steely dan – not really a band at all
When I purchased Steely Dan’s album Aja back in 1979 I discovered a whole new blend of music and I’ve loved this band ever since.
Steely Dan is essentially a duet supplemented by various musicians, many of whom are of great standing in the world of popular music. The core pair within Steely Dan, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, are well-known to be musical perfectionists. In fact, for a lengthy period they ceased performing live because they were so disappointed in their inability to recreate live the deep of sound they were able to create in the studio.
I wonder how they would have got on in the old days…
in the old days… confessions of a childhood misconception
When I was a kid, back in the old days, I lived under a misconception. It seems crazy now but I clearly recall listening to music on the radio and firmly believing that those playing the instruments and singing were actually in the studio playing live.
My parents would listen to 1ZB and between the soap operas and the news and the copious number of advertisements, there would be songs by artists like The Seekers, Trini Lopez and The Statler Brothers (who can forget Flowers on the Wall – “Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo…”). And I really believed it – I truly believed that when the announcer said, “Here they are, The Fabulous Seekers,” the fabulous Seekers were actually there with him!
I visualised a band performing and then having to vacate the studio before the next performer set up for their turn. I imagined the pandemonium that must have existed as two bands crossed paths in those few moments between songs. I even contemplated going into the city and waiting for my favourite bands to emerge!
I remember also the moment I became aware of my mistake. I can’t say how old I was or where I was, but I clearly remember it dawning on me one day that maybe, just maybe, the DJ’s were actually playing records. I recall it as being one of those “aha” moments when a small, unexplained part of my universe drifted moved into focus and made sense.
As I mentioned, Becker and Fagan are known for being close to obsessive perfectionists. For instance, Gaucho, an album of just seven tracks, took over a year to record. At least 42 different studio musicians and eleven engineers were involved in the project.
Their obsession looking for the perfect sound led them to become purely a studio band for much of their career. In fact, after touring early in their career – from 1972 to 1974 – they ten retreated to the studio and produced albums but never performed live until 1981. Later that year they broke up before reuniting in 1993 and recommencing their touring. They still tour spasmodically claiming that they can now, with the improvement of music-technology, reproduce their studio sound on stage.
- Peg was one of three successful singles from Aja, Steely Dan’s sixth and most successful album. The other singles off Aja were Deacon Blues (fabulous!) and Josie.
- Peg peaked at #11 on the US singles charts.
- The guitar solo in Peg was attempted by seven top session guitarists. Becker and Fagan eventually chose Jay Graydon’s version but then called him back to the studio and had him work on it for six hours non-stop before they were satisfied.
- The backing vocals on Peg were provided by Michael McDonald.
- Samples from Peg are featured in the 1989 De La Soul song Eye Know.
- Nerina Pallot covered Peg in 2007 and Jason Mraz often performs Peg in concert.
- Peg lyrics.