Wednesday, January 10, 8948

Donald Fagen (b. 1948) - Steely Dan

Donald Jay Fagen (b. January 10, 1948) is an American musician and songwriter, best known as the co-founder, lead singer, and the principal songwriter of the rock band Steely Dan (along with partner Walter Becker). Fagen is known for his use of jazz harmonies, elaborate arrangements, and attention to detail. Fagen launched a successful, if sporadic, solo career in 1982, spawning three albums to date.


Steely Dan is an American rock band; its core members are Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The band's popularity peaked in the late 1970s, with the release of seven albums blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop.

Rolling Stone magazine has called them "the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies."

The band's music is characterized by complex jazz-influenced structures and harmonies played by Becker and Fagen along with a revolving cast of rock and pop studio musicians.

Steely Dan's "cerebral, wry and eccentric" lyrics, often filled with sharp sarcasm, touch upon such themes as drugs, love affairs, crime, and their true-to-life "contempt of west coast hippies."

The pair are well-known for their near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio, with one notable example being that Becker and Fagen used at least 42 different studio musicians, 11 engineers, and took over a year to record the tracks that resulted in 1980's Gaucho — an album that contains only seven songs.

Steely Dan toured from 1972 to 1974, but in 1975 became a purely studio-based act. The late 1970's saw the group release a series of moderately successful singles and albums. They disbanded in 1981, and throughout most of the next decade, Fagen and Becker remained largely inactive in the music world. During this time, the group steadily built and maintained "a cult following."

In 1993, the group resumed playing live concerts; the early 21st century saw Steely Dan release two albums of new material, the first of which earned a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

They have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001.


The Royal Scam is the fifth album by Steely Dan, originally released by ABC Records in 1976.

The album went gold and peaked at #15 on the charts. The Royal Scam features more prominent guitar work than other Steely Dan albums. Guitarists on the recording include Walter Becker, Denny Dias, Larry Carlton, Elliott Randall and Dean Parks.

With irony-laden verses about drug dealers, safe sex, extramarital affairs and hardships faced by immigrants, The Royal Scam is arguably Steely Dan at its most cynical. The mood of the album stands in contrast with the band's mellower and hugely successful follow-up, Aja.

The album cover, which shows a possibly homeless man sleeping underneath (or perhaps dreaming of) images of mutating skyscrapers, is a satirical take on the American Dream.

The drawing and painting of the skyscrapers topped with various animal heads (snake, etc.), was considered dark, eerie, gothic, and very much ahead of its time.

The cover was designed by Larry Zox, and was originally created for Van Morrison's unreleased 1975 album, Mechanical Bliss. In the liner notes for the 1999 remaster of the album, Fagen and Becker claim it to be "the most hideous album cover of the seventies, bar none (excepting perhaps Can't Buy A Thrill)."

In common with other Steely Dan albums, The Royal Scam is littered with cryptic allusions to people and events both real and fictional. In a BBC interview in 2000, Becker revealed that Kid Charlemagne is loosely based on Augustus Owsley Stanley, the notorious drug "chef" who created hallucinogenic compounds for, among others, Jim Morrison of The Doors, the Grateful Dead, and The Beatles.

The album was re-issued by MCA Records in 1979 following the sale of the ABC Records label to MCA.

"Kid Charlemagne" – 4:38
Guitar solo by Larry Carlton

"The Caves of Altamira" – 3:33
Alto saxophone solo by John Klemmer

"Don't Take Me Alive" – 4:16
Guitar solo by Larry Carlton

"Sign in Stranger" – 4:23
Piano Solo by Paul Griffin
Guitar Solo by Elliott Randall

"The Fez" (Becker, Fagen, Paul Griffin) – 4:01
Guitar solo by Walter Becker

Side Two

"Green Earrings" – 4:05
Guitar solos by Denny Dias (1st) and Elliott Randall (2nd)

"Haitian Divorce" – 5:51
Talk box guitar solo by Dean Parks, altered by Walter Becker

"Everything You Did" – 3:55
Guitar solo by Larry Carlton

"The Royal Scam" – 6:30
Guitar solo by Larry Carlton


Aja (pronounced "Asia") is the sixth album by Steely Dan. Originally released in 1977, it became the group's best-selling album. Peaking at #3 on the U.S. charts and #5 in the United Kingdom, it was the band's first platinum album, eventually selling over 5 million copies.

In July 1978, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 145 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The album is ambitious and sophisticated, and features several leading session musicians. The eight-minute-long title track features complex jazz-based changes and a solo by renowned saxophonist Wayne Shorter, as well as dextrous drumming by Steve Gadd - most notably at the end of the track.

Aja is also the subject of one of the Classic Albums series of documentaries about the making of famous albums. The documentary includes a song-by-song study of the album (the only omission being I Got the News, which is played during the closing credits), interviews with Steely Dan co-founders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (among others) plus new, live-in-studio versions of songs from the album, and the opportunity to hear some of the rejected (and uncredited) guitar solos for Peg, before Jay Graydon produced the satisfactory take.

When DTS attempted to make a 5.1 version, it was discovered that the multitrack masters for both Black Cow and the title track were missing. For this same reason, a multichannel SACD version was cancelled by Universal Music. Donald Fagen has offered a $600 reward for the missing masters or any information that leads to their recovery.

All songs written by Becker and Fagen.

Side One

"Black Cow" – 5:10

"Aja" – 7:57

"Deacon Blues" – 7:37

Side Two

"Peg" – 3:57

"Home at Last" – 5:34

"I Got the News" – 5:06

"Josie" – 4:33

Donald Fagen - synthesizer, keyboards, vocals, background vocals, whistle
Walter Becker - bass, guitar, electric guitar, vocals
Chuck Rainey - bass
Timothy B. Schmit - vocals
Paul Griffin - keyboards, electric piano, vocals, background vocals
Don Grolnick - keyboards, clavinet
Michael Omartian - piano, keyboards
Joe Sample - keyboards, electric piano, clavinet
Larry Carlton - guitar, electric guitar
Denny Dias - guitar
Jay Graydon - guitar, electric guitar
Steve Khan - guitar
Dean Parks - guitar
Lee Ritenour - guitar
Pete Christlieb - flute, tenor saxophone
Chuck Findley - horn, brass
Jim Horn - flute, saxophone
Richard "Slyde" Hyde - trombone
Plas Johnson - flute, saxophone
Jackie Kelso - flute, horn, saxophone
Lou McCreary - brass
Bill Perkins - flute, horn, saxophone
Tom Scott - conductor, flute, tenor saxophone, lyricon
Wayne Shorter - flute, tenor saxophone
Bernard Purdie - drums ("Home at Last", "Deacon Blues")
Steve Gadd - drums ("Aja")
Ed Greene - drums ("I Got the News")
Lee Price - Fire Shards
Paul Humphrey - drums ("Black Cow")
Jim Keltner - percussion, drums ("Josie")
Rick Marotta - drums ("Peg")
Gary Coleman - percussion
Victor Feldman - percussion, piano, keyboards, electric piano, vibraphone
Venetta Fields - vocals, background vocals
Clydie King - vocals, background vocals
Rebecca Louis - vocals, background vocals
Sherlie Matthews - vocals, background vocals
Michael McDonald - vocals, background vocals

[8948 R. Van Zant / 8948 Fagen / 8947 Allman]