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What you need to know for 08/17/2017

Steely Dan to bring always-eclectic mix to SPAC

Steely Dan to bring always-eclectic mix to SPAC

Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and their backing musicians — collectively known as 1970s favorites Stee
Steely Dan to bring always-eclectic mix to SPAC
Donald Fagen, left, and Walter Becker of Steely Dan.

Sometimes rock, sometimes jazz, sometimes harmony — sometimes quirky mixtures of all three.

Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and their backing musicians — collectively known as 1970s favorites Steely Dan — will play the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday. The show, part of the band’s “Jamalot Ever After” tour, starts at 7:30 p.m.

Anybody who knows the ’70s knows a Steely Dan lyric or two:

-- “Your everlasting summer, you can see it fading fast; so you grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last . . .” from “Reelin’ In the Years” in 1972.

-- “You go back, Jack, do it again, wheel turnin’ ’round and ’round; You go back, Jack, do it again . . .” from “Do It Again” in 1972.

-- “When Black Friday comes, I’ll stand down by the door; and catch the gray men when they dive from the fourteenth floor . . .” from “Black Friday” in 1975.

Steely Dan

WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $49-$125, plus fees

MORE INFO: 584-9330,

-- “We’re gonna break out the hats and hooters, when Josie comes home. We’re gonna rev up the motor scooters, when Josie comes home to stay, we’re gonna park in the street . . .” from “Josie” in 1977.

Fagen and Becker have always done things their way. The guys released their first album, the 1972 “Can’t Buy a Thrill” with band charter members Denny Dias and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter on guitars, Jim Hodder on drums and David Palmer on vocals.

By 1973, the albums “Countdown to Ecstasy” and “Pretzel Logic” had been released, with Fagen on all lead vocals and Becker on guitar leads. On tour, Steely Dan also included Mike McDonald on vocals and piano, Jeff Porcaro on drums and Royce Jones on percussion and vocals.

Becker and Fagen had disbanded the original group by 1975 and began recording exclusively with various session players. The results — the albums “Katy Lied,” “The Royal Scam,” “Aja” and “Gaucho.”

Splitting in 1980

After “Gaucho” in 1980, Becker and Fagen split the partnership. Fagen devoted his time and talents to a solo career, and recorded the critical and commercial success “The Nightfly.”

Becker moved to Hawaii to become an avocado rancher — and a critic of the contemporary scene.

The guy reunited in 1993, touring with the “All New Steely Dan Orchestra.” Work on a new album began in 1995. The work took a while — “Two Against Nature,” the first studio album since “Gaucho,” was released in 2000. Another album, “Everything Must Go” followed in 2003. So did regular tours.

Facts of the matter

Some “steely” facts follow.

-- Fagen and Becker were part of the touring band for Jay and the Americans in 1970. They worked under fake names.

-- Fagen and Becker recorded the soundtrack for the low-budget 1971 Zalman King-Richard Pryor film “You’ve Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You’ll Lose That Beat.”

-- Steely Dan serves adult drinks in several well-known songs: piña coladas in “Bad Sneakers,” black cows in “Black Cow,” Scotch whisky in “Deacon Blues,” Cuervo Gold tequila in “Hey Nineteen,” grapefruit wine in “FM,” and cherry wine in “Time Out of Mind.”

-- Steely Dan’s well-regarded sixth album, the jazz-influenced “Aja,” featured hit singles “Peg,” “Josie” and “Deacon Blues.” The latter piece featured a solo by jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

-- The band name comes from a reference in William S. Burroughs’ novel “Naked Lunch.”

-- Steely Dan’s first hit songs came from 1972’s “Can’t Buy a Thrill” album — “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ In the Years.”

-- A 1974 live recording of “Bodhisattva” features Steely Dan truck driver and road crew member Jerome Aniton’s rambling, booze-fueled, slur-filled introduction of the band as “Mr. . . . Steely . . . Dan . . . whatever.” Some reports say Aniton believed Fagen’s actual name was “Stevie Dan.”

-- Eclectic lyrics have always been part of Steely Dan. Like this one, from “Black Friday” in 1975: “Gonna do just what I please. Gonna wear no socks and shoes. With nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos.”

-- The reference to “Annandale” in Steely Dan’s “My Old School” refers to Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, where Fagen and Becker met as students.

-- Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” is mentioned in “Hey Nineteen.”

-- Another college and university are mentioned in Steely Dan songs — William and Mary in “My Old School” and Alabama — “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide . . . call me Deacon Blues . . .” from “Deacon Blues.”

-- During the Fagen-Becker college years, one of their bands was named “The Leather Canary.” The drummer was future “Saturday Night Live” star Chevy Chase.

-- There have been long breaks in Steely Dan activity; Fagen and Becker did not tour under the Steely Dan name from 1974 until 1993.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at

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