Rolling Stone magazine called Steely Dan “the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.” The band consisted of Donald Fagen on keyboards and lead vocals, the late Walter Becker on guitar, bass, and backing vocals, and a host of session musicians, though in their touring days (which ended in 1974), they featured guitarists Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (now with The Doobie Brothers) and Denny Diaz, keyboardist and vocalist Michael McDonald, and the late Jeff Porcaro on drums. Their music is a mix of rock, jazz, Latin, reggae, traditional pop, R&B and blues blended with cryptic and ironic lyrics. They recorded nine studio albums, seven before they took a hiatus in 1981. I’ll focus on the last two albums from that period, 1977’s Aja and 1980’s Gaucho.
Their most successful single from Aja was “Peg,” which reached #11 on the Hot 10, #30 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and #7 in Canada.
“Hey Nineteen” was the lone single from Gaucho. It reached #10 on the Hot 100, #11 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and #5 in Canada.
Fagen recorded two solo albums during the band’s hiatus, The Nightfly (1982) and Kamakiriad, produced by Becker (1993). They went on tour to support the latter and soon reunited. They recorded two more studio albums, Two Against Nature (2000) and Everything Must Go (2003), and two live albums, Alive In America (1995) and Plush TV Jazz-Rock Party (2000). Walter Becker died of esophageal cancer in 2017.
Steely Dan, your Two for Tuesday, May 12, 2020.