On a bit of a Steely Dan kick at the moment, I finally got through Brian Sweet's not-very-imaginatively-titled biography, which has been gathering dust on my bookshelves for ages. Predictably, really only anally retentives need apply. Also, scandal mongers will have to look elsewhere for the dirt to be dished.
Frustratingly, until the solo recordings of recent years, Becker and Fagen seem to have had their tongues so firmly planted in their cheeks that anything they said about their work had to be taken with a huge bag full of salt. Legendary for their attention to detail in the recording studio, they would often ask musicians to play the same song as many as 20 or 30 times until they got what they considered to be an acceptable take. Yet there are no accounts of their bad tempered nature or that they were even considered difficult to work with (not in this book anyway), and the finest session musicians of the time queued up for a chance to play on their albums.
A couple of interesting facts which came to light:
- after "Gaucho" Donald Fagen applied for a job as pianist in Bob Dylan's touring band. (He lost interest before hearing back about it.)
- Michael Omartian's piano solo on "Ruby Baby", one of my highlights of "The Nightfly" is based on the Kinks' "You really got me going". (It's true. Listen to it.)
Some more stuff:
- discussions about the book on Amazon.
- info about the updated edition which goes up to the "Two Against Nature" album.