With no more income from album sales, a 69-year-old rock legend has to go back on tour

(via Quartz) by Amy X. Wang

For musicians, it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times. Streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify are booming, helping the long-suffering music industry grow for the first time in decades.

But these new services make very little money for artists, with ephemeral streams paying out only a fraction of the revenue of actual album sales and downloads. Beyoncé, the highest-paid artist of last year, made the bulk of her money from a world tour. So did Guns N’ Roses, the second name on that list, and that band hasn’t even released a new album in a decade.

Another sign of the times is Donald Fagen, the 69-year-old cofounder of rock band Steely Dan, who has just announced a new tour in the US and Japan with an entirely new backup band called the Nightflyers. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), Fagen’s explanation for the new tour was decisively blunt

Read more: https://qz.com/1041397/steely-dans-donald-fagen-is-back-on-tour-the-result-of-nobody-buying-music-albums-anymore/

Video of the Week: How Steely Dan Composes A Song

Thanks Jordan Taylor!

Steely Dan’s “Aja”: Eight Minutes of Genius

(Reprinted from CultureSonar)

steely danSteely Dan is known for jazz-influenced arrangements, quirky lyrics, and pristine production.  Even non-fans recognize the brilliance of their 1977 album, Aja. For many music lovers, it’s their first choice for a late night listen accompanied by iced Manhattans. Audiophiles use it to audition high end stereo speakers. Jazz purists discuss its intricacies with classic rock veterans.

Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had formed Steely Dan as a band in the early seventies, serving as the group’s principal songwriters. They combined their love of rhythm and blues with their deep appreciation of jazz. They weren’t a rock band with horns or a jazz fusion band. Steely Dan was something different and unique — a rock band that used jazz harmonies.

By the time of Aja, Fagen and Becker were the only permanent band members (although original guitarist Denny Dias often appeared as a guest). They supplemented their instruments with the best session players in New York and Los Angeles. Their jazz rock sound, with hardly a traditional major or minor chord in sight, was recorded with the utmost care thanks to the work of producer Gary Katz and engineer Roger Nichols

Read more: http://culturesonar.com/steely-dans-aja-eight-minutes-genius/

Video of the Week: Steely Dan’s ‘FM’ Lights up Empire State Building on 50th Anniversary of its FM Antenna

To mark the 50th anniversary of the installation of the master FM antenna atop the Empire State Building October 29th, light designer Marc Brickman choreographed a light show that synced with Steely Dan’s “FM (No Static at All)” and was simulcast on New York’s WCBS 101.1 (FM of course).

How Steely Dan Created ‘Deacon Blues’


Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan explain the 1977 hit ‘Deacon Blues’

(via The Wall Street Journal)

by Marc Myers

As midlife-crisis songs go, Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” ranks among the most melodic and existential. Recorded for the album “Aja” in 1977, the song details the bored existence of a ground-down suburbanite and his romantic fantasy of life as a jazz saxophonist.

Written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen in 1976, “Deacon Blues” was released in 1977 on Steely Dan’s album “Aja,” which in the fall reached No. 3 on Billboard’s album chart, where it remained for seven consecutive weeks. The song also was a hit single in early 1978.

With Steely Dan appearing in New York at the Beacon Theatre from Oct. 6-17, Mr. Fagen, Mr. Becker, guitarist Larry Carlton and saxophonists Tom Scott and Pete Christlieb recalled the writing, arranging and recording of the cult classic. Edited from interviews:

Donald Fagen: Walter and I wrote “Deacon Blues” in Malibu, Calif., when we lived out there. Walter would come over to my place and we’d sit at the piano. I had an idea for a chorus: If a college football team like the University of Alabama could have a grandiose name like the “Crimson Tide,” the nerds and losers should be entitled to a grandiose name as well…

Read more: http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-steely-dan-created-deacon-blues-1441727645

Video Tutorial: Donald Fagen Deconstructs Steely Dan Songs


One of the creators of some of the most sophisticated rock of the 70’s (or any other decade) discusses Steely Dan songs “Chain Lightning”, “Peg” and “Josie” in this video tutorial.

Drumming Great Bernard Purdie and his ‘Purdie Shuffle’

Bernard Purdie is the most recorded drummer in the world, having played on over 4,000 albums. In the above video he demonstrates the “Purdie Shuffle”, a pattern he came up with as a youngster and inspired by the pushing/pulling dynamics of a train.

We’ve all heard variations of the Purdie Shuffle, even if we didn’t realize it had a name. Bernard himself played it on Steely Dan’s “Home at Last”, from their Aja album:

Jon Bonham employed a variant on Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain”, from the final album he recorded with the band prior to his death in 1980, In Through the Out Door.

More recently, Death Cab for Cutie used the beat on the song “Grapevine Fires”. In deference to Purdie, Death Cab drummer Jason McGerr resists calling his work on the song a Purdie Shuffle. As he told the New York Times recently: “It doesn’t matter how much I practice, I will never play that shuffle like Purdie. It’s because he has an attitude that seems to come through every time. He always sounds like he’s completely in charge.”

Sounds like a fair approximation to me, though I’ll admit that’s from a non-drummer’s point of view.

And finally, the late, great Jeff Porcaro created his own variant for Toto’s “Rosanna”. Porcaro’s pattern, said to combine the Purdie Shuffle and the Bo Diddley beat, has itself become known as the “Rosanna Shuffle”.

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