Fact or Fiction

Steely Dan

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They are the sort of band that thinks nothing of enlisting 40 studio musicians and 11 engineers for a 7-song record. They're perfectly fine making top-notch session guitarists do 40 takes of a solo ("I was there for six hours playing stuff until we found something they liked," Jay Graydon told us). They've sold over 40 million records, virtually none of them to girls. They are Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the embodiment of the '70s better known as Steely Dan, and they may be the only jazz-rock group in history to appeal to fans of both genres.

Whether you find them sly or sleazy, slick or subversive, catchy or cheesy, chances you know plenty of their songs. But how much do you know about the mysterious band-turned-duo itself?
~Jens T. Carstensen
Steely Dan Songfacts
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Comments: 66

  • Daniela Shanahan from San FranciscoI got *most* of these questions right. I'll be 55 in August and I have loved this band since I was a pre-teen, before I understood what many of their lyrics were about (lol)! Nonetheless I loved singing along with "Bodhisattva", "Any Major Dude" and yes, "Kid Charlemagne" and still do to this day. I use their songs for warm-ups before band practice, which occasionally lends to jazz vocalizations over alternative-rock originals & largely unintentionally works! :)
  • Daryl Joseph Crestwell from MarylandFound out things I never knew
  • Paula Dieu 66 from NevadaCalifornia girl all my life except the last year. I bought my Marantz amplifier and my huge JBL speakers in I think 1970? The first thing I did was put on Do It Again. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Been hooked forever and will be. I had a t shirt made that said Steely Dan in the front. Sparkley letters. Wish I had that shirt! That was in 1977? I put Disco Sucks on the back. What a rebel!
    I still listen to them every single day. Best ever. I’m a huge music fan and love a lot of great Bands and singers but Steely Dan is my favorite besides Boz Scaggs.
  • Julia Watt from Peoria, Illinois I listen to AJA almost every day, I absolutely love that album and my grandpa and I love to listen to it on cassette in the car.
  • Ernest from Cleveland, OhioBeen a Fan since forever going back to RIKKI. Oh but the AJA album and video ! Seen them twice here in Cleveland. Is there a better song than -The Royal Scam ( I think not). RIP Walter. Sign In.
  • Rebecca from North Carolina My first steely dan record was countdown to ectasy. I was 19, female, still am, and hanging with all my guy friends (early to mid 70s). Steely Dan for me was totally eargasmic. The music just gave me a feeling of euphoria as the sounds entered my ears and ferilized my brain. I'm 62 and as a woman I knew Steely Dan's sound would always make me feel special. The stories presented through each song with the music reminds me of reading j d salinger in my teens. I so thank my guy friends for allowing me to be a part of their weekends and discovering excellent music. RIP Walter Becker.
  • Jerry from ChicagoOne of the funniest episodes of "Reno 911" was when Deputy Clementine Johnson left the police department to become a Steely Dan groupie, or a "Babylon Sister" as she called herself.
  • Lucia from Denver CoI’ll accept that more dudes than women are into steely dan and bought their records in the seventies but I grew up on a steady diet of steely dan albums, always hungry for more- as a 13 year old deacon blues formed the soundtrack of my miserable suburban youth. I can still sometime here the “kerchunk” during songs on that album (Aja) where my 8 track player would roll to the next track ! just thought I would speak up since all the commenters here seem to be dudes as well. Thanks for all the great comments guys !
  • John from United States"Virtually none of them to girls." Ha ha ha! But also captures something interesting about Steely Dan. This being that you really don't often hear the ladyfolk jamming to them. I can remember initially just liking the sound; that slick and cool fusion of sounds that is kind of jazz and R&B. Very precise sounding and anyone would suspect pure musicality.

    Then, as I grew up, the lyrics started to hit me. Then, after more growing up, I think I really started to get their lyrics. A more sophisticated band you may never find. It's funny to think about some of the most talented musicians around being frustrated that...the founders (Fagen and Becker) were just not interested in touring.

