Wednesday, October 17, 2012

can't buy a thrill

Steely Dan penetrated the musical landscape with the funky jazz grooves of their subversive pop premiere.  Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met while studying at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. They played in different bands while at school and then moved to Brooklyn and met Kenny Vance from Jay and the Americans while trying to sell their songs at the Brill Building. This led to them working on the soundtrack for the film 'You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat' and touring with Jay and the Americans for more than a year as part of the band. Vance hooked them up with Gary Katz who hired them as songwriters for ABC Records and moved the duo out to California. They soon realized that their songs were too complicated for the label's roster. Becker says:  "We realised even before we were doing it that we would have to do these songs ourselves. We could see that nobody was going to come along and pick up on them because they were too odd, too out of context for the day. On the one had, they expressed an odd sensibility lyrically and in their overall musical thing: and they were so musically unusual that even people who later wanted to record some of our songs had a hard time, because the jazz elements or other harmonic elements were hard to pull off."

They brought Denny Dias, Jim Hodder, and Jeff Baxter over from the East Coast to form a band. They even enlisted singer David Palmer, who would sing all of the songs during their early shows because Fagen had stage fright. Fagen considers: "They have to be performed with a certain attitude and we couldn't find the right singer when we started. I became the singer by default because I was the only one with the right attitude, essentially, even though I didn't consider myself a singer at the time."

Katz produced the sessions at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles with engineer Roger Nichols. The recordings included Donald Fagen on acoustic and electric pianos, plastic organ, and vocals; Walter Becker on electric bass, and vocals; Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on guitar, pedal steel guitar, and spoken word; Denny Dias on guitar, electric sitar; Jim Hodder on drums, percussion, and vocals; David Palmer on vocals; plus Elliott Randall on guitar; Jerome Richardson on tenor saxophone; Snooky Young on flugelhorn; Victor Feldman on percussion; and Venetta Fields, Clydie King, and Sherlie Matthews on backing vocals.

'Can't Buy a Thrill' went to number forty-six in Australia, thirty-eight in the UK, and number seventeen in the US, where it went platinum.  The band took their name from a dildo in the novel 'Naked Lunch' by William S. Burroughs. The album title came from a line in 'It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry' from Bob Dylan's 'Highway 61 Revisited'.

"Do It Again"

"Reelin' in the Years"

"Dirty Work"

'Can't Buy a Thrill' 
full album:

01 "Do It Again" Vocal by Donald Fagen
02 "Dirty Work" Vocal by David Palmer
03 "Kings" Vocal by Donald Fagen
04 "Midnite Cruiser" Vocal by Jim Hodder
05 "Only a Fool Would Say That" Vocal by Donald Fagen and David Palmer
06 "Reelin' in the Years" Vocal by Donald Fagen
07 "Fire in the Hole" Vocal by Donald Fagen
08 "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)" Vocal by David Palmer
09 "Change of the Guard" Vocal by Donald Fagen and David Palmer
10  "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" Vocal by Donald Fagen. Walter Becker and David Palmer

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