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Steely Dan



The seeds of this much-respected rock band were sewn at New York's Bard College where founder members Donald Fagen (b. 10 January 1948, Passaic, New Jersey, New York, USA; keyboards/vocals) and Walter Becker (b. 20 February 1950, Queens, New York, USA; bass/vocals) were students. They subsequently forged a songwriting team and their many demos were later collected on several exploitative compilations. Formative versions of "Brooklyn", "Barry Town" and "Parker's Band" - each of which were re-recorded on official Steely Dan releases - were recorded during this period. The duo also enjoyed a contemporaneous association with pop/harmony act Jay And The Americans, for which they adopted the pseudonyms Gus Marker and Tristan Fabriani. Becker and Fagen appeared on the band's last US Top 20 hit, "Walkin' In The Rain" (1969), the albums Wax Museum and Capture The Moment, and accompanied the unit on tour. Vocalist Kenny Vance and drummer John Discepolo joined the pair for You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It (Or You'll Lose That Beat), the soundtrack to a low-key 1971 movie. Denny Dias (guitar) also contributed to these sessions and he joined Fagen and Becker on their next project which evolved following an alliance with producer Gary Katz.

Taking the name "Steely Dan" from the steam-powered dildo in William Burroughs' novel The Naked Lunch, the trio was quickly expanded by the arrival of David Palmer (b. Plainfield, New Jersey, New York; vocals, ex-Myddle Class), Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (b. 13 December 1948, Washington DC, USA; guitar, ex-Ultimate Spinach) and Jim Hodder (b. Boston, Massachusetts, USA, d. 5 June 1990; drums). The accomplished Can't Buy A Thrill was completed within weeks, but drew considerable critical praise for its deft melodies and immaculate musicianship. The title track and "Do It Again" reached the US Top 20 when issued as singles and this new-found fame inspired the sarcasm of "Showbiz Kids" on Countdown To Ecstasy. Their second album was another undoubted classic of the 70s, and featured such bittersweet celebrations as "The Boston Rag" and "My Old School". By this point Palmer had left the line-up following an uncomfortable US tour, but although Baxter declared the set superior to its predecessor, the same commercial approbation did not follow. This was reversed with the release of Pretzel Logic, Steely Dan's first US Top 10 album. Here Fagen and Becker drew more fully on their love of jazz, acquiring the riff of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" from Horace Silver's "Song Of My Father" and recreating Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-O". The former reached number 4 in the US charts


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