Why Does Everyone Hate Steely Dan?


“Why Does Everyone Hate Steely Dan?” I asked Mauro.

“It’s not that I don’t like Steely Dan. I just don’t love Steely Dan,” he said.

“What about Deacon Blues?” I asked.

“I appreciate them for what they did. I listen to the sounds, the production… But I just don’t feel it, like when you listen to a Nirvana album. You feel the pain, you feel the emotion,” he said.

“Not by the third album. I’m sorry, but it’s just not punk rock when you have a budget. ‘In Utero’ is totally different than ‘Bleach.’ But you can listen to an early Steely Dan album and a later one, and it’ll sound the same,” I said.

“That’s because they’re all very perfect. It wasn’t a band that evolved. They were songwriters that hired session musicians They were great to start with, and they were great at the end. But it was manufactured. They sat in a studio and played it over and over again until it was just right,” he said.

“Who else was a perfectionist? What about someone like Yes?” I asked.

“Yes was a band. It was different. Yes had emotion. Whether you like them or not, it was a band. Steely Dan was two guys who wrote songs and hired the best possible musicians at the time. It’s not like four or five guys got together and jammed,” he said.

“Do you remember the conversation at Dragonfly, after Prince played at the Superbowl? About who’s more talented, Prince or Eddie van Halen?” I asked.

“Prince. Definitely. Eddie van Halen was innovative, and he created a style. He’s a great guitar player. But I wouldn’t compare him to Prince, a singer/ songwriter/ guitar player/ bass player/ drummer/ keyboardist/ producer/ engineer…” he said.

“That little 5′-2″ man.” I added. “You know what I think makes a great band? One you can’t compare to anyone else,” I said.

“And a hot lead singer,” he said.

“A Heart lead singer?” I asked.

“No! A HOT lead singer!” he said.

“A Heart lead singer? Ann Wilson?” I asked. (I know what he said, but I can’t resist making fun of his Australian accent.)

“HOT!” he said.

“What do you think of Heart?” I asked.

“I like ’em. They’re a band. Steely Dan, I don’t consider them a band. They were more like a studio project,” he said.

“Think about a band like the B-52’s. No one sounds like the B-52’s. Maybe Devo,” I said.

“And their voices were so individual,” he said.

“That’s true. They’re from Atlanta, G.A.,” I said.

He pops open a soda.

“I heard ‘So Far Away’ from Carole King the other day. I had that album, Tapestry. I loved it,” I said.

“You know, I’d put Steely Dan in with the Alan Parsons Project. He was one guy with some synthesizers and session musicians. I just don’t get the same emotion out of it, like listening to a great band,” he said.

“Like Fleetwood Mac, and the song ‘Dreams?’ Would anyone even want to record that song these days? You can’t even catagorize it, which is probably why no one would want to record it. They catagorized Kurt Cobain, and he killed himself,” I said.

“I think he was mentally ill,” he said.

“Obviously,” I said. “What about.. Bjork? And the Sugarcubes?”

“Very cool. They didn’t try to write pop songs. They just did what they wanted to do,” he said.

“So what’s a good pop band from the 90’s?” I asked.

“Aha. I think they were Norweigan. I’ll ask Siri: ‘Where is the band Aha from?'” he asked.

“What about a good ‘prog rock’ band?” I asked. In the meantime, I had looked up an article on “The 100 Best Prog Rock Bands.”

“Not a big prog rock fan,” he said.

“Did you ever own any Genesis?” I asked. “I had Duke.”

“Aha is a Norweigan band. Formed in Oslo.” That’s what Siri said. “Genesis was probably the easier and the best of the prog rock for me to swallow,” he said.

“And the Moody Blues?” I asked.

“They’re not very prog rock,” he said.

“Queensrÿche?” I asked.

“That’s metal! What the hell?” he said.

“Frank Zappa?” I asked.

“Oh, god yeah,” he said.

