This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #293: Do It Again by Steely Dan.
In 1959, poet and author William S. Burroughs published a novel called, “Naked Lunch”. The book is organized in a series of vignettes or chapters describing the hallucinatory adventures of a series of characters on a journey from the U.S, to Mexico, all the way to Tangier. In one of those chapters, a character references a big silver dildo and calls it, “Steely Dan”. Little did William S. Burroughs realize when he wrote “Naked Lunch” that his book would be read by two introverted, weed-smoking musical genius types named Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who would go on to form a band and name it after a dildo. But, they did.
“Steely Dan” was formed in the 1970s by Becker and Fagen and became known for the perfectionist nature of their playing and recording, as well as, the jazzy-bluesy influences that coloured the Rock n’ Roll songs they produced. “Steely Dan” played live for several years but then, famously, abandoned live performances and became a strictly studio-based band. Becker and Fagen took enormous pride in the meticulousness of their studio work and laboured over how clean and intricate the “sound” of each song was. Over the course of a career that spanned several decades, “Steely Dan” produced such hits as, “FM (No Static At All)”, “Peg”, “Ricki Don’t Lose That Number”, “Reeling in the Years”, “Deacon Blues”, “Hey Nineteen” and, later in their career, they scored a Grammy-winning hit with a song called, “Cousin Dupree”. “Steely Dan” has sold over 40 million albums worldwide. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
The song, “Do It Again” came from their debut album called, “Can’t Buy a Thrill”. The lyrical content of this song, like many “Steely Dan” songs, is somewhat obscure. It deals with characters who require redemption but find that redemption is an elusive element for certain types of people, regardless of what they attempt to do to redeem themselves. Thieves, gamblers, unfaithful spouses all populate this song that never strives for anything other than simply telling their story. Many have likened “Steely Dan” songs, like “Do It Again” to mini-movies, with plot-lines that defy convention. Whatever the case, “Do It Again” sounds terrific and certainly sounds quite unlike anything else that was being released by other artists at the time. In the video for this song, you will notice that playing keyboards was a man named Michael McDonald, who played with “Steely Dan” but, eventually, gained fame as lead singer of “The Doobie Brothers”. That is one thing I really like about Becker and Fagen….as perfectionist as they were, part of their efforts to achieve sounds/songs that met their criteria was to surround themselves with the best session players possible. Some artists can have ego-issues or else, allow themselves to be intimidated by the skill of others but, not Becker and Fagen. They welcomed the best players to lend their skills to the mix and, as a result, they created some of the best and most unique sounding songs in music history.
So, without further delay, here is a band named after a silver dildo, “Steely Dan” with their very first hit song, “Do It Again”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Do It Again” by Steely Dan, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Steely Dan, can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting all manner of artists and bands. The link to their website can be found here.