Donald Fagen — who co-founded Steely Dan with Walter Becker — fondly remembers when people were willing to pay for music.
I certainly remember paying for a lot of it.
For a musical act to make money nowadays, Fagen says they have to hit the road.
“I really can’t make a living from recording anymore,” he says. “I don’t think any of the solo albums, the last three anyway, recouped their budgets. But, luckily, I’m really into playing live, and that’s how musicians make a living these days for the most part, unless you’re a half-naked teenager.”
Not that Steely Dan’s sophisticated soulful, jazz-flavored songs would be able to find a home on contemporary radio, which is dominated by pop starlets and rappers. But, then again, Steely Dan seemed out of place when it had Top 10 hits with songs such as “Do It Again,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and “Hey Nineteen.”
Still, they were a permanent fixture in the Classic Rock firmament, though radio won’t make you any money, and streaming, God knows, brings in even less.
And this way, Fagen gets to pay the bills. Contrast this, though, with Danmate Walter Becker’s description of the way things were after, say, Pretzel Logic:
[I]n-demand touring musicians [Denny] Dias, [Jeff “Skunk”] Baxter and [Jim] Hodder all exited the quintet. “It was unfair of us to spend eight months writing and recording when Jeffrey Baxter and others in the group wanted to tour,” Becker told Rolling Stone in 1977. “We weren’t making very much money and everybody wanted to be out touring a lot. We didn’t. That was that.”
Still, Becker was up for a couple of shows this summer, in which Steely would be opening for the Eagles. He didn’t make it, due to unspecified health reasons, presumably the same ones that took his life this past weekend.