Trying To Get To You

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bootleg Friday: Steely Dan, 1974

In the movie Knocked Up, there’s a scene where the characters played by Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd (playing an A&R man) argue about Steely Dan. I think the exact line that Seth Rogen says is that “Steely Dan gargle balls.” It’s a funny scene, but I’ll admit that as I watched it in the theater, there was a part of me that wanted to shut his bitch ass up. Because Steely Dan are awesome.

Why are they awesome? Because they sound so goddamned good. I’ve listened to their songs hundreds, if not thousands of times and I can’t tell you what any of the lyrics are about, except they always occur to me though they’re about peering into the abyss that Nietzsche wrote about – and laughing at it. But their arrangements are so impeccable, their playing so beautiful and the production on their records so stunning (Has anyone made better sounding albums than Steely Dan?) that my affection for their music grows deeper the more I listen.

I know plenty of people that disagree with my assessment. My friend Lewis, who loves soul music as I do, argues with me about the Dan, accusing them of being soulless. I disagree. Vehemently. Steely Dan are what I call weirdo soul; musicians continually inspired by jazz, blues and soul but far too self-conscious to play black music on its own terms. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were geeky hipsters incarnate, 70’s style; smart, bookish, loaded with irony, but never so much that it overwhelmed the obvious reverence and love they had of black music. That’s the weakness of most hipster acts today; they lead with the irony and the love of the music comes in a distant second. Not so with the Dan.

Today’s episode of Bootleg Friday is a great Steely Dan show taped at the Record Plant in Los Angeles on March 20, 1974, promoting the release of Pretzel Logic, a masterpiece in every sense of the word. If you’re already a fan, then you’ll be in love with what you hear. If you’re not, I ask you to set aside whatever your opinions have been – at least for a few songs. I just don’t get it – how can anyone not like this music?

Buy Steely Dan at the Amazon MP3 store.

Download: Steely Dan – Live At The Record Plant, 3/20/74

Track Listing:
"The Boston Rag"
"Do It Again"
"Any Major Dude Will Tell"
"King Of The World"
"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"
"Pretzel Logic"
"Instrumental (Your Gold Teeth II)"
"Reelin' In The Years"
"This All Too Mobile Home"


Anonymous said...

HA! I've never had any idea what their lyrics were about either, but that never bothered me. I did always assume that when they were laughing & staring into the abyss, they were accompanied by a beautiful young lady, a pitcher of martini's, some 70's indoor aspen lift lines and sunny day in SoCal. (with a copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra tucked into their coat pocket of course)

Great observation about putting irony first instead of reverence.

Anonymous said...

And given that it's Walter Becker that we're talking about, I'd say the beautiful young lady in question would be very young indeed.

Anonymous said...

I've loved Steely Dan from Day One. Thanks for the great post!

Mandyleigh Storm said...

I watched a tv program (Behind the music: Steely Dan) about their career and the production of their albums etc and it was very interesting. I'd never really known much about them or their music but will definitely learn more now.

Anonymous said...

I can't vouch for the accuracy of this, but too juicy not to share -- I've been told that "bobbing for apples...I know you're used to 16 or more, sorry we only have 8" refer (respectively) to licking/sucking a guy's balls, and viewing stag films (16 mm vs 8mm film.)

Anonymous said...

alot of my friends give me crap for loving the Dan also, but I don't care. I think us SD fans are part of a special group of people who truly FEEL music, you know?

p.s. have you ever read their website? it's so, so sarcastic, cynical, and hilarious. if you get a chance, you have to read the open letter they wrote to Owen Wilson.

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Stephen Matthew said...

One word. Elliot Randall. The Dan had such a deep pool of studio cats to pull from back when they had so much more of a role in things. Hipsters don't have the musical balls to really know about these guys, or to learn to play with any depth for that matter.

CTV said...

Oh excellent stuff. Pretzel Logic is a strange one: The first side is one of the greatest first side in the history of rock music, and then comes the flipside and it's no better than mediocre.

It is a source of pride that on a homevideo recorded in early 1998, my son, then 3 yeas old, is singing "Barrytown". He didn't grow up to be a Dan fan (yet), but he's a huge Beatles fan. Unfortunately, there aren't many 13-year-old Beatles fans around.

Anonymous said...

Fine group. I still remember where I was and everything around me when I first heard "Rikki, Don't Lose That Number" on an outdoor jukebox in the 1970s. Years later, I recall reading an interview with someon in R.E.M. who asserted that the lyrics supposedly dealt with a gay affair. No idea if that was the true origin, but it's to the group's credit that that lyrics are actually ambiguous and can apply to different situations.

Aeion Solar said...

Thank you for This! I've been looking for this album for the last 15 year. I first heard it when I lived New York City from another Dan Fan. I've been telling friends of mine about it for years

hopetown rambler said...

Good to find this after a google search. Just a disappointment that the file was mp3s. I think the Dan deserve lossless files.

I have just converted my old tape of this to digital in WAV format. When I found this I was wanting to see if it was an upgrade but the MP#s killed that.

Paul Brown said...


thank you so much for this - I am a long time (25+ yrs) Dan fan and also the much under-rated Mike McDonald who really added another level of soul (all be it white soul) to the band. I have the odd track from this tour but this is a jewel of a find.

Bobby Womack was once asked if a white guy could really sing soul, truly, and he stated "that dude Mike McDonald... he's got it, comes from his heart". In this early recording Mike had just joined the Dan principally as studio lacky, but was dragged out on tour with them as a second keyboard player to Don Fagen... Don admitted years later "when that boy started to sing, man, I nearly got up and left the stage - he put me out the back"

Dan's fickle nature with studio men meant that McDonald was used sparingly on the albums and of course they eventually lost him, much to their labels producer (Katz) anger, to the Doobie Brothers and he went stellar from there.

Of course, years later when Don Fagen was out in the wilderness and between rare solo albums he called on Mike to back him up on several discreet tours around New York which eventually became the Rock and Soul Review in the 90's and in 2010, the Dukes of September.

Once again thank you for this from England - you have made my day man.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a million. I love the Dan, especially their earlier albums.