“Really…? Was he even rock?” I asked. All I know about Frank Zappa is that he’s buried in the same cemetary as my grandparents. And Moon Unit lives a block away from me.

“I would classify Zeppelin as more as prog rock than metal,” he said.

“Prog rock to me is very… Rush,” I said.

“That’s very prog rock. They’re extremely prog rock, and I don’t like ’em,” he said.

“AC/DC,” I asked.

“They’re not prog rock, in any way, shape or form! They’re balls-to-the-walls rock!” he said, louder that any other answer. Maybe it’s an Aussie thing.

“Jethro Tull,” I asked.

“That’s prog rock,” he said.

“ELO,” I asked.

“Not so much proggy. More pop-y,” he said.

“King Crimson,” I asked.

“Extremely prog rock,” he said.

“Supertramp,” I asked.

“No, pop—they’re not prog,” he said.

“The Alan Parsons Project,” I asked.

“It’s proggy. I love that one album…” he said.

“What do you think about… Talking Heads?” I asked. I had moved on to another list about the 100 best bands ever.

“Love Talking Heads. Loved “Life During Wartime…” he said.

“Lynard Skynard,” I asked.

“Southern rock at it’s finest,” he said.

Nine inch Nails,” I asked.

“Edgy nineties,” he said.

“REM,” I asked.

“I like ’em. They captured a moment in time,” he said.

“Rage Against the Machine,” I asked.

“Great band. Great emotion,” he said.

“U2,” I asked.

“Great band, until a certain point. They got all dancy. Zootopia sucked ass,” he said.

“Blue Oyster Cult,” I asked.

“Umm, OK,” he said.

“Beck,” I asked.

“Cool,” he said.

“The Police,” I asked.

“Great. All good albums.” he said.

“Red Hot Chili Peppers,” I asked.

“OK…” he said.

“Weezer,” I asked.

“Good song writing,” he said.

“Foo Fighters,” I asked.

“Good band, really good. Dave Grohl, he stands out for his musicianship, and songwriting,” he said.

“Soundgarden,” I asked.

“Great band,” he said.

“Queens of the Stone Age,” I asked.

“Excellent band. I love Queens,” he said.

“The Beach Boys,” I asked.

“Amazing. Very innovative. They created a whole sound and style, with all the production techniques and big vocals,” he said.

“PJ Harvey,” I asked.

“Very cool,” he said.

“The Ramones,” I asked.

“They were great. They were great for that style of music. They did it well,” he said.

“Pixies. Velvet Underground. The Who. Smashing Pumpkins. Sex Pistols. Alice Cooper. Guns n’ Roses. Queen. ZZ Top. The Kinks. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Aerosmith. Black Sabbath.”

“Yeah, they’re OK,” he said.

“The Doors,” I asked.

“I hate The Doors. They had some good songs, but I hated the sound. And I didn’t like Jim Morrison. I never bought into any of that bullshit. And I wish they got a bass player,” he said.

“You never liked Mr.Mojo Risin’? Do you know where he got that? It’s the letters of ‘Jim Morrison’ rearranged,” I said.

He had that look on his face, that hmmmm… look. He doesn’t care about how Mr. Mojo Risin’ got his name. And it’s not half as interesting as how Steely Dan (supposedly) got their name.

“Can you guess who’s number one on this list for the greatest band of all time?” I asked.

We got distracted. He started telling me about coming home from work last night, when I was asleep, and he turned on the TV to watch an episode of Shameless ’til 4:30 in the morning. I never told him who was number one…

Written by Anne Clendening
Anne Clendening was born and raised in L.A. She's a yoga teacher, a writer and occasionally slings cocktails in a Hollywood bar. She could eat chocolate cake for every meal of the day. She has a huge fear of heights and flying. And fire. She wishes she could speak French, play her guitar better and make cannoli. She's probably listening to The Dark Side Of The Moon right now, kickin’ it with her boxer dog and her hot Australian husband ★