    I can't say I like everyone single one of their songs but you won't find one that is bad. Seems like a lot of deliberation goes into everything they've done going back decades.
  • Naglim from IrelandThe outro Of ‘On The Dunes’ from Fagans album ‘Kamakiriad’ sounds like waves breaking on a beach, then receading. Very impressive I thought.
  • Ollie from AustraliaI like two against nature - there was a renaissance in the seventies in rock - so many great bands!
  • Vince from Long Beach, CaClean this message up or will all end up in jail, those test tubes and the scale let's get it all outta here! Someone said Fagan is a genius but left out Walter - no albums when he went missing in his addiction Hhmm!
  • Gnw from Santa Barbara Ca.Was lucky enough to see Walter & Donald here in town this past summer. Walter as usual talked to the audience, and Fagan's voice still could belt out all the hit's. Grew up with Steely Dan among other great artists of the 70's. Will dearly miss seeing them on stage again. RIP Walter, now you are inducted to the Great Gig in the Sky. Peace be with you.
  • Swordfish355 from MinneapolisWhile some bands inspire you to pick up your own instrument and play, Donald and Walter frequently made me want to just quit. What's the point of trying if somebody can play like that? I'd rather just listen.
  • Darren from Reading Pa40 years later and,Steely Dan is still all over the airwaves. Stood the test of time. Legends.
  • Darin from PaRIP Walter Becker. You were one of the best. Hands down.
  • John Bates from Crawley West Sussex EnglandEnjoyed that, learnt a number of things I didn't about one of the most influential duos since Lenton McCartney
  • Brian from FloridaMet Donald at a Cousin's Club reunion many years ago. I will always honor the privilege of having made his acquaintance.
    I am also proud to say I own every Steely Dan and Donald Fagen recording I have ever been able to find.
  • C.narro from South Tx.There were some good bands in 70's, steely dan was one of the best, very unique!
  • Tony from North CarolinaHow many successful artists of that era can look back and not be embarrassed by, at least, a short list of songs [if not entire album(s)] that were truly commercial hogwash? How do you rule the music charts during the 70s without even resorting to rock & roll? Brilliant.
  • Frank from FloridaI saw a great Steely Dan tribute band in CT in late 70s, early 80s named Beau Bolero. They were magnificent
  • William from PisgahFantastic work here
  • Jerry R from NyBodhisattva has a monster solo by Denny Diaz that vies for one of the best ever.
  • Eddie from ScotlandGood fun. Thanks!
  • Paul B from Chester U.k. re comment above "virtually none of them to girls" well top US tennis player madison Bringle list the Dan as her favourite band and she is only 27, so maybe things are changing? They are the best band ever in my opinion!
  • Capt. Bill from Durango, Co.I always thought Can't Buy A Thrill was the best!
  • Jeremy from IndianaNice quiz
  • Billy Groats from Memphiss,tennesseeSteely Dan f--king Own The Universe
  • Roger Naccache from São Paulo BrazilNo one can ever get close to the genius of Donald Fagen except Zappa, James Brown, Prince and Burt Bacharah. How many composers can there be whose work is 100% brilliant? Neither Beatles nor Led. Fagan
    I hit 7 of 12. Not bad
  • Marilyn from UsaI've bought many of their albums and CD's despite being female.
  • Larry from Tyler, TxHave all the early works, individually and box set, "Citizen Steely Dan" too many favs but Ala is best album! Been fan since '74!
  • Dennis Gaffney from Washington DcI heard Becker and Fagan were in the backup band Jay and the Americans. I've seen Steely Dan a couple of times. They always have thed greatest backup bands. I knows they are best known as studio musicians, b it their live shows have never disappointed. Love these eccentric guys. Nice job on this site
  • Craig Meace from San Diego, CaAbove you say Chevy Chase played keyboards, wasn't his instrument back in Baird College drums?
  • Bill Thompson from Campbell, Caabout Paul Griffin, Richard Tee said, "He a GEnius!"
  • The Hangman from Cincinnati I remember chevy chase on the Johnny Carson show saying he played with the guys from SD. He then got up and played a bit of drums. For years no one believed me then came google. that said SD is one of the top 5 best bands ever imo
  • Jim T. from Silverton, Oregon Great band..not many copy cats. When I was in High School and living in Glendale, Arizona at the time, I remember seeing them on TV, on a show called "IN Concert" on ABC. This was in 1973 and they came on as one of the new bands coming out. It was great listening to them as the sound portion of the show was simo-cast on a FM stereo station. You had great sound as you watched the concert on your TV. Its what we did back then before the home entertainment center. Sounds a little crazy, now. They were starting to get more airplay on the FM stations, as they were becoming more popular and listened to in that time. They fit in well to the FM style of the early 70's and just became more popular and noted as time went on. They have lasted through thick and thin. Great band.
  • Janie Runaway from Geneva, IlSteely Dan = the American Beatles. Fagen & Becker can do anything, and well. Two brilliant, snarky jazz cats with rock chops, dead-on instincts and wonderful, perverse lyrics for the non-stupid. Perfection and grace. None better.
  • Max from Oodnadatta, Aussie.Yea, I stole my copy from a chick, so ya don't know what ya talking about!
  • J L from NjHEY!! I'm all woman and for me AJA was truly an artistic triumph! When I saw them in concert they were amazing! I feel a strong jazz element also many of their songs have a very New York vibe!
  • Peg Cammann from Radnor, PaI'm a 65 yr old woman and have loved THE DAN since the 70's when I was in college. Yes, I have their albums and have seen them in concert. Not too many of my friends, male or female love The Dan like I do.
  • Richard from BerkeleyThe electric sitar solo on "Do It Again" is easily one of the best plectrum solos I've ever heard.
  • Starpunk from Columbus, Ohio, Planet EarthMaybe Robbie Dupree ("Steal Away") could've sued Owen Wilson instead. Then again, maybe Steely Dan could razz Robbie's ass for using ('stealing the notion of') an electric sitar on his One Big Hit while Steely Dan used an electric sitar prominently on their hit "Go Back, Jack - Do It Again" 9 YEARS BEFORE. Ha-ha.
  • Robert Lamb from Houston Fun quiz. Loved it! More, please.
  • Dbow from Denton, Tx 83. 333% Straight guessing.

    Best concert I've ever seen, Stevie Nicks.
  • Paul W from ChicagoGreat quiz. I was 6-6. The Burroughs reference was the only certainty as I read it in a Censorship in literature class in college. Haha!
  • Nigel E. Ward from Tallahassee, Florida Love some Steely Dan
  • Caleb Whitney from Kalorama Heights, DcI agree with Bill from Pittsburgh, one of the baddest lines ever is, "but the hangman isn't hangin' and they put you on the street."
  • Allen Smith from Portland Oregon Not a lot of songfacts, but nice to know Steely Dan trivia exists. Wonderful music.
  • George from Mt View CaI did very well on the quiz..... Gaucho rules
  • Old Cuss from Western MoAfter a LONG time, still don't know if I hear " Lost Wages " or " Las Vegas " on Show Biz Kids.
  • Michele from Rochester, MinnesotaKevin, my fave is Don't Take me Alive too! Coolest Steely Dan song there is. That said, I thought I was a good fan, but I just sucked at this quiz. What's this crazy s--t about Chevy Chase??!!
  • Jacko from 49090Awesome band, few women at concerts....feeling more and more like "King of the World" lately...
  • Kevin from Warren, Ohgreat band fav song can't take me alive
  • James from WalesGood fun
  • Dave Jenkins from Les Deux AlpesThanks for this. Really good fun !
  • Maryville Mary from Maryville, TnAja and Gaucho are two of my favorite albums, vinyl and rebought again on CD. What's this about girls not liking the Dan? We have taste in music, too!
  • Lucky from BlueI am the rocking grandma who grew up in FM!
  • Miro from Gabrovo, EuI could add as an interesting fact prior to it became band's name, that the didldo manufacturers and lately Burroughs could have taken it from the nick-name of a bulgarian MMA wrestler Dan Koloff- Steely Dan. Named like that because of his physical bestial strength, Steely Dan won gold medal in european championship in Paris, in 1930's which somehow correspods with the dildo's marketing in France later that time.
  • Bill from Pittsburgh, Pa Usa"Do It Again" has one of the coolest lines ever written..."But the hangman isn't hangin' And they put you on the street"...IMHO...
  • John from Wilmington NcBob you must not be a fan. I've seen them six times and they were fantastic each time.
  • Will from New York, Ny8. can't believe I guessed "true" on the baxter/mcdonald "trade". these aren't sports teams.
  • Peter Stawicki from Dallas, TexasTwo of the most amazing musicians I have ever seen in concert - I would happily go and see them over and over again (Add Michael McDonald back in and the combo is beyond amazing!)
  • Bob from Studio City, CaI saw Steely Dan in the '90s. Worst concert I have ever seen, before or since.
  • Terry Maynard from London, EnglandMikle Ary is slightly wrong. It's true that Steely Dan are named for a dildo , but not an actual dildo! The phrase "Steely Dan" originally appears in William S. Burroughs' famous non-linear novel "Naked Lunch", as the name of a fictional metal strap-on dildo. Becker & Fagen, who were fans of Burroughs, found this amusing and named their band after it.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyVery unique sound from these two guys.
  • Mike Ary from Vancouver, WaSteely Dan is named after a popular type of dildo sold in Europe in the early part of this century. Yes, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter did leave Steely Dan to play for the Doobie Brothers. He Departed the Doobies in 1979 and was replaced by stellar multi-instrumentalist, John McFee.
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