Okay, maybe Walter Becker wasn’t really my friend but I’m guessing you didn’t spend a week with him. Okay, maybe I didn’t really spend a week with him per se, but I did spend a week at the same place he was at, had dinner with him several times and hiked the same morning hike every day. He happened to be at my favourite Mexican spa along with his personal physician. He was just a regular guy. I’m guessing maybe the attraction of said spa was the focus on activity, mindfulness and organic vegetarian cuisine. And definitely no beach bar with Margaritas.
I have to admit I wasn’t really a fan of Steely Dan when they arrived on the scene in the early 1970s. I did not mind Can’t Buy a Thrill but not much of Becker/Fagan was in my regular rotation. Anyhow, to honour Walter’s untimely death today, I thought I would do a bit of research and provide you with some Steely Dan facts you may or may not know.
1. Prior to forming Steely Dan, Becker and Fagan were part of a cover band called the Leather Canary, which also included Chevy Chase. Needless to say, fame and fortune did not ensue at that point.
2. Barbra Streisand covered a Becker/Fagan original called “I Mean to Shine” on her 1971 Album Barbra Jean Streisand. Fame and fortune still did not ensue.
3. Although a key part of the song writing duo, Becker did not actually play on a Steely Dan album until Pretzel Logic. Also, although Fagan is lead vocal on many recorded tracks, he refused to sing live. Kind of like if Paul never played on a Beatles track and if John never sang in a concert. Although come to think of it, who would have known since no one could actually hear them over the screaming anyhow. I also learned that Fagan said in defense of the session musician modus operandi that the Beatles regularly used pitch hitters in their recordings (Billy Preston on the keyboard comes to mind, but also Eric Clapton standing in for George on many occasions). But I digress.
4. Michael McDonald and Jeff Baxter were both part of the Steely Dan crew until they left to form a little known band called the Doobie Brothers. Fame and fortune did ensue.
5. Anyhow, eventually Steely Dan caught on, selling 40 million albums worldwide and gaining a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
6. I guess it’s the jazzy nature of Steely Dan that was at odds with my musical taste at the time. But I have found Becker and Fagan to be kind of like olives: an acquired taste best left to grownups, or at least best left to those old enough to drink martinis. And that is exactly what I shall do at cocktail time tonight, while contemplating the wisdom of Bodhisavatta.
7. I still don’t know why Rikki shouldn’t lose that number and silly me, I never thought to ask Walter.