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