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New Donald Fagen article from Reuters


Mark Zeger

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Enjoy. I'll be picking up the new album later today.

 

 

Hey Nineteen: Steely Dan's Fagen Explains Quirks

 

By REUTERS

Published: March 7, 2006

Filed at 8:09 a.m. ET

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Somehow the idea of rock musician Donald Fagen working in a Borders book store or teaching high-school literature is about as likely as an unambiguous Steely Dan song lyric.

 

He is, after all, one of the creative forces behind Steely Dan, one of rock music's most quirky but literate bands. Yet, the singer-keyboardist never thought much would come of his college-days collaboration with guitarist Walter Becker.

 

"We had fall-back plans. We used to joke that if it didn't work out we'd end up working in book stores in Manhattan, both of us being quasi-literary types," said Fagen. "I thought if worse came to worse I'd go get a teaching degree. Luckily I didn't have to do that." For Steely Dan albums dating back to 1972, Fagen and Becker being inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, and the 2000 best album Grammy award for "Two Against Nature."

 

Fagen-Becker music can be deliciously complex and subtle and their lyrics oblique, ironic or cryptic. Rock, by its very definition, doesn't do subtlety or irony well. But Steely Dan records have sold, even as critics put them down as purveyors of "elevator music" -- or worse.

 

"I don't care what they say," Fagen told Reuters in an interview. "They play Mozart in supermarkets too. There's nothing you can do about it!"

 

They've had their hits, like "Reelin' in the Years", "Hey Nineteen" or "Rikki Don't Lose that Number" -- from the 1970s. But generally, Steely Dan's eclectic style appeals to more discerning fans, who appreciate a mesh of jazz, rhythm and blues and rock, electric guitars and horns and sardonic, articulate lyrics.

 

"I don't like to lecture and I don't want to bore people, but I think it's nice to have pop music that has substance to it," said Fagen, whose new solo album, "Morph the Cat", is being released on March 7.

 

"...WITH JAZZ AND CONVERSATION"

 

"Morph the Cat" is Fagen's third solo album, following 1982s "The Nightfly" and "Kamakiriad", released in 1993. The 58-year-old singer says they represent three stages of his life -- youth, middle age and death.

 

While not necessarily contemplating his own demise, the death phase was inspired by the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. New Jersey-raised and now a resident of New York, Fagen also says it's about the death of culture and politics -- subjects explored on the last Steely Dan album, "Everything Must Go."

 

"Tales of love and dread in a time of terror," is how the New York Times described "Morph the Cat" songs about New Yorkers dealing with the aftershocks of September 11. But in typical Fagen style, the backdrop is not always evident and only one song, "The Night Belongs to Mona", has any specific reference to "the fire downtown".

 

The album, which Fagen produced himself, is richly textured with his hallmark organ, guitar and horns, set against the metronome-precise rhythm that upsets some critics.

 

Addressing the persistent charge that Steely Dan sounds like Muzak on LSD, the singer/songwriter made a big admission. He and Becker once spent $50,000 from an album budget to develop a computerized rhythm sequencer. "But in the end, it was worth paying for a real drummer," he said.

 

"There's a certain effect that happens when you play jazz primarily on electric instruments. There is a kind of leveling out that happens; it does make it easy to listen to while you're working," said Fagen.

 

Sitting beside an electric piano in Warner Bros' Manhattan offices, Fagan tells of his love of jazz and lists his heroes as Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, as well as Miles Davis' pianist Red Garland, who he learned to imitate from records.

 

FROM THE FOOT OF MOUNT BELZONI

 

But what of those lyrics, with their literary references, sly word-plays and aural sleight-of-hand?

 

"I don't characterize them," he said. "Maybe it's for other people to characterize them. I just write what comes into my head, essentially."

 

Just as 1960s academics pored over Bob Dylan's song-poems, Fagen sometimes laughs at the thought of people dissecting his lyrics. "Most of the people who've seen these lyrics pretty much get the idea," he said. "I think we've become better at writing more lucid, narrative things than we used to do."

 

His solo songs are different from his work with Becker, whom he met when they were both fledgling jazz musicians at Bard College, a liberal arts school in upstate New York "I think mine are perhaps more subjective (lyrics), more personal," Fagen said.

 

He has considered writing some kind of musical theater piece, but prefers the short format, he said.

 

"I think some people who are good at short-form things often overreach themselves when they try to do long-form," he said. "I was never that fond of Duke Ellington's longer pieces. I think he was great at writing four-minute pieces that were perfect."

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Thanks Mark. Quoting the article:
...richly textured with his hallmark organ...
Really? Is the use of organ on a Dan or Fagan album so characteristic that it's considered "hallmark"? I don't think so. Rhodes perhaps; but organ considered a "hallmark" sound for Fagan? Nah. Can you spell "hyperbole"?
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Thanks Mark. :)

 

I'll be checking for a package from Amazon.com this week.

 

I'm sure if the UPS guy figures out what's in the box, he'll want it for his own. :freak:;)

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Tom,

 

Wow 1000 posts; I didn't even notice. Guess I should consider cutting back? Do they make a patch for forum addiction?

