Are You Relivin’ the Years?: How Steely Dan Became a Cult Favorite for Millennials

Even as younger generations seem to be at war with baby boomer ideals, there is one relic of the ’70s they can get behind: the soft-rock sounds of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. How did a band known for its love of jazz and songs populated with down-on-their-luck characters become popular all over again?

(via The Ringer) by Derek Robertson

To look at American society over the past decade—from its memes, to its cultural criticism, to even its electoral politics—one might surmise the nation is consumed by a bitter and Manichean generational struggle, where no quarter is given and none taken over the power baby boomers wield as they cling to institutional power.

Maybe so. But there are notable exceptions, and perhaps the most notable comes from the medium through which the boomers shaped America’s cultural identity for decades: classic rock. Steely Dan, the jazz-rock combo whose musical and lyrical checkpoints include those most boomer-ish of pursuits such as cool jazz, hot guitar licks, tiki drinks, and expensive cocaine, have become an object of millennial obsession, spawning viral tweetsmash-ups, and even a custom run of streetwear emblazoned with their album art. John Mulaney and Nick Kroll wrote a bit based on Steely Dan for their hit Broadway show Oh, Hello. David Crosby, a fellow Boomer icon who’s become a Twitter favorite in his own right, earned blog press with a new Dan-inspired (and cowritten) tune. The list goes on…

Read more: How Steely Dan Became a Cult Favorite for Millennials – The Ringer

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The Best Steely Dan Songs, Ranked

(via uproxx) by Steven Hyden

One of the strangest (and most heartwarming) developments in recent years is the hip-ification of 1970s snarky jazz-rock institution Steely Dan. Once the butt of endless “graying ponytail” jokes by insufferable indie dweebs, Steely Dan has somehow become part of the indie dweeb canon, a turn confirmed by numerous indie music sites writing thoughtfully and enthusiastically about the band’s nine studio albums released over the course of 31 years.

Some have claimed that this embrace of The Dan is “revisionism,” but that’s not exactly right. In the ’70s, Steely Dan was widely regarded as one of the top American bands of the era. They were commercially successful and critically acclaimed. It’s just that subsequent generations for decades didn’t seek them out like they did Fleetwood Mac or even The Eagles. This was partly a function of how Steely Dan songs work — a spotless veneer of impeccable musicianship and complex music progressions act as a kind of slow release capsule for the humor and perversity that lurks inside. The whole point of this band is to grab the ear immediately, but not reveal what is actually going on until many listens, and even many decades, later. That’s not revisionism; that’s just taking a very long time to “get it.”

Read more: The Best Steely Dan Songs, Ranked (


Editorial note: While I solidly disagree with many of the the author’s choices/placings (and don’t share his understanding of what the song “The Fez” refers to) I applaud an informative and thought-provoking article on one of my favorite bands.

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Why the Brilliantly Cynical Music of Steely Dan Is the Perfect Quarantine Binge

(via Mel) by Tim Grierson

Global catastrophe? A spiritually sick society beyond the point of saving? Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have been waiting for this moment.

During times of chaos, it’s natural to seek some semblance of control. So it’s probably no surprise that, as the coronavirus quarantine took hold, I turned to a band I always find comforting. I can’t think of music more perfectly controlled than the roughly six hours and 10 minutes worth of songs that Steely Dan recorded. Just don’t call it easy-listening. Sure, as they evolved from an ace L.A. rock band to a precision jazz-pop unit, their tunes only grew more swinging and pretty. But beneath all that beauty were tales of killers and creeps, dudes who were into their cousins or dudes who were into women way too young for them. No amount of gorgeous saxophone solos could mask the spiritual wretchedness at the center of these songs. If this is how the world ends — with idiots ignoring warnings to practice social distancing and the rich hogging access to medical help — then I won’t be shocked. Steely Dan prepared me…

Reed more:

Video of the Week: The Lost Gaucho–Steely Dan’s Alternate Album

Songs You May Have Missed #651

Steely Dan: “Your Gold Teeth II” (1975)

Donald Fagen is not an easy guy to impress. But when he hears Denny Dias’ guitar solo in a studio outtake run-through of “Your Gold Teeth II”, the song’s co-writer exclaims, “Holy fuck! That’s great!”

It is.

Casual rock fans and critics alike love Aja, Steely Dan’s 1977 jazz-rock fusion masterpiece. But two years and two albums earlier they produced another glossy, sophisticated jazzy rock classic brimming with the sort of great melodic hooks, cryptic lyrics and jaw-dropping performances the Dan are known for, that being the Katy Lied LP.

And no performance tops Dias’ adventurous solo here. “Your Gold Teeth II”–so-named because the band had already released a song called “Your Gold Teeth” two years earlier–neatly straddles the fence between accessible pop rock and real jazz.

1970’s Steely Dan were the open-minded pop rock fan’s gateway drug into jazz exploration.

Just as Gentle Giant knocked holes in the wall separating English progressive rock and jazz, Steely Dan at their best blurred the lines between the worlds of bop, pop, and what is now called Yacht Rock–except that term seems to do a disservice to the excellence of the Steely Dan catalog.

If this is Yacht Rock, I’m on board with it.

Video of the Week: The Best Wine for Steely Dan’s “Gaucho”

Video of the Week: Skunk Baxter Covers ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’

Ever see a Steely Dan tribute act, or some lesser artist covering their material? Some bands can approximate the chops of Fagen and Becker sufficiently to do a credible arrangement–no mean feat, by the way. But when I’m YouTubing a Steely Dan cover version I invariably cringe when the singer steps to the mic. I’ve come to expect disappointment.

You see, no one can imitate the seedy, depraved vocal snarl of Donald Fagen–can they? Well, I’ll just say I was shocked when Kipp Lennon–lead singer of Southern California rock band Venice and younger brother of the Lennon Sisters by the way–sang the first line of ‘Rikki Don’t Lost That Number’ in this performance. The very least you can say is that it’s good enough not to be a distraction. And that’s a damn sight better than I’ve ever heard previously.

Even Steely Dan alum himself Mr. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter gives him a shout-out at the end: “My word! Thank God for real singers!”

And as for Skunk himself, he reminds us all here why the band tapped him for some of their most iconic guitar parts. He’s simply a master.

See also: Songs You May Have Missed #674 | Every Moment Has A Song (

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