Tuesday, 5 September 2017
I've mentioned before how I came by some of my early music choices, none have stayed with me as consistently as Steely Dan. I joined the party with 'Aja' which arrived for Christmas 1977. It opened up new possibilities in music for me. From there I explored backwards and found riches that have lasted me a lifetime.
The guitar solo on "Home At Last" grabbed me early on, but because of the obtuse way credits were handed out didn't know had played it for some time. Of course at age 14 I didn't appreciate the finer points of Becker and Fagen's humour, so the liner notes were lost on me.
I came to recognise and appreciate Walter's guitar work, he had a clear bluesy tone as biting as his sarcasm. He is as has been observed many times in the last few days a greatly undervalued player, the equal of the high calibre names that pepper Steely Dan albums. I saw them live at Wembley in 1996 and his relaxed demeanour on stage remains the epitome of cool, leaning back into a solo on one of his understated Sadowsky guitars.
Oddly one of the best showcases for his guitar playing is on Donald Fagen's 'Kamakiriad' where he played pretty much all the guitar & bass (apparently because it was easier to do it himself as he was on board anyway as producer). Listen to "Countermoon", "Springtime" and "Tomorrows Girls" for Becker at his best. His own solo albums showed that it was Becker who put the nip in Steely Dan's lyrics, try "Cringemaker" and "Lucky Henry" on '11 Tracks of Whack'.
Donald Fagen's promise to continue as Steely Dan is a bit questionable for me. Walter Becker was every bit as much Steely Dan as he is, without him it is just the Donald Fagen band. You Tube video's from earlier this year show an ill looking man so he may have dropped out of touring anyway. Fagen's voice is not what it was so perhaps time to retire the band with dignity.
My top Becker tunes.
Hey Nineteen from Gaucho. One of the best Becker bass lines, meshing with the drums (Wendell or Steve Gadd? Who knows)
Book Of Liars from Alive in America, his best solo tune and proof he should have sung more
Jack Of Speed, heard on tour in 1996, better than the version on Two Against Nature
Glamour Profession from Gaucho, the essence of Steely Dan distilled into 7 minutes.
Home At Last from Aja, one of their best and they knew it from the comments on the Aja sleevenotes
Shame About Me and Cousin Dupree from Two Against Nature, great lyrics
and too many more to mention...
The best tributes to Walter Becker
From his daughter Sayan
From Rickie Lee Jones
From John Beasley