Donald Fagen, Jody Denberg, & Walter Becker in 2003
Like most Steely Dan fans, I have a seminal moment of hearing them for the first time…but actually, I saw them first: they were crammed into the back of a station wagon in 1973 on their way past those of us waiting to get inside to see the Dan open for the band Chicago. Shortly thereafter Steely Dan stopped touring for more than 20 years so I couldn’t have imagined that 30 years later I would spend an hour with the two men behind the Dan – Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, or that in 2017 Becker would suddenly die in California hours after Fagen wrapped up a solo show in Austin.
Call it jazz-rock, call it yacht rock, call it whatever you want — Steely Dan’s music was and is smart rock. So it was daunting to sit down with my main musical mensches in a Santa Monica hotel room in 2003 to discuss what would wind up being their final album Everything Must Go. But the conversation went well; we posed for the pictures afterward and they were downright playful, with Becker even grabbing a ceramic fox to be in the photo, explaining that it was their promotional mascot for the new record. The album was a commercial disappointment following the Grammy winning glory of its predecessor “Two Against Nature” a few years earlier, but still contains songs mighty as any in their illustrious catalogue – check out the thinly-veiled political piss-take “Godwhacker” and the apocalyptic title track below. These guys were musical and lyrical giants.
Walter Becker may be gone, but as their lyrics to “Deacon Blue” spoke of eternal transcendence (“that shape is my shade, there where I used to stand”), I prefer to think of Becker just waiting in the wings for the next time we visit him for a listen.
– Jody Denberg, KUTX Host
Take a listen to Jody Deberg talk with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker about the release of their 2003 album, Everything Must Go, below.