Posts filed under “Weekend”

Herbie Hancock & Melody Gardot – Edith And The King-Pin

Herbie Hancock’s The River: The Joni Letters made my best of list for 2008

Category: Weekend

Sayings of the Jewish Buddha

> The Jewish Buddha says: If there is no self, whose arthritis is this? Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated? Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip, joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace; with the fourth, a Danish. Wherever you go, there you…Read More

Category: Humor, Weekend

Steely Dan: Countdown To Ecstasy

Bob Lefsetz is a music industry observer, and publisher of the Lefsetz letter:


Insiders will tell you the best Steely Dan album is the second, “Countdown To Ecstasy”, the one that ended their touring career, the one sans any hits.

I disagreed.

But last night I became a believer.

“Bodhisattva” blistered.

“Show Biz Kids” swung.

But “My Old School” was STAGGERING!

“I remember the thirty-five sweet goodbyes
When you put me on the Wolverine
Up to Annandale”

For the uninitiated, for those who grew up in the midwest, or even further left, Annandale-on-Hudson is the location of Bard College, where those who were smart but thought high school was b.s. and didn’t have the grades commensurate with their intelligence ended up going to college to further their creativity.  It’s where Walter Becker and Donald Fagen went to school before they moved on to back up Jay Black as two of his Americans and ultimately get a deal with ABC Records, the worst of the major labels, where they were forced to get a lead singer, David Palmer, since Fagen’s voice was supposedly not radio-ready.

Then the insane occurred.  Steely Dan was successful out of the box!  After struggling in the trenches for years, plying their trade far from the spotlight, Steely Dan was an AM radio fixture.  Not an FM staple.  FM was in the process of getting dumb, featuring meat and potatoes rock as opposed to intelligence, but the hooks of “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ In The Years” could not be denied by AM, “Can’t Buy A Thrill” became a huge hit, an album you saw oftenmost in the dorm rooms of those not quite hip, they didn’t have to worry about their cred, they were able to buy what felt good without worrying about external judgment.

“Can’t Buy A Thrill” is a masterpiece.  Unfortunately, Mr. Palmer sang the lead vocal on the most legendary track, “Dirty Work”, and therefore when done live it hasn’t got the same power, backup singers taking the lead, but Mr. Fagen still sings “Reelin’ In The Years”…

“You’ve been telling me you’re a genius
Since you were seventeen
In all the time I’ve known you
I still don’t know what you mean”

In this era of self-promotion, “artists” tell us how great they are (can you hear me Kanye?), whereas the music used to speak for itself, it was your calling card, in an era that seems far distant.  But for those of us who lived through it, when we hear these Steely Dan songs we’re brought right back.  Yes, last night Becker and Fagen and their troupe of hired gunslingers returned us to what was and who we used to be.  And one could say it was aged music, but like wine, some things get even better as the years go by.

This is our classical music.  And even though youngsters might not understand, they’ll be positively blown away by the musicianship.  That was the focus, not staging, not production. John Herington, a fellow most have never even heard of, blistered elite-level guitar solos, Jim Pugh blew his face out on the trombone, and Keith Carlock pounded the skins, earning Irving Azoff’s sobriquet as the best touring drummer.

Still, we were there to hear the music.

It was billed as a complete performance of “Aja”.  And it was, right off the top.


“I’ll learn to work the saxophone
I’ll play just what I feel”

Credit the Beatles.  They proved the older generation had no clue.  Suddenly, the acts were in charge.  You could work in the studio of your choice, for seemingly as long as you liked, laying down your vision.

But Steely Dan was not on Warner, they were on the aforementioned ABC, they had to earn this right.  Which they did with not only their spectacularly successful debut album, but the hit “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” off their third disc, “Pretzel Logic”.  It was no longer about hits, it was about EXCELLENCE!  Becker and Fagen were competing with no one other than themselves.

The apotheosis was “Aja”.  When they didn’t give a fuck what their audience thought and delivered a jazz-influenced album.  To a world that was enraptured with corporate rock. Listeners dropped the needle and were surprised.  There was the mellowness of a corner club, where in this year of the Sex Pistols punkers were not pogoing, but old jazzbos were blowing.

But “Aja” was so right, that despite having no AM hits it became a staple on the soft rock FM stations, and in the houses of those not only sipping wine, but denizens addicted to sound, Steely Dan was the foremost warrior on this front, in an era when squashed MP3s, never mind compressed CDs, were unheard of.


Dancing is an involuntary motion.  Maybe not for Paula Abdul, but for the rest of us, especially we self-conscious white folk.  But sometimes the sound emanating from the speakers is just SO funky that you turn into Gumby, you’re shimmying and shaking, even if you previously believed you had as much soul as Steve Martin in “The Jerk”.

“Josie” is the last track on the second side.  There are only three cuts on side one, a risk heretofore unknown in the rock world.  You could have ONE cut per side, like Jethro Tull, but THREE?

Whereas the first side ends with the reflective “Deacon Blues”, side two immediately stands at attention with “Peg”, as if the singer had gone to bed, and gotten up to do it all over again, not like a star, but a musician.

The band finished “Aja”, there was a standing ovation.  And then the show truly got good.  “Aja” put the butts in the seats, it was the draw, performed flawlessly, it still had a sense of nostalgia, a sense of calcification.

Then Steely Dan blew the roof off the joint.

They played tonight’s “Babylon Sisters”.  The anthem for the change of the decade, from the seventies to the eighties, as the boomers finally realized they were getting older and became reflective, before they raped and pillaged in the Reagan decade.

