It’s been a long time since I attended a concert. Conversely, I have taken perverse pride in being present in the present. Though I reminisce a bit, nostalgia and oldies have never been second nature to me. I appreciate such music, but I don’t live or listen in the past. While I loved Motown, the Beatles, funk and psychedelia, I try to stay current. That was then, you know. However, there are exceptions to every rule.
Steely Dan, an American jazz rock/rock band created by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, has crossed borders since they first began writing songs in the Big Apple in the 1970s. Though the band’s popularity peaked near the end of that decade — one that saw the band produce seven albums blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B and pop — Steely Dan has always been mysterious and peculiarly unusual, reaching cult-like status among diverse types of fans. The albums — Royal Scam, Gaucho and Aja among others — get older folks nodding a bit. “Yeah,” they say. “That was good stuff.”
In the early 1970s, Steely Dan sang popfavorite chart toppers like Do It Again, Dirty Work and Reelin’ in the Years. In 1982, Fagen released his solo album The Nightfly.
Here they are now, in 2013, still at it! Now, on Thursday, Sept. 12, Steely Dan will perform in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park Amphitheatre at 8 p.m. Ironically, the band broke apart early on because Becker and Fagen despised touring. Things change.
It might seem unusual to see things about the origin of Steely Dan’s name discussed on Snopes.com, a rumor dissolver site, or on the crazy humor blog the Onion, but go ahead and look’em up. Perhaps the interest is natural given Becker and Fagen and their bios. Both born a stone’s throw from 1950, Fagen in Passaic, New Jersey and Becker in New York City, the two grew up listening to jazz idols like Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. They met at Bard College and 40- some years later they are still friends and coming to Boca as part of a massive tour called Steely Dan Mood Swings: 8 Miles to Pancake Day; two months of shows culminating with seven nights at the Beacon Theater in New York City.
When he was still alive, my father advised me to keep one eye on the present because that is where you are, to keep one eye on the future, for that is where you will go, and one eye on the past, for this is where you have come from. When I reminded my father that I only had two eyes, his twinkled as he said, “That’s the problem son.”
Steely Dan is part of the past, present and future, but is this a problem? Only a fool would say that.
Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to firstname.lastname@example.org