Major Dudes: A Steely Dan Compendium, edited by Barney Hoskyns (Overlook, $27.95, 352 pages)
“We both liked recording studios. As much as anything else, it was just the coolest place to be on a hot afternoon.” Walter Becker
“We grew up with a certain natural ironic stance that later became the norm in society.” Donald Fagen
The enigmatic band Steely Dan has been popular – and mysterious, since the 1970s. Major Dudes: A Steely Dan Compendium demythologizes the group while at the same time adding a new layer of mystery. Editor Barney Hoskyns has compiled a collection of previously published articles, interviews, and record reviews about the work of Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker – both as Steely Dan and as solo recording artists.
It’s made clear in these pieces that Fagen and Becker viewed themselves as clever hipsters; ones who were far too cool for the college they attended, Bard – “One of your basic beatnik colleges.” In a sense, Steely Dan’s lyrics and music moved the ball forward in the genre of being cool. In the process, they were among the progenitors of progressive album rock and smooth jazz.
In Major Dudes, Fagen and Becker come off as quite likeable. However, they were always in character in the same manner as Bob Dylan is. One is never going to fully understand what made them tick. Their goal, perhaps, was to simply produce popular but uniquely intelligent music.
This compendium could have been better edited by Hoskyns. It’s quite repetitive. But for fans of The Dan, it’s close to essential reading.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on June 5, 2018.