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Steely Dan Fans Are Assholes

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Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 9:10 AM

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William Gibson called them "the most genuinely subversive" band in late-20th Century pop. Bryan Cranston sneaks winking references to them into Malcolm In The Middle and Breaking Bad episodes. Ice Cube sampled them and The Roots play them on Jimmy Fallon. Who are they? The gold standard in rock and roll pretentiousness, Steely Dan.

What I have in common with all of these guys is that I, too, have a fanatical love of The Dan. We call ourselves "Danfans" -- amazing, right? -- and we'll quickly kill half an hour jawing your ear off about the virtues of this act, primarily a two-person collaboration between Walter Becker and Donald Fagen with a rotating cast of session musicians. The Dan formed when Denny Dias, founder of The Dan, placed an ad seeking bass and keys, admonishing "no assholes need apply." Thankfully Becker and Fagen ignored the warning. In a few years they had ousted Dias from his own band. What a couple of pricks.

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Danfans are the silently hip minority of rock fandom. We don't hang out in the parking lot and drop acid before a show. We gather over fair trade coffee and artisan beers at the local brew pub to discuss interpretations of song lyrics.

Let us tell you: Listening to the Dan is akin to reading novel. You need a liberal arts degree to get it. Trust me, kids, it's not that you don't like Steely Dan, it's that you don't get it. It requires some formal humanities training to truly grasp the brilliance of a mellotron solo in the middle of a song about nuclear genocide. The lyrical nuances of a song like "Everyone's Gone To The Movies" are easily lost when you haven't spent four years critically analyzing texts. Yep, Katy Lied is a lot closer to Ulysses than Exile On Main Street.

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