Friday, September 02, 2005

It's Perfection and Grace: What's Not to Love about Steely Dan?

There's a couple of people walking a wiggly beagle outside the window right now--but that's beside the point. It's precisely the kind of scene you won't find in a Steely Dan song.

The top's down, palm trees nod overhead, we whoosh toward TJ. Glass-top tables and ice buckets puddling on a half-moon patio overlooking the sinful city.

Living hard will take its toll
Illegal fun
Under the sun, boys

My love for Steely Dan is both indefatigable and inevitably met with confusion and dismay.

I am alone in a Steely Dan-hater world. They are the ultimate players to hate.

Yeah, I mean you, all you player-haters.

I had thought SD was a sound my dad should check out--yeah, my dad.

"Those guys?" he said, sort of high-pitched. "Ah, hell, that one was just too scary to look at, I can't listen to him."

But no, Dad, Steely Dan's not to look at, it's to feel.

It isn't jazz, it isn't quite rock--it sure as hell isn't easy-listening. It's complex, it's syncopated, it's funky, it's just...escape.

I love a man who sings in an Aqua-Velva voice with Humbert-esque glee of girls who just started shaving, wearing high, tight shorts. Of the hallucinatory joys of tequila and the glitter of California mansions clinging seductively to desert mountainsides. Of sucking down scotch-and-waters in a palm hut bar in Antigua til blind, twisting a bitter peg in the hole of your broken heart.

Who are these outlaws? And where can I find them?

I'm a bookeeper's son
I don't want to hurt no one
Don't take me alive

Now, don't get me wrong, they truly are a couple of scary-looking mofos. Actually, nowadays they simply look like quasi-wealthy, fully-nerdy men in their late fifties. Like computer programmers, software guys, who started out in, say, '81 or '83, and, as we all know now, were wheelbarrowing cash up the street by '99. Or at least that's what they looked like the day I saw them on Rush Street a few summers ago. Well, I didn't see them, but my companions, my boyfriend at the time and our friend, did, because they stopped dead in front of Carmines after these mid-life crisis nobodies passed us, looked at each other, and screamed in unison like a couple of cheerleaders: "Steely Dan!"

Now, if these Glamour Profession wannabes can recognize Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (who never seemed to be clearly depicted on album covers or sleeves) on the street, it was worth checking out. Which I eventually, then obsessively did. I obtained Pretzel Logic through Gaucho by the end of 2001. At my workaday desk, I could envelop myself in tales of hard living, fast driving, faithless women, supple girls, and activities suspiciously resembling smuggling.

Endless nights and and bottomless drinks that would become watery memories during the car ride the next day. Afternoons stretching out on beaches where no one has a tan line and calls are made on phones ferried over on silver trays. Gauloises and Veuve Cliquot. Later, once the jet lands stateside, Bushmills and Marlboros.

I'll learn to work the saxophone
I'll play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whisky all night long
And die behind the wheel

One of the recent times I went home to see my parents, when my dad suddenly inserted an SD reference into the conversation in the car from the airport, slying saying, eyes on I-64, "Drink your big black cow and get out of here," I was vilified.

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