Daddy don't live in that New York City no more.

This is the story of my favorite music video. It's "My Old School" by Steely Dan, and it's from 1973.

Now, Steely Dan is everything I should hate about music rolled up into a doughy white ball. They've got all that lame rock trivia: they named their band after a dildo in a Burroughs novel (“In Naked Lunch, the dildo Steely Dan is a prop used in a porn-film scenario based on the orgasms that accompany death by hanging.” That quote is from a 1977 New York Times article titled, “Fancy Dan: Nobody's making better music than an unlikely duo named after a dildo”). Chevy Chase played drums in an early incarnation of the band called The Leather Canary, then renamed The Bad Rock Group. Ugh. They co-opted the blues, Dixieland, cool jazz, and r&b, then threw in conservatory chops, just in case that conglomerate wasn’t stiff enough. They have a chord named after them. They're most famous for a song that everybody hates ("Rikki Don't Lose That Number"). Their lead instrument is often an electric piano that sounds like the third patch on the battery-powered keyboard you sometimes play at Goodwill. Their nearest sonic touchstone is perhaps a more restrained Hall & Oates. They make David Bowie’s plastic soul sound like Sexual Chocolate (Coming to America, holler!). But they’re, like, one of my favorite bands ever, now? And now I’m trying to convince all my friends who hate Steely Dan as much as I used to that, Steely Dan is awesome.

But, as the man said, you don't have to take my word for it.

(why did this have to be the first picture of LeVar Burton I could find?)

Look at the haircut. Look at the sunglasses. Look at the hippie in the tunic playing rhythm guitar.

Look at the token be-afroed dude in the leisure suit. Look at the guy in the 3/4-sleeves baseball T playing a Firebird bass. Look at the backup swingers swaying from the hip in a marijuana'ed frenzy. Look at the rock-god mustache on Walter Becker. And is that...? oh my god, is his shirt completely unbuttoned?!?! It's perhaps the rawest, purest distillation of whatever it was that makes white people in the 1970s whiter than they've ever been, or ever will be again, that I've ever seen. More importantly, listen to this fucking song!!!! You could timewarp this exact lineup to Lollapalooza Mark 73 and the ironic hipster legions would swoon. Steely Dan is AWESOME. On purpose, and... less... on purpose. But mostly on purpose. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are my heroes.


Ryan Martin said...

It's funny - I don't like self-conscious cleverness, smarm, or conservatory meticulousness as a general rule, but I do like and have always liked the Dan. The beginning of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" sounds kind of like a keyboard demo. Their most moving song is called "Any Major Dude Will Tell You." Their most famous guitar solos were done by session men. Either they're self-serious on a comical R. Kelly level, or they have an awesome, down-to-earth sense of humor about themselves and their music. Either way, they make me smile.

D said...

I always thought their most moving song was "Pearl of the Quarter," but "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" is right up there. But yes, you're right on all counts. What a funny band.