American rock band founded by core members Walter Becker (guitars, bass, backing vocals) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, lead vocals) in 1972. The group name comes from a sexual appliance described in the novel ‘Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs. Blending elements of jazz, traditional pop, R&B, and sophisticated studio production with cryptic and ironic lyrics, the band enjoyed critical and commercial success starting from the early 1970s until breaking up in 1981. Throughout their career, the duo recorded with a revolving cast of session musicians, and in 1974 retired from live performances to become a studio-only band.
Becker and Fagen parted ways in June 1981, six months after the release of the album Gaucho, which had been delayed by numerous technical difficulties and financial disputes with their record label. They reunited in 1993, started touring steadily and released two new albums, ‘Two Against Nature’ (2000) and ‘Everything Must Go’ (2003). Becker died on 3 September 2017, leaving Fagen as the only official member.
In spite of their relative lack of success in England, Steely Dan clearly had a great influence on Kate — perhaps mainly in their combination of catchy if unconventional melodies with lush arrangements and sophisticated musicianship. She has chosen their songs to be played during her various radio appearances as a guest DJ.
Kate about Steely Dan
I think they’re very underestimated. They’re the most incredible musicians. This is it. They are here — a musician’s band. I mean, all the musicians in this country just rave about them technically, and as songwriters. But you know, they’re not really played on the radio, but they’re just incredible. (Paul Gambaccini, BBC Radio 1, 31 December 1980)
For me, each album got better, and I wish they hadn’t split up. (Kate Bush Club, issue 16)