Tuesday 31 October 2023

Steely Dan - My Old School

Steel Dan - My Old School (1973)
It's so joyous reading the comments sections to Steely Dan tunes because they all realise who the best band ever was. And the comment that exemplifies it all is this: One of the best things about Steely Dan is EVERYTHING!

I'm still a neophyte when it comes to Steely Dan, only converting twelve or thirtyeen years ago. So I still haven't gone back to re-investigate if The Royal Scam is actually any good or got fully on board with Gaucho yet. It's hard to pick between the other five LPs. At this point in time there does seem to be extra special magic permeating on Aja and Countdown To Ecstasy. 

I have deliberately avoided the books, magazines, videos and interweb gossip on the group. Sticking with my limited knowledge that Steely Dan were two sardonic upstarts from New York supplanted in LA spreading their acerbic perspective via deliciously idiosyncratic upbeat jazz inflected rock music of the genius variety. 

Having said that though, I had read a couple of books by Barney Hoskyns which featured Steely Dan in cameo roles so I do know there was some darkness lurking within their shenanigans when it came to excessive 70s lifestyles. Being commentators on the rock'n'roll/hollywood scene didn't make them immune to its pitfalls.

Walter Becker died a few years back so I'm disappointed that I didn't get it together to organise a trip to the big smoke to see them last time they were in Australia. What a loser I am. I feel like Becker would actually be proud of me for this failing though. I mean would this not be the perfect subject matter for a Steely Dan hit: A forty-something ex-lead singer of band deadbeat with a failed marriage and mental issues is losing his shit in a horrible dusty country town and can't even get it together to buy a plane ticket to go see his favourite band's final tour. 

Anyway Countdown To Ecstasy is one of the great singalong (in the wrong octave and out of tune yell-along really) albums for me. The irresistible melodies are just so expansive and exquisite plus you never know quite where Fagen's always surprising vocal phrasing is gonna go, which keeps you on your toes. And that's still occurring after hundreds of listens to this one LP.

Beyond that, what makes Steely Dan still so glittering and seductive in a timeless manner is a mystery. I'm sure if a music teacher explained their methods behind the notes and the performance thereof I'd still be none the wiser and it still wouldn't explain the why?. Suffice to say Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's prestigious charisma had the alchemy of synergy bubbling over within their songwriting partnership, it was just a matter of how perfect they could get their incredible vision out of their heads and onto tape [Yep I do realise Steely Dan don't need my endorsement and that I don't need to be adding to the voluminous discourse on the subject or doing a half-baked summary of why audiences of different generations have been so captivated throughout the 50 years since their inception in one paragraph but er, there it was anyway. Sorry, not sorry]

Sophistication is one thing musically but that would be nothing without the mass appeal of their thrillingly catchy hooks. This is pop music after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment