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Read Rickie Lee Jones’ Poignant Tribute to Steely Dan’s Walter Becker

I initial listened Steely Dan behind in Kansas City, Missouri, where we finished adult vital with my father after using divided from home a second summer in a row. It was 1970 and we was usually 15 years old. “Do It Again” was personification on a radio that summer night. we had usually forsaken some poison and we was on my approach to see Led Zeppelin for their KC unison on their initial USA tour. My date was a fat male we had usually met – him pushing by and said, “Hey we wanna go to a concert?” He had high hopes we guess, and we usually wanted to get out of a house. What we remember some-more than Led Zeppelin nonetheless is “Do It Again” pitter-patter by a twilight heat, and a fun of all that Victor Feldman percussion.

Sexy. Contained. Because what “the Dan” achieved was this: They introduced a new suspicion into a low-pitched review of a time. It was a suspicion that intelligent song was cool. In a year where drum solos lasted minutes, entertain hours even, and singers screamed – a lot. Steely Dan done it cold to be educated. It is protected to contend that they are a commencement of college rock.

There, right there, that’s where that suspicion begins. Two modest guys who write with a restraint that no one else processed. None of this romantic crap. They were all business. Which led to sophistication. Which is how they are categorized by punk rockers today. Which is kind of funny, since they desired a probity of a blues and 12 bar stone roll. Yes, they were, some-more or less, obliged for a drum appurtenance (built by their operative Roger Nichols). But we like to consider that was some kind of punishment for being so harsh from each actor they worked with.

By a time we started college, 1973, “Reelin’ in a Years” had turn a college anthem. And now with a recover of Countdown to Ecstasy, kids were bringing a record usually to glance during a cover. It was holy ground; it was biblical. It was also asocial and kind of… well… women-hating. They seemed to unequivocally be spooky with women they did not unequivocally like. we would come to know some of how that came about, personal information we am not prepared to share, even nonetheless Walter has died. Those heartaches go with him to his grave.

Steely Dan became a partial of my life in a many some-more personal basement in a subsequent few years. That beloved from “Living It Up” he used Steely Dan solos nonstop. we can sing many of a solo from “Kid Charlemagne.” But… we consider they were partial of my life prolonged before they shaped their dildo-named duo. (In box we don’t know by now, Steely Dan is a dildo in a book Naked Lunch, by a famous drug addict William Burroughs.) we review that book, too, though we don’t unequivocally remember a dildo passage.

The duo’s initial success was as songwriters. Sixties stone “band” Jay and a Americans hired Fagen and Becker as their fill-in band. we trust a rest of a organisation became an early incarnation of Steely Dan. In box we don’t remember Jay, he was a large all-American male along a lines of Paul Revere and a Raiders. At slightest to my 13-year-old mind they were about a same. He sang songs like “Only in America” and “Come a Little Bit Closer,” one of those rather indeterminate lyrics about a probity of certain women.

we changed behind to Santa Monica College. We were 4 of us, unresolved on a grass during breaks, going to clubs on Main Street some nights – Pink Elephant, a newly detected happy bar, we’d go dance to “I Will Survive” on a jukebox. Turned out one of us had not nonetheless come out of a closet, though that’s another story. The best musician of a organisation desired his Steely Dan, and that was how we came to hear “Bodhisattva,” “My Old School,” “Pearl of a Quarter.” Lines about Annandale and oleanders with annoying stomping drum and drums. we meant these guys knew how to make music. They had a strike on each record – we meant a thing that was played on a radio over and over – that became partial of how we saw a common selves. 

I was brought up, we competence say, on essay thick with imagery and pointed import and we loved it. we desired a innuendo, a humor, a sting. The talent was as many in a partial we filled in, a lines they didn’t write. That was where a gummy things of memory done their song a partial of a possess personal history. we knew about stealing behind a oleanders, heck we grew adult in Arizona. (In box a Orb forgot to tell you) It wasn’t a specific line, it was a grief and ire of a melody, “Bring behind a Boston rag. Tell all your buddies that it ain’t no drag.”

we was usually 19, and we wanted it to come behind and we didn’t even know what it was. we felt a melody, we get me? “Johnny swept a playroom and he swallowed adult all he found. It was 48 hours compartment Lonnie came around.” we have mostly pronounced that so many of what we write seems to be prophetic. Walter mislaid too many people to drugs. He found too many people laying on a floor. The bed. Too many heartbreaks.

Walter and Donald. Walter Becker, a still half, a loyal male to Donald Fagen’s categorical man. Donald a Voice, and… Walter. Walter wrote many of a song than a open realizes. As many as Donald. A loyal partnership. “Done adult in blue imitation blue… It certain looks good on you… Peg.”

“What’s blue imitation blue? Like, blue-print paper an designer uses?” – Rickie Lee
“I don’t know. we usually felt like essay it that way.” – Walter B.

we met Donald Fagan when we was operative on my second record, we think. He did some synth things one of a tracks. It was so cold to accommodate him, late one night in New York City during a studio where his writer kept their stuff. But Walter wasn’t there. we was kind of blissful since Walter frightened me. His cinema frightened me. we mostly pronounced he looks like a ugliest male we ever saw. He looks so mean. Really mean.

So, predestine organised that we should learn a doctrine about my presumptions, and a terrible things we competence contend to nobody in particular. My career in 1989 was… how shall we say… uncertain of itself. In hunt of a mislaid chord. Waiting in a room with a number. Walter was on a list of intensity producers. we came behind from vital in France, pregnant, changed to a L.A. area. we met Walter there one afternoon; he gathering all a approach adult to Ojai (60 miles) after drifting all from Maui, usually for a assembly with me. And as it incited out, he was not so nauseous after all. He was rather ethereal looking. And he had a soothing energy, zero like what we suspicion we saw in a pictures. A softy. A liberation addict. Hey, me, too. He knew some-more about song right off a bat than anyone we had met in a prolonged time. He didn’t patronize, he didn’t condescend, not even a little bit, not for one moment. 

He reputable what we had written, he had listened delicately to everything. He had ideas. He didn’t say, “Let’s do a Marvin Gaye kind of thing on this.” Like a prior absurd writer claimant had said. If we don’t know what’s wrong with observant that, afterwards maybe we should never furnish a record. Although currently that would be a indecisive indicate we guess.

we hired him, and we concluded to start operative in September. My prior dual annals had also begun in September. Hmm. we had to quit nursing my daughter. we spent Aug readjusting my life, an unit in town, removing prepared to leave my tot and make a opposite kind of child.

When a record was released, he did all demeanour of graduation for it. we was contemptible for that. This red-headed DJ in Austin, he usually wanted to hold a purple of a stately Steely Dan. Walter called him personally. But that DJ had no goal of personification a record for that or any favor. And creation artists prostitute themselves to get heard, during that indicate in his “important” career, it felt so unwashed to me. we was contemptible he was perplexing so tough to assistance me.

Our quarrel was about writer credit. we wanted credit. we theory we felt like we was contributing in a approach that we did not get credit for. Walter came to my room during a Chateau Marmont and pronounced this:

“Rickie, what is a producer? Because whatever it is, we have hired me to be that. That is my title. If we put your name there, what is it that we did? You see, we are a artist. As artistic as we are. You do a lot; we do nothing; we am still a writer of that effort. That is my job. Please, don’t do this. Don’t intermix my title.”

we was ashamed. Suddenly we accepted how many he had during stake, perplexing to build a career of his possess after Steely Dan. He had crashed and burnt from on high. Like me. Me, we wanted some credit from a incomparable audience, who would never ever give me that credit no matter what we did. What cheap DJ done a good male dial his number. Well, It had zero to do with Walter really.

We finished a record [Flying Cowboys] with Walter’s favorite engineer, a exasperating Roger [Nichols], a talent who was always creation bad jokes. It was a good record. Perhaps still forward of a time. Too many good songs. Too many cocktail from a furious outlaw. The theme, a kind of western supernatural… Maybe it went over a few heads. It spawned dual hits – “The Horses” and “Satellites” – though not genuine hits. Just kind of hits. Geffen was unhappy and pulled a block unexpected in a center of compelling a record. It was roughly bullion within 6 months, though they approaching so many more. They didn’t even get me a Grammy nod. we mean, really. Mystically it stopped offered about 30,000 brief of a retroactive bump. And did not sell another 30,000 for a integrate years.

we didn’t see Walter again until Steely Dan went on debate for a initial time. There he was during a Hollywood Bowl with all a large name cats from a record. we was so unapproachable of them. It was a residence full of agents who were there to be seen. No one seemed to give a shit about “The Boston Rag” or “The Royal Scam.”

Suddenly, final year, we get a ask to open for Steely Dan during their run in New York City. They play during a Beacon Theater each year, a week long. Hit after strike after hit. Played perfectly. we played for 30 minutes. we was fine, not bad, good enough. My crony and specialist Mike Dillion played his furious vibraphone with me. And we came off feeling OK.

Mostly, we were walk-in music. That’s hard. But backstage Walter and Donald were sweet. Donald was indeed friendly. we felt comfortable. we was blissful we came.

Next night they invited me to sing some of their songs with them. we sang “Showbiz Kids” with Steely Dan. And they wanted to do “The Horses,” though we pronounced no, we can’t quit strike those records in a pivotal change anymore. Walter pronounced no problem. Another time.

As we left Walter hugged me. “We will be personification down your approach in a fall, maybe we can come and open for us some more.”

“I’d adore that.”

It is Sep now. That tumble will never come. we can't tell we because his death has strike me so hard. we have seen a few friends go, though they are not close. People we go to see often. Something about this flitting hurts.

They brought an preparation and pointing to a review holding place in a late Sixties of mostly prolonged drum solos and jams. They brought jazz solos to rock, they done being humorous in lyrics cool, and they done being cold some-more critical than being handsome. They were a initial college band. That’s for sure. And we am sentimental currently for that feeling of all a life being before us, and not behind. All things possible, and not relinquishing to inevitability.

we am Rickie Lee Jones. And we was one of a women Walter Becker took such good caring of in his brief life. we would wish we to know that. He was so funny. And no, we didn’t like a soprano sax on “Satellites,” though that sound finished up…  well, listen to Dave Mathews, for one. Walter knew what he was doing. He planted music. It grows all around us now.

Rickie Lee Jones resides in New Orleans. “On a H2O down in New Orleans, red beans and rice for a quarter. You can hear her roughly any day singing voulez vous.” “Pearl of a Quarter,” Steely Dan, circa 1970…

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