It’s been a long time since I attended a concert. Conversely, I have taken perverse pride in being present in the present. Though I reminisce a bit, nostalgia and Oldies have never been second nature to me. I appreciate such music, but I don’t live or listen in the past. While I loved Motown, the Beatles, funk, and Psychedelica, I try to stay current. That was then, you know. However … there are exceptions to every rule.
Steely Dan, an American jazz rock/rock band created by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, has crossed borders since they first began writing songs in the Big Apple in the 1970’s. Though the band's popularity peaked in the late 1970s, a decade in which the band produced seven albums blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop, Steely Dan has always been mysterious and peculiarly unusual, reaching cult-like status among diverse types of fans. The albums, Royal Scam, Gaucho, and Aja among others, get older folks nodding a bit. “Yeah,” they say. “That was good stuff.”
In the early 1970’s, Steely Dan sang pop favorite and chart toppers like “Do It Again,” “Dirty Work,” and “Reelin’ in the Years.” Two years later, Donald Fagen released his solo album, “The Nightfly,” in 1982. Here they are now, in 2013, still at it! Now, on Thursday, September 12, Steely Dan will perform in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park Amphitheatre at 8PM. Ironically, the band broke apart early on because Becker and Fagen despised touring. Things change.
It might seem unusual to see things about the origin of Steely Dan’s name discussed on Snopes.com, a rumor-dissolver site, or on the crazy humor blog the Onion, but go ahead look ‘em up. Perhaps the interest is natural given Becker and Fagen and their bios. Both born a stones throw from 1950, Fagen in Passaic, New Jersey and Becker in NYC, the two grew up listening to jazz idols like Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane. They meet at Bard College and 40 some years later, they are still friends coming to Boca as part of a massive tour called Steely Dan Mood Swings: 8 Miles to Pancake Day, 2 months of shows culminating with 7 nights at the Beacon Theater in New York City.
When he was still living, my father advised me to keep one eye on the present because that is where you are, to keep one eye on the future, for that is where you will go, and one eye on the past, for this is where you have come from. When I reminded my father that I only had two eyes, his eyes twinkled as he said, “That’s the problem son.”
Steely Dan is part of past, present and future, but is this a problem? Only a fool would say that.