure Things

#TODD RUNDGREN – Eligible year: 1995
Number of nominations: 2; Nominated in 2019, 2020
One of My Sure Things LAST year. I wrote: “I have his albums with the Nazz, Utopia and a number of his solo albums. He’s also produced a chunk of notable albums for others. It’s SHOCKING that he was never nominated before. He’s a wizard, a true star.”
Something to Fall Back On

#THE DOOBIE BROTHERS -Eligible year: 1996
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
The Doobies was one of my college-era bands. And I was impressed when they reinvented themselves with Michael McDonald on many lead vocals. I noted that only Walter Becker and Donald Fagan are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as Steely Dan. The group had initially included Skunk Baxter. On later albums, McDonald provided many vocals.
Members: Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, John Hartman, Michael Hossack, Tom Johnston, Keith Knudsen, Michael McDonald, John McFee, Tiran Porter, Patrick Simmons
What A Fool Believes

I voted for them because I like them

#DEPECHE MODE – Eligible year: 2006
Number of nominations: 3; Nominated in 2017, 2018, 2020
Members: Vince Clarke, Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Alan Wilder
Three noms in four years. Put ’em in!
People are People

#PAT BENATAR – Eligible year: 2004
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
Members: Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo
If I have a bias, it’s probably in favor of women in rock.
Heartbreaker

The ones who appear influential

WHITNEY HOUSTON – Eligible year: 2009
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
Lots of complaints in my circle that she’s not “rock”. Whatever. One of the greatest voices in pop music.
How Will I Know

KRAFTWERK; Eligible year: 1995
Number of nominations: 6; Nominated in 2003, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2020
Members: Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flür, Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider
“KRAFTWERK IS THE FOUNDATION UPON WHICH ALL SYNTHESIZER-BASED ROCK AND ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC IS BUILT.”
Showroom Dummies

NINE INCH NAILS; Eligible year: 2014
Number of nominations: 3; Nominated in 2015, 2016, 2020
Members: Trent Reznor
Hurt

THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.; Eligible year: 2019
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
Members: Christopher Wallace/BIGGIE SMALLS
Hypnotize

SOUNDGARDEN; Eligible year: 2011
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
Members: Matt Cameron, Chris Cornell, Ben Shepherd, Kim Thayil, Hiro Yamamoto
I actually have a few cuts of the group and Cornell solo cuts, and I was sad when he died.
Rusty Cage

DAVE MATTHEWS BAND; Eligible year: 2018
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
Members: Carter Beauford, Jeff Coffin, Stefan Lessard, Dave Matthews, Leroi Moore, Tim Reynolds, Rashawn Ross, Boyd Tinsley
They’ve played around here practically every year. I’ve never seen them.
What Would You Say

JUDAS PRIEST; Eligible year: 1999
Number of nominations: 2; Nominated in 2018, 2020
Members: Les Binks, K. K. Downing, Rob Halford, Ian Hill, Dave Holland, Glenn Tipton, Scott Travis
Hell Bent for Leather

MOTÖRHEAD; Eligible year: 2002
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
Members: ‘Fast’ Eddie Carke, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor
Not my cuppa.
Eat the Rich

I like them but I don’t know if they should be in there

MC5 Eligible year: 1991
Number of nominations: 6; Nominated in 2003, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
Sixth nomination! Yet I can’t quite pick the Detroit group.
Members: Michael Davis, Wayne Kramer, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, Dennis Thompson, Rob Tyner
Tonight

RUFUS FEATURING CHAKA KHAN; Eligible year: 1999
Number of nominations: 4; Nominated in 2012, 2018, 2019, 2020
Members: Dennis Belfield, Al Ciner, Andre Fischer, Chaka Khan, Tony Maiden, Nate Morgan, Kevin Murphy, Ron Stockert, Bobby Watson
I picked them a couple of years ago, but it was really for her. On the fence about the group.
Dance Wit Me

T. REX; Eligible year: 1993
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
Members: Marc Bolan, Steve Currie, Mickey Finn, Bill Legend
“The musical herald that ushered in the birth of Glam Rock.”
Jeepster

THIN LIZZY; Eligible year: 1996
Number of nominations: 1; Nominated in 2020
Members: Eric Bell, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Phil Lynott, Brian Robertson
As I read their bio, they’re more impressive than I had remembered
Whiskey in the Jar

I vote for the first four. My fifth tends to float among Houston, Kraftwerk, and that last grouping. Who are YOU voting for?

Here is my annual pitch for Estelle Axton, the AX of STAX Records. Her brother, Jim Stewart, has been in nearly two decades.

Music Throwback Saturday: Takin’ It To The Streets

You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see

doobiesTakin’ It To The Streets surprised me. I was collecting those eclectic Warner Brothers Loss Leaders, still my favorite LP compilations, during the 1970s, which I saw advertised on the inner sleeves when I bought my albums by James Taylor or Bonnie Raitt or Seals & Crofts.

I got one called Cook Book, “focusing on Warner’s black acts,” but I’m nearly positive I never saw it advertised, and so never ordered it. Continue reading “Music Throwback Saturday: Takin’ It To The Streets”