chaplin

Friday, February 15, 2019

Another reason I reach for Steely Dan




When Will Birch tweeted this the other day I couldn't help but agree with his choice of Steely Dan. They’re the act I just naturally reach for and not just to test audio. They’re my default position in all kinds of situations.

I’ve just been looking at the covers of the first seven LPs. (After that it’s all CDs and compilations and you can’t really feel the same about CDs and compilations.) Because the covers of those records didn’t feature pictures of the band, all had cryptic titles and didn’t appear to share any particular aesthetic they seemed the perfect thing to reach for when you weren’t sure how you felt or what you felt like.

The act of “reaching for” something is qualitatively different from the act of clicking a couple of times and having it there. It’s an act that takes place in the physical world and therefore calls for commitment. In its own tiny way it echoes the difference between a teenager going up to someone and asking them out and merely friending them on Facebook. 

I’ve spent a lot of the last year thinking about LPs and their covers for my upcoming book A Fabulous Creation.



The cover was always more than the wrapper for the thing itself. Because it was twelve inches square and you couldn’t just slip it into your pocket it projected the music into the physical world. Therefore your decisions about what to play next were made as much visually as anything else. The problem with taking all those precious physical objects and reducing them to noughts and ones  is that once something is out of sight it has a tendency to be out of mind as well.

4 comments:

  1. If memory serves I think that Danny Baker said that his favourite Dan album is Gaucho. I'm sure I'm right on this because when asked what his favourite Dan album is, and he said Gaucho, I experienced a momentary frisson of surprise that he didn't say Aja; such is that album's prominence in the canon.
    I wonder if other bands with a fair few albums 'under their belts' have one which has an assumed favoured status.

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  2. Can't wait to read your new book! Your last two have been real treats! Keep on keeping on!

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  3. Enjoying your book! Many great memories reignited even from a perspective of a life relived in the USA! Cheers!

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  4. I remember discovering Steely Dan via a Woolworths bargain bin compilation. I think my brain always knew who they were as I knew Reelin in the Years and Do It Again from childhood ears. But this was a revelation. I’m particular the non album track, the titular FM. I always wanted it to go in forever. I like hypnotic repetition, as James Brown said “Keep it there...”. But here was a hugely uncool group, with basically hugely uncool music, that was impossibly cool. And how uncool could they be when they used Horace Silver, and we’re sampled by De La Soul. They’re part of the wondrous patchwork quilt that is.. ladies and gentlemen, rock n roll.

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