Could it be 'hyperbole'? BTW, does that train keep you up at night?
I guess I was born with a "BS Detector" with a low threshold. It makes me crazy sometimes; hence my occasional rants. Not quite sure how to shut it off; kinda frustrating actually. :freak:
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Thanks for posting that, Mark! :thu:

2 1/2 hours to go til lunchbreak, I'll get my copy then, probably won't be doing much useful work this afternoon. Ah. :cool:

Botch

In Wine there is Wisdom

In Beer there is Freedom

In Water there is bacteria

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Originally posted by cnegrad:

Thanks Mark. Quoting the article:

...richly textured with his hallmark organ...
Really? Is the use of organ on a Dan or Fagan album so characteristic that it's considered "hallmark"? I don't think so. Rhodes perhaps; but organ considered a "hallmark" sound for Fagan? Nah. Can you spell "hyperbole"?
It's probably more a case of "guy that wrote article can't tell difference between an organ and an electric piano".
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Originally posted by Mark Zeger:

By REUTERS

Published: March 7, 2006

Filed at 8:09 a.m. ET

 

....even as critics put them down as purveyors of "elevator music" -- or worse.

rock critics are a bunch of mouth-breathers. they're probably ecstatic about "hard out here for a pimp" winning an academy award
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Originally posted by Is There Gas in the Car?:

Botch, what happened to your post count? :eek:

Hmmm, beats me. :confused: Hadn't even noticed!

Botch

In Wine there is Wisdom

In Beer there is Freedom

In Water there is bacteria

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Originally posted by Botch:

Originally posted by Is There Gas in the Car?:

Botch, what happened to your post count? :eek:

Hmmm, beats me. :confused: Hadn't even noticed!
Actually, a better question would be what happened to your member number? Haven't you been around longer than that? Did you have to re-sing up or something?

 

What was you post count before? Not sure if I can change it, but I'm happy to try...

 

dB

:snax:

 

:keys:==> David Bryce Music • Funky Young Monks <==:rawk:

 

Professional Affiliations: Royer LabsMusic Player Network

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Originally posted by Dave Bryce:

What was you post count before? Not sure if I can change it, but I'm happy to try...

Actually, I've had a look at the CP, and I can totally change your number. :thu::cool:

 

Any idea where you were?

 

dB

:snax:

 

:keys:==> David Bryce Music • Funky Young Monks <==:rawk:

 

Professional Affiliations: Royer LabsMusic Player Network

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Dave, I think I was around 7,700, and my "old" member number was Van Halen's "5150". My post count reset itself about a year ago, but it looks like it did it again. I did get a new computer installed here in the office two weeks ago, don't know if that's what caused it or not.

 

Appreciate you looking into changing it back for me, but if you're short on time or can't do it don't worry about it, not that big a deal. Thanks! :thu:

Botch

In Wine there is Wisdom

In Beer there is Freedom

In Water there is bacteria

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Originally posted by Botch:

Dave, I think I was around 7,700, and my "old" member number was Van Halen's "5150". My post count reset itself about a year ago, but it looks like it did it again. I did get a new computer installed here in the office two weeks ago, don't know if that's what caused it or not.

 

Appreciate you looking into changing it back for me, but if you're short on time or can't do it don't worry about it, not that big a deal. Thanks! :thu:

Botch.!

 

You are still in the directory--as Botch.

 

(With the .suffix..)

Steve Force,

Durham, North Carolina

--------

My Professional Websites

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Originally posted by forceman:

You are still in the directory--as Botch.

 

(With the .suffix..)

Hmmm, I'm thinking I had to log in as "Botch.", forgot my password to "Botch", or something, I did the same absentminded thing over at HC.

 

As a government employee, my list of usernames/passwords (many which need to be changed every 90, 180, or 365 days) has now topped 41! We're told not to write them down, but you can see how good I am at doing that. :o

 

Thanks, Dave! :wave:

 

EDIT: and WAAHHHH!!! :cry: I wrote down the 7th, not the 14th, as the release date. And I won't even be able to hear it on the 14th as I have Dream Theater tickets for the 13th; my ears will be shot! :freak:

Botch

In Wine there is Wisdom

In Beer there is Freedom

In Water there is bacteria

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BOTCH.....!

 

Lemme tell ya , kids.....

I remember this fella from wa-a-y back in '01.....

He used to go by the handle of " botchatnetutah ",

or some such headscratchin' foolishness.

A good sort...an' he already had hunnerts of posts then...

Yep...never met him, but I'll bet he's taller now, um-hm. :)

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Crap - looks like the release date was moved from today to Tues 3/14. I found out when I went to buy the CD tonight.

 

But there's good news. (I just save money by switching my car insurance...) There is a CD+DVD special edition of "Morph" available next week!

 

:cool::thu:

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Clear the cookies on your work computer and sign in as Botch. (with the period).

 

Wear some earmuffs, hold your nose and pass gas loudly into the wind.

 

That should do it. :P

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Originally posted by Botch:

Hmmm, I'm thinking I had to log in as "Botch.", forgot my password to "Botch", or something, I did the same absentminded thing over at HC.

 

As a government employee, my list of usernames/passwords (many which need to be changed every 90, 180, or 365 days) has now topped 41! We're told not to write them down, but you can see how good I am at doing that. :o

Also easy to fix, I believe.

 

I had the site email you the password to the email address associated with the Botch. account...

 

If you want to keep just one (#5150, I'd guess), let me know and I'll add the two post counts together.

 

dB

:snax:

 

:keys:==> David Bryce Music • Funky Young Monks <==:rawk:

 

Professional Affiliations: Royer LabsMusic Player Network

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