After getting my first real job in the late 70s, I finally bought a turntable. This major lifestyle change had me finally start buying records again instead of 8-Tracks for the car. One of the first LPs I bought was Steely Dan’s Katy Lied. I think for about a year, I played that record every day while I chilled out after getting home from work. To this day, I still hold that record as dear to my heart as I did back then.
My fascination with Katy Lied eventually led me to being a full-fledged fan of the Dan. Sophisticated pop music with eccentric lyrics—I was hooked. I got to know and sing along to just about every song, of course most of the time having no idea what in the world I was singing about (e.g. “Biscayne Bay, where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day”).
But, I just loved the musical mystery. Loving these records made me feel like a member of a secret society. As cryptic as these lyrics sounded, I felt in sync and as cool as I thought Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were. Musically, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the electric guitar any more than what came off those Steely Dan records.
Unfortunately, I had to wait about 30 years until I ever got to see Steely Dan perform. They quit the stage, and when they finally returned, they played nowhere near South Texas where I lived. However, it pleases me to say that I eventually got to see them four times here in Nashville. The first, Starwood in 2006, was the first show for which I ever paid $100, breaking my protest of rising ticket prices. I just had to be there and be up close.
I recently saw Donald Fagen play here solo. I loved the show, but missed Walter. Likewise, I’m happy that Fagen has said that he will play on despite Walter’s passing. But, I will miss Walter. Although Fagen did 99% of the singing and the Dan used other guitarists in addition to Becker, Steely Dan has always been and will always be Fagen AND Becker. Creative musical partnerships like theirs that began during their youth are special. They just seemed to be so in tune with one another and to me, everything that they produced reflected them both. Steely Dan just won’t be the same without him.
Before writing this, I gave Katy Lied a listen and got teary-eyed. Whether it was him playing or not I heard Walter in every guitar solo.
Here are some photos I shot of Walter at Starwood in 2006 and Ascend in 2015.