This Steely Dan Documentary Is Worth Your Time Even If You Don’t Like Steely Dan

Even if you don’t like Steely Dan, this 1999 documentary about the making of their 1977 album Aja is fantastic. First off, it’s fucking hilarious—Walter Becker and Donald Fagen come across as the smartest, most venomous guys in the room—a wicked mixture of witty and cruel—-and watching them discuss each track, and each part of each track is fascinating (especially when they pick apart failed guitar solos). The film also features a marvelous supporting cast, including braggart percussionist Bernard Purdie (of “The Purdie Shuffle” fame), and poor old Michael McDonald, who struggled to nail his background parts on “Peg.” What might be most fascinating though is seeing how Fagen and Becker pieced the instrumental tracks of Aja together, bringing in different session musicians—entirely different bands—from day to day. And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a sample (of a sample):

 

About these ads

8 comments

  1. Cute Remarks · January 24, 2013

    Awesome video thank you. Really enlightens the way I will play & listen to music.
    “so it was like a two step process, one was to get to perfection and the other was to get beyond it and to loosen it up a little bit so it didn’t have to be the perfect squeaky clean goal.”
    25:08- Dean parks

    Like

  2. tomsimard · January 24, 2013

    I love Steely Dan amd am looking forwad to taking a look. Thanks.

    Like

  3. tomsimard · January 24, 2013

    That was great. And Purdie wtih his long list is exactly as you describe.

    Like

    • Biblioklept · January 24, 2013

      Purdie’s list has a nice parallel in this clip: (Go to 2m47s)

      Like

  4. tomsimard · January 24, 2013

    Wonderful!

    Like

  5. Shawn Conner · January 24, 2013

    Fantastic! Loved Purdie’s signs: “You’ve just hired the hitmaker!” On another note, could’ve sworn I once saw some out-takes from this episode in which Fagen and Becker demonstrate alternate guitar solos that were recorded for “Reelin’ In the Years”. Anyone else ever see this or know how to find?

    Like

  6. Pingback: Artist Countdown: Steel Dan – Top 25 Tracks/Hits 7pm ET « RadioMaxMusic Internet Radio
  7. ladymissCarly · January 24

    How TRUE! This was actually available on Netflix for a while and what a great background documentary on an album that (for me, at least) NEVER gets old. Transport back to late 70s Southern California, where my late mother who was studying music in community college with dreams of being a recording engineer played this album while a preschool aged me listened and started a llife-ong love affair-with ‘Aja’.
    I mean it when I said it’s NEVER gets old. It really IS an album that captures that quintessential LA feel in the late 70s (as stated in the documentary, even!)
    I think it says something that a preschool-aged child found some kind of connection to the entire composition and had it remain and feel relevant even after all these years.
    My only disappointment in the documentary was that they didn’t talk more about the background vocalist arrangements. It always captivated me the way they held their line out in an almost syncopated way. But being a somewhat connoisseur of the album I couldn’t help hope for more from the documentary in terms of the nuances. However, you’re right about it being a must-watch music doc even if you don’t love or know ‘Aja’. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are fun to watch!

    Like

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s