Thursday, June 19, 2008

Steely Dan Takes Over New York

The other night I saw Steely Dan, one of my favorite bands during the critical high school years, and captured a bit of video to share.

In the first clip, Steely Dan nears the end of an amazing show Tuesday night with their ode to radio, "FM," a massive hit from their "Aja" period. Walter Becker casually picks out the great guitar that is a foundation of their sound with a nicely extended version (like the instrumental that appears on the b side of the single and maybe the lp too, I'm foggy on that.). Everyone always talks about Larry Carlton and even Denny Diaz and Skunk Baxter, but Walter is the guy on guitar not just fresh rhymes. He also sang "Gaucho" quite adeptly at the Beacon.

They focused on Aja, Gaucho, and the two latest albums. Along w/"New Frontier" and the aforementioned FM, the show I saw was mostly the yuppie years of the band. But what a trip to remember stereo stores, magazines and the hifi music culture of the seventies. Discwasher, Sennheiser, Gerrard, BIC, Marantz, Kenwood, Sherwood, Pioneer, Teac, Akai, Macintosh, Bose, Polk Audio, JBL, Yamaha and finally Technics are a few big names from that time. I believe the popularity of high quality recordings, side-long songs, gatefold album covers and the ability to spend on the equipment, often made in America, reflects a lot of socio-economic influence on the art. Talk about white music for white teenagers with disposable incomes. This is what the Clash, Pistols and others rebelled against!

We didn't know the stereos were in "stand alone" stores just like the records. They are all gone now, relegated to a p&l'd "footprint" in bigger stores.

I bought Aja on sale at Korvette's for $3.66. I later worked for Johnny Barbis who often told the story of ABC being shut down when it was sold to MCA. Steely Dan actually got into a dispute w/MCA and their first album for MCA under the new arrangement, Gaucho, ended up w/a high list price of $7.99. They subsequently made no more albums for MCA or anyone else for 17 years or so!

"Kid Charlemagne," on video below, is one of their more beloved songs from the later period too. Its coke references and theme of lost popularity reminds me of W.

It contains the refrain, "Did you feel like Jesus? Did you realize, that you were a champion in their eyes?"

"Get along W., get along Kid Charlemagne!"

All praise is due to Walter Becker, Donald Fagen and their great band Steely Dan!

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