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Steely Dan: Reelin' in the Years [Paperback]

Brian Sweet


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Book Description

August 1994
A biography of the group Steely Dan, the American jazz rock band who have sold over 50 million albums during a career lasting over 20 years. It tells of how Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, a couple of cynical New York jazz fans wormed their way into a record contract and astonished critics with their first album "Can't Buy a Thrill" in 1973. Nine albums later, after "Aja", had topped charts everywhere, they were among the biggest selling acts in the world. Then they quit, only to reform in 1993. Steely Dan were different from the rest of rock's super-sellers. They rarely gave interviews. After some early bad experiences on the road, they refused to tour. They didn't have their photographs taken so few people knew what they looked like. Steely Dan wasn't even a proper group; it was two musicoans and a producer, yet every top notch player in the world lined up to appear on their albums. In this book the author, who is the editor and publisher of "Metal Leg", the UK based Steely Dan fanzine, finally draws back the veil of secrecy that has surrounded Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Here is the story of how they made their music and lived their lives.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Omnibus Pr (August 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711935513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711935518
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 440 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,420,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy, Obsessive account of great American Band June 16 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Steely Dan are noted for their exacting and meticulous recording style. Unfortunately 'Reeling In The Years' by Brian Sweet is written in almost the complete opposite of Steely Dan's style. Long on gossip and hazy recollections by Steely Dan alumni Sweet's account never gives us what we want: Steely Dan!
After informing us that he could not get any interviews with either of Steely Dan's principals Walter Becker or Donald Fagen in his preface, ("for reasons best known only to themselves, Becker and Fagen, declined to be interviewed despite several earnest requests."),Sweet then spends the next 36 pages detailing Fagen's childhood (but not Becker's), the songwriters school days at Bard College and then a long study of a terrible film the duo wrote the score for in 1971 ('You Gotta Walk It, Like You Talk It'..so bad that it's never been aired on tv).
One of the things that die hard 'Dan fans hoped for before this book came out was a detailed account of how and when the group came into being when they were signed by ABC Dunhill Records in 1971. Despite lots of details and a plethora of non-source credited quotes (in fact none of the quotes in the entire book are sourced!)the reader will still come away somewhat confused as to how the original group (which toured for three years) was first assembled. Sweet himself seems confused, on p. 40 he states that Denny Dias, a longtime guitarist for the band, was the first to join the band. Five pages later he states that the group had already recorded and released their first songs before Dias had "yet to arrive in California."
Aside from compiling a sloppy chronology Sweet gives off obsessive tones with comments like "What more do they want?" as he demands they release a new album in his introduction. Later he takes on the roll of psychologist with, "Fagen seemed to be blaming his parents and the American lifestyles in the Fifties for his thirtysomething creative problems." What lifestyles of the 1950's were a! ffecting Fagen some 30 years later one can only guess but Sweet seems confident in telling us the true psyche of this person he's never interviewed.
Now I don't blame all of these faults with the book on the writer..... But what you get is a half baked account, slapped together (complete with a picture of Donald Fagen in kindergarten)for a quick buck....maybe Fagen and Becker are saving their version of the Steely Dan story for Hollywood!....I can see it 'Steely Dan: The Trip We Made To Hollywood..(and back)!
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stab It With Their Steely Knives Sept. 13 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A great little book which details the backgrounds of all of their songs. This author is an expert on this duo, also having written a biography about them.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definite read for the Steely Dan Fan July 19 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this book to be well researched and seemed to pretty well cover most of their career. A great insight into the weird and wonderful world of Mr Becker and Mr Fagen and some insight into their creative process. If your a fan of the band don't miss this.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Steely Dan: Gosssip, a history but no Fagen or Becker Aug. 5 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While British author Brian Sweet should be commended for compiling the first ever account of Steely Dan in book form, the publishers should have realized that Sweet was not a first rate author. Or a writer in the usual sense..he was the creator of a sloppy fanzine that even to diehard Steely Dan fans was both obsessive and idiotic. Omnibus perhaps should have subtitled this 'A Britsh fans' view of Steely Dan' for it is quite ironic that Steely Dan, perhaps the most American of all the great 1970's bands, has yet to be recognized by the US rock historians. While Sweet does fill in some of the holes in the early Steely saga he spends too much time on banal trivia, is it really important that we know what color tie Fagen & Becker's first manager was wearing when he met them? Did we really need a picture of Donny Fagen age 12? The publishers should have realized that they had hired an adoring
fan of the composers and not a writer or researcher. My father said that you can always
judge a book by its index and bibliography...this book has neither...no index + no bibliography= sloppy writing...Steely Dan deserve better.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great info, poorly written Feb. 14 2000
By Hock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This biography of Walter Becker and Donald Fagan is loaded with interesting information about the lives and near maniacal recording practices of Steely Dan. I believe this is the pretty much the only biography of Steeley Dan available and as a huge fan I could not put the book down. Note, however, that great literature this is not. The book is extremly poorly written, bordering on offensive at times, but the content more than makes up for it.
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