Trying To Get To You

Saturday, February 03, 2007

There Are Two Kinds Of People In The World

When people ask me who my favorite artists of all time are, I have the same answers that I've had for years; Springsteen, the Stones, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Dylan, Otis Redding, etc. In the past few years, Coleman Hawkins has jumped on the list. So has, almost unbelievably to me, the Grateful Dead. (It's unbelievable to me because I skip over at least half of the band's songs - basically anything that Bob Weir sings.)

There's one band that I always forget when I'm compiling such a list - Steely Dan. Perhaps that's because the pleasure they've given me over the years has "only" been immensely consistent and substantial as opposed to epiphanous. But over the past few years, I've come to be in a sort of awe over the body of work they created. In theory, they should have been a disaster; two art damaged misfits with a love of black jazz and white pop who wrote impenetrable lyrics with literary references that went over 99% of the population and whose music was synonymous with precision and polish, two adjectives that aren't usually complements in rock n' roll. Yet out of all the artists of their time, it is their music more than anyone else that to me, seems like it could have been recorded yesterday.

Steely Dan are the kind of band that starts arguments. To some (like me), their appeal is self-evident; the impeccable playing, the incredible melodic abilities and the sheer quality of their songs makes them beyond reproach. But I've heard more than a few people call them soulless. I've never gotten that. I've always thought of them as "neurotic soul," a term that describes guys who are so brainy that they can't shut off their heads long enough to express themselves in the simple and direct manner that traditional expectations of soul demands. But lurking beneath the polish, the oblique lyrics, the jazz chords and the almost impenetrable personas lays the heart of two guys who feel so much they can barely take it.

If you're not a fan, and no amount of music you hear will ever convince you, I leave you with a piece of wisdom that I believe my friend Peter once uttered: "Their are two types of people in the world, those that love the Dan, and those that don't."

Download: "Any Major Dude" (Live At The Record Plant 1974)


Anonymous said...

omg are you me? Steely Dan is one of my absolute favorites and the Grateful Dead aren't far behind...the Stones...etc - I love that you can't always immediately understand what some of SD's songs are about - I love that I have to listen to them 200 times to get a glimpse into another corner of a lyric - such great, great stuff....

Ben Lazar said...

I don't think I'm you. :) I dig your blog though.

HippieGirl said...

I've never hear of Steely Dan, are they any good? Because when I listen to music, it's usually the Rolling Stones. I loooooooooooove listening to those guys, and plus, my 2 faves in the band are Ronnie and Mick, i like those 2, The Rolling Stones will keep us rocking.

So is Steel Dan any good? cuz if so, maybe i'll listen to them.