Posted by dlockeretz on January 10, 2015
There are three likely responses to Steely Dan’s announced appearance at this year’s Coachella festival: “Wow!” “Why?” or “Who?” In this post, we will focus on the second.
I’ll admit it’s hard for me to be objective about Steely Dan, my favorite musical act of all time. I do know this: not everyone shares my love of them. I wish I could play the “That’s OK, it’s just over your heads/you have to be a musician to appreciate them” card but many musician friends of mine whose opinions I respect were either never fans or have found that “The Dan” has run their course. I’ll admit too that most of their recent output, including lead singer/keyboardist Donald Fagen’s post-“Nightfly” solo records, has the feel of going to dinner with your ex and holding out hope that the fire is still alive but, despite a few shared laughs and good memories, ultimately being disappointed.
That said, I will now try to unravel the million dollar question: what the hell is Steely Dan doing playing Coachella? Is it anything but a recipe for disaster?
Maybe, just maybe. It’s a longshot, like an ailing Kirk Gibson coming to bat against flame-throwing Dennis Eckersley with Game 1 of the 1988 World Series on the line (Christ, I need to stop dating myself) or Mercury records producer Charlie Fach insisting that the Bachman Turner Overdrive record a song they’d written as a joke, entitled “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” (that’s more like it.)
What can make this dark horse a contender?
The healing power of irony will be a factor. Hipsters and millenials love to be ironic and so does Steely Dan; they’ve been called Brooklyn’s first hipster band. Many bands have songs about someone catching their partner in bed with someone else, but only Steely Dan’s “Everything You Did” features a protagonist who asks is girlfriend to do the same things to him that he saw her doing to his rival. As Fagen said in 1993, “I’m into my post-irony phase, which includes irony as well.” Who knows; perhaps while savoring the irony that they are listening to the same music their parents and perhaps grandparents grew up on, young Coachella attendees may find their voice in a band with so many obscure references that an online dictionary has been established to sort them all out.
There are non-ironic reasons why this might work too. An LA Weekly article claims, “Your favorite rock/pop/electronic/hip-hop act? Likely influenced by the Dan.” De La Soul sampled “Peg” and MF Doom sampled “Black Cow” and they probably weren’t being ironic.
Lastly, at the risk of sounding reactionary, is classic rock entirely dead? There was enough outrage at Kanye West’s fans not recognizing this Paul McCartney character with whom he recently collaborated to make me feel that yes, humanity still has hope. It took seven Super Bowl half-time shows of classic rock artists such as Springsteen and West’s protege Paul McCartney in the years following the Janet Jackson incident before we grew tired of it and got the Black Eyed Peas instead; even then not everyone thought that the event was better for it. With the right packaging, everything old becomes new again. Ten years ago, “Guitar Hero” got kids listening to the Allman Brothers. Who knows, maybe Steely Dan’s appearance at Coachella will have hipsters putting down their artisan Old Fashioneds and doing shots of Cuervo Gold.
As for the haters? While acknowledging that the following argument can be used against me vis-a-vis my opinion of Coldplay, I put forth the notion that to attract haters, a band has to be at least somewhat known. After all, the writers of “Knocked Up” could have chosen any band when they had Seth Rogen say, “That’s because Steely Dan gargles my balls.”
Sometimes on the day after too many beers and pizza, I’ll be getting dressed and look the pants I’m about to put on and feel as if I’m diving into a tiny pool from a high board. I have to admit that I feel a similar vibe about Steely Dan at Coachella. That said, I’m cautiously optimistic; if the main argument against Steely Dan’s appearance is the band’s irrelevancy, you could say that they have nothing to lose. We’ll know in three months. For now, I leave you with the words of the good folks at Funny or Die: “They’ve had way more sex than you’ll ever have.”
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: bands, classic rock, Coachella, entertainment, festivals, hipsters, jazz rock, media, millenials, music, Steely Dan | Leave a Comment »
Posted by dlockeretz on May 25, 2012
Dear Mr. Gill,
I recently read your comments about what the music business has become. I’d like to thank you for articulating, with brutal honesty, feelings felt by many musicians about the current state of our industry.
However, I’d also like to challenge you–and the countless artists who feel the way you do. Yeah, the music business sucks. What can we do about it?
The first step is to ask why it is that music has become devalued. The superficial answer may be that in 1960, recorded media, such as 45s and LP records, cost more to manufacture and distribute. Digital downloads have less overhead expenses attached to them; thus a lower price point is possible. In general, the trend of technology is that it gets cheaper as it evolves.
