A witty, candid, sharply written memoir by the cofounder of Steely Dan
In his entertaining debut as an author, Donald Fagen—musician, songwriter, and cofounder of Steely Dan—reveals the cultural figures and currents that shaped his artistic sensibility, as well as offering a look at his college days and a hilarious account of life on the road. Fagen presents the “eminent hipsters” who spoke to him as he was growing up in a bland New Jersey suburb in the early 1960s; his colorful, mind-expanding years at Bard College, where he first met his musical partner Walter Becker; and the agonies and ecstasies of a recent cross-country tour with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs. Acclaimed for his literate lyrics and complex arrangements as a musician, Fagen here proves himself a sophisticated writer with his own distinctive voice.
In these entertaining sketches, Steely Dan keyboardist and front man Fagen pays tribute to the "talented musicians, writers, and performers" from beyond the suburban New Jersey of his youth. In one chapter, Fagen recalls his early fascination with now-forgotten jazz singers the Boswell Sisters. He singles out Connie whose career was affected in some measure by an early brush with illness (likely polio) and praises her last recording, saying that she sounds like a "toned-down Wanda Jackson or Brenda Lee." Fagen sends a kind of love letter to Henry Mancini, telling the composer of the theme from the television show Peter Gunn a theme whose first notes every neophyte guitarist tried to learn back then that his music continues to be young and fresh. Fagen vivaciously recalls his college days at Bard, meeting his future Steely Dan bandmate Walter Becker, and playing at a Halloween party with Walter and actor Chevy Chase on drums. In 2012, Fagen, Michael McDonald, and Boz Scaggs toured as the Duke of September Rhythm Revue; during the months of the tour, Fagen kept a journal, included in these pages, that's filled with irony, sarcasm, humor, anger, and flat-out honesty about what it's like to be on the road playing to houses filled with aging hippies: "Tonight the crowd looked so geriatric I was tempted to start calling out bingo numbers. By the end of the set, they were all on their feet, albeit shakily, rocking.... So this, now, is what I do: assisted living."
Not bad Not great
Was wanting to read a book about the Steely Dan years, but was highly disappointed. There is almost nothing here about SD.
Megalomaniacal dick, indeed.
For those hoping for the brilliance of SD lyrics extended in book form, save your dough. If, alternatively, you're interested in a slim volume with nonstop whining about staying at the Four Seasons, not having a private jet, and having to perform for ugly old fans- this is the book for you!