They also performed “Hey Nineteen” and “Time Out Of Mind” from “Gaucho”.

But we also had Becker standing up to the mic to sing “Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More”.  As unexpected as that performance was, the killer of the evening was “Don’t Take Me Alive”, in a sneak peek from Monday’s show.

But the surprises were from “Countdown To Ecstasy”.  Hearing John Herington play the lead on “Bodhisattva” was like visiting a future world where the seventies were perfectly preserved, but still positively ALIVE!


“This is for me
The essence of true romance
Sharing the things we know and love
With those of my kind
That stagger the mind”

This was not an AC/DC show, not a Rolling Stones extravaganza, I didn’t see a single person under the age of twenty in attendance, no parents bringing their kids to expose them to what once was, when they had all their hair and their bodies were not lumpy.  This was a pilgrimage to Mecca, a journey to what once was and still is for those who lived through an era when if you wanted to know which way the wind blew you didn’t fire up the Weather Channel or, you put a record on the turntable.  The limit-testers were not techies, but musicians, all of whom had seen the Beatles and picked up instruments, practiced and then gone off in divergent directions, all of which we paid attention to.  We could love the Allman Brothers and Joni Mitchell.  James Taylor and David Bowie.

The sun is setting on these baby boomer acts.  Their audience is getting older, fans don’t feel the same need to go to the show.  But if you’re a musician as opposed to a star, you play anyway.  That’s what you’re in it for, not the fame, not the riches, but the SOUND!

Last night we exulted in the sound.


“California tumbles into the sea_
That’ll be the day I go_
Back to Annandale”

Even though “Aja” was released when I was firmly ensconced in Los Angeles, its performance brought me back to college, when the future was an irrelevant haze and I lived to spin records, nothing else on my mind.

Getting nostalgic for New England, the band swung into this 1973 tune.

I was thinking about the east coast game, getting good grades to get into a good college, the brisk fall days, the emphasis on intellectual activities, and then I heard the above lines.


When the Big One hits, that’s when I’ll think of moving back east.  Because just like all those bands, Steely Dan included, I moved to California to ESCAPE!  The hierarchy, the b.s.  I needed to be free!

I’m not talking about Republican free, where you can’t marry who you want to, where the government is in your personal business, but a sixties free, which extended, just like Steely Dan, into the seventies.  Where the world was a land of possibilities, and it was up to you to grab hold and go for a ride!


“I cried when I wrote this song
Sue me if I play too long”

The foremost misquote in the Steely Dan canon.  Those who were casual listeners, who didn’t purchase the album, who didn’t live for the music, are under the impression it’s: “Sue me if I play it WRONG!”

An artist can’t worry about the audience’s judgment, the only right and wrong is in his head.  The only thing an artist can worry about is if people stop paying attention.  Then again, are you willing to take this risk?

No one is anymore, not anyone with any traction.  They’re afraid of giving up what they’ve got.  Hell, even Garth Brooks failed with Chris Gaines.  You’re supposed to give people what they expect.

But music blew up because that precept was nowhere to be seen.  No label honcho could envision, never mind execute, “Sgt. Pepper”.  It took Steely Dan six albums to get to “Aja”. And what resulted was not only completely unexpected, unlike the evanescent hits of the day, that drivel you can look up on “Billboard”‘s site, “Aja” has got legs, it sustains, it sounds as fresh today as it did back then.  Truly.  That’s what originality will do for you, whether it’s Becker and Fagen or Picasso.

Too much of what Steely Dan represents has not only fallen by the wayside, it’s been actively SUPPRESSED!

Kids are not liberal arts majors, contemplating existence, they study business.  What kind of music does a business major make?

I ain’t got much money.  But like that old Frank Sinatra song, I’ve done it my way.  It’s been rough, but worth it.  I’ve got no regrets, nobody I fucked over to get ahead.  I’ve got the music.  And my writing.  And I constantly get e-mail telling me there’s too much, to not only not overload people, but to release it in drips and drabs, to improve my career arc.  But my creative process does not work that way.  And I keep writing not only to get it down, but in search of the Holy Grail, where I get it EXACTLY RIGHT!  Like my heroes of the sixties and seventies, who worked in a different medium, sound as opposed to print, but were on the exact same journey.

“This brother is free
I’ll be what I want to be”

Visit the archive:

If you would like to subscribe to the LefsetzLetter,

Read More

Category: Music, Weekend

Quentin Tarantino in His Own Words

Language is not safe for work

Category: Film, Weekend

Pershing 90

Light posting this weekend as I will be talking the big boat out for a cruise. That 4300 gallon tank means you may be dropping $200k per fillup, but you probably don’t have to do it every week. Source: Cruise Missile: Pershing 90 Diane M. Byrne

Category: Weekend

Cash for Clunkers

Amusing: via Time

Category: Humor, Politics, Weekend


SURROGATES – Bruce Willis – First Official Movie Trailer

Category: Weekend

A Park Emerges in New York Harbor

Officials have steadily increased the hours and open areas of Governors Island in the past few years, and this summer it has emerged as a charming, if still largely unknown, getaway in New York City. NY’s Best Kept Secret:

Category: Weekend

Seinfeld on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ in Fall

Can’t wait: The four lead characters of Seinfeld — Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards — will be featured in a multiple-episode story arc on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm’s seventh season this fall. The cameos will mark the first time that all four actors have appeared together in a scripted TV show…Read More

Category: Television, Weekend

Banned Commercials

Banned in U.K. as a commercial for Levis Jeans. Banned Commercials – Beer Makes Women Beautiful Banned Commercials — IKEA Tidy Up

Category: Weekend