But what about the bigger picture? Is it true that “creative brains are being sorely mistreated?”
There’s no nice way to say this, but my opinion is that accomplished musicians such as yourself are becoming a thing of the past. The past, of course, can still be–and is being–kept alive, but just as classical musicians, Vaudeville performers and Shakespearean actors are not mainstream and probably never will be, the reality is that public tastes have changed and before long, rock and country musicians who were once iconic will become niche acts. A friend of mine who is a great jazz drummer and also owns one of L.A.’s premier recording studios where he has recorded some of the world’s best players has made the comparison between instrumental proficiency and jousting. Jousting, like musical mastery, is a difficult skill that takes years to develop, yet sadly, its simply not marketable, at least not in a mainstream way.
It’s not easy to make the transition from mainstream to niche, but in order to survive, that’s what today’s great musicians must do. It’s either that or nothing. Music trends are what they are, and becoming grumpy old men won’t solve any problems. The solution is to keep making great, honest music, and find an audience that will respond.
I’m not asking you, or anyone else, to jump up and down for joy at the current state of popular culture. But your music will always have its place, even if it’s not at the top of the charts. Great, timeless music is still appreciated. There are still people who know that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony has more than four notes, and there are people who know that, contrary to popular belief, Louie Armstrong was not the first person to walk on the moon. Heck, even jousting is back in the spotlight–as featured on the History Channel’s show “Full Metal Jousting.”
Of course it’s a drag to see your life’s work marginalized. But even if more people would rather spend their hard-earned money on an audible flatulence app than on your creative output, don’t forget that there are still people out there who appreciate what you do. I hope that your words are a rallying cry to musicians all over the world–not to commiserate about the state of their craft, but to keep moving forward and to keep finding new ways to make music that inspires their audiences and themselves.
All the best
Long Beach, CA
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: classical music, country, entertainment, guitar, music business, popular culture, rock, Vince Gill | 4 Comments »
Posted by dlockeretz on December 2, 2011
Patrick Durkin does his thing
Most people will probably never know who Patrick Durkin is, and that’s too bad. To have heard of him, you’d probably have to be a regular at a Boston bar such as Jacob Wirth’s or Durgan Park, but should you be fortunate to happen into one of the establishments where he’s a regular, you’ll be glad you did. Listen to him play and you’ll understand why people lament when a bar replaces live entertainment with karaoke.
I used to play with Pat in the late 90s, in a piano/vocals, bass and drums trio format. We’d tear through one cover song after another, in all kinds of styles. Often, the more inappropriate the song was for our instrumentation, the more we’d enjoy playing it. Pat’s the type of guy who likes to honor audience requests, even if he can’t play them perfectly. He gets that most bar patrons would rather hear the songs they like at 90% than ones they don’t care about at 100% (and that the threshold gets lower as more drink is consumed.) We would bust out “Pinball Wizard”, “Stairway to Heaven” and “Rock and Roll All Night” – not exactly typical cocktail piano repertoire – and I even attempted to follow him through Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” one night. At a New Years’ Eve gig, a customer requested James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.” We got through the first verse before Patrick cut us off and said, “Sorry, that song’s just too depressing for New Year’s Eve.”
Off the stage, Patrick recorded several CDs of original songs. His writing reflects a wide variety of influences: as a piano-based singer songwriter, he’s certainly got a touch of Billy Joel and Elton John, but also brings a wider depth of musical perspective, drawing on other muses such as the Beatles, Ellington, Gershwin and more.
Of course, it’s easy to be nostalgic about my earliest professional shows, and about the late 90s, those prosperous Clinton years, when 9/11, Enron and the housing crisis were still years away. But even back then, I could tell the difference between what felt like a “dues-paying” gig and one that was pure fun. Patrick Durkin’s shows were events; it wasn’t just another band at a bar.
In addition to his musicianship, Pat has a lot of other interests, including literature, travel, gardening and more. Oh yeah, he’s been known to throw back the occasional pint, too. He has been married for the last decade-plus and has a five year old daughter.
So have a great birthday, Patrick Durkin, and know that your former bass player fondly remembers those gigs – and perhaps we’ll team up again someday.
For more information about Patrick Durkin, visit www.patrickdurkin.com.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Billy Joel, blues, Boston, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, entertainment, jazz, music, New England, Patrick Durkin, piano, pop, rock, songs | Leave a Comment »