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Besides this unaccustomed photographic appearance, Fagen also granted an extremely frank interview in Newsday on Nov. 29th, agreeing to a public lunch at the Brighton Grill in New York, where he apparently finally laid Steely Dan to rest. He said: "When we get back together (which we did two years ago), we feel very funny. It was fun to work for a while but... there's something sad about it. We did come up with two songs, but I think that both of us felt at the end that, well, that was another time."
"I have a problem writing songs," he admitted. "Some people may have noticed." He grinned crookedly. "I have to be in control. The collaborator has to know that I'll have the final say. I have a very queer idea about what's acceptable." Fagen also told Stephen Williams that when he and Becker reunited it was "not with the idea of doing a Steely Dan record, we just wanted to see what would happen. We wrote two pretty good songs and then just totally stopped. I might include one or both those songs on my album, and Walter will somehow be involved in the production, but not in the performance."
Recently published by Simon and Schuster in the States is a novel entitled Rock Me by journalist Marcelle Clements. She spent a year on the road as a backing singer for Steely Dan and in some reviews attention has been drawn to the fact that Miss Clements in fact now lives with Donald Fagen. The subject matter is the career of a rock star, so parallels are perhaps inevitable (the female protagonist leaves New York to recuperate in Hawaii -- which seems somehow familiar). Apparently the novel's cool, detached style is also very reminiscent of Steely Dan's approach to music. Can't wait to read it!
On the recent American Wave series of films on BBC2, one of the themes used was New Frontier. One perplexed but enthusiastic viewer even wrote to the Radio Times asking what the music was and asking if it is available on record. Where has she been, on a desert island for the past six years?
The Early Years has been garnering some airplay on Radio One recently. And for a pleasant change, Nicky Campbell has been giving some of the Dan's lesser played tunes a regular nighttime airing, playing Peg, Charlie Freak, Hey Nineteen and Bodhisattva, among others.
There is a shop in New York called Aja which displays the exact album logo on its shopfront. This raises the question: which came first, the shop or the record? When questioned about this, the female owner became very guarded, fearing a possible record company action against her. Once her mind had been put at rest, she admitted that she loved the design and just borrowed the idea.
Perri, discovered by Pat Metheny and support to Anita Baker on her recent U.K. tour, have covered The Caves of Altamira on their (I'm told) excellent album The Flight.
Here's another addition to the Becker/Fagen discography. Donald Fagen has a song featured on a CD by the Yellowjackets (Russell Ferrante, Jimmy Haslip, Marc Russo and Ricky Lawson). The disk is called Shades and is on the MCA label (the song is one of two extra tracks and is not featured on the vinyl version.) It was released in February 1987 and Fagen wrote the title tune. It's a five-minute-plus instrumental showcasing Russo's alto saxophone and with typical layered keyboards. By a strange coincidence, Lorraine Perry from the aforementioned Perri sings on a track called Revelation, which she co-wrote with Russell Ferrante. Bruce Hornsby also puts in an appearance on accordion on one track.
Jeff Baxter is featured in the February edition of Guitarist and there are numerous references to Steely Dan. Apparently his solo on My Old School is not only a critics' and fans' favorite, but Baxter's own, too, and was recorded using a Stratocaster that he had made himself, finishing it only a few hours before recording the track. He cites this as being the reason for it being such a dynamic performance.
He also credits the Doobie Brothers as being one of the few bands who actually let Steely Dan open gigs for them without subjecting them to any bullshit -- even allowing the Dan to borrow their instruments. Baxter used to play the whole Steely Dan set and then stay for most of the Doobies' one. He seems genuinely grateful to have been involved with Becker and Fagen, particularly with regard to trying to translate Fagen's melodic ideas onto the guitar and sweating his balls off doing the best solo he possible could. He says Elliott Randall and himself have a kind of horn player sensibility when it comes to the electric guitar. Asked to explain the role of a record producer, Baxter said, "Jay Graydon and I used to joke that we're not record producers, we're record reducers. You're sending all this data down a funnel and trying to squeeze it out at the other end in stereo. It's basically trying to find the essence.
What's the link between Steely Dan and the Eagles? Well, in an issue of Rolling Stone last September, Glenn Frey, discussing the song Hotel California, admitted Steely Dan's influence on the Eagles at the time. He said, "We liked the way Steely Dan would say anything (in a song). Steely Dan referred to the Eagles in Everything You Did so we decided to send them a message back. That's why we used the words, 'They can stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast.' "
The recently issued CD Becker and Fagen -- The Collection on Castle Communications contains two different versions of songs already released in various other forms. On Sun Mountain Donald Fagen actually takes the lead vocals on a piano-and-voice demo while Charlie Free (sic) features an alternative piano intro and arrangement.