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. (The first segment of the YouTube vid might be blocked in your country; watch via this link if so).

First off, the Aja documentary is 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):

 

 

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5 thoughts on “This Steely Dan Documentary Is Worth Your Time Even If You Don’t Like Steely Dan”

  1. Well, it’d been a couple of years since I watched this but I got sucked in again (btw, I always love the part where Fagen says one of the instrumental mixes… I think it’s Aja’s… sounds to him like a good old R&B track: no, Don, it doesn’t! It sounds nothing like anything that came before it, really… that’s why we’re still talking about it!)… watched the whole thing. Then decided to do some Googling for current SD interviews… only to discover that Becker died today! Disoriented!

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  2. PS If you haven’t already, you *must* read Fagen’s Eminent Hipsters… full of wit, snark, trivia and info. If only for the miracle of Fagen’s credible recovery of Henry Mancini as a total… Hipster! A friend mailed a hardcover copy to me and I read it with great pleasure. A year later, another friend ran off with it.

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