In the interviews Hoskyns collects...the two [members of Steely Dan] can be frankly self-effacing about their lives and their work in ways they hadn't done previously ... Hoskyns arranges Major Dudes to bring attention to some of the more talented writers who have tangled with the notoriously prickly duo, as well as to act as a companion to the band's music. It succeeds on both fronts ... That set-up puts some welcome attention on their later work, both as solo artists and as a group ... Jumping around in the text is recommended, and none of the selections feel like a throwaway. The book's finest accomplishment is to bring Fagen and Becker into focus as friends and partners who spent more than half of their lives in a creative partnership.
Major Dudes Barney Hoskyns delivers a 300-page block of solid evidence of the musical and lyrical brilliance that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the originators of Steely Dan, unleashed on the world beginning in the 1970s ... The book — featuring essays, reviews and interviews about and with Fagen and Becker — covers the duo’s pre-Dan years through their solo careers and ends with Walter Becker’s death in 2017 ... Unlike a straight biography about the band — or even a memoir — Major Dudes filters the group’s rise through its interaction with journalists. As such, it offers a more critical take. The interviews are compelling and revealing, showcasing Fagen and Becker’s secluding habits and snarky put-ons ... Readers expecting opinionated writing from rock journalists won’t be disappointed ... Unfortunately, the book, which unfolds chronologically, loses momentum (and possibly the reader’s patience) by needlessly repeating already-stated facts throughout the text ... That said, Major Dudes does effectively show how Fagen and Becker soaked up, skewed, and reformatted American images, habits and mismanaged dreams and made a groove out of them...Although some readers might fault Major Dudes for its dearth of longer essays that place Fagen and Becker in a wider cultural context, the book does give us plenty to read and think about. I have no doubt we’ll be thinking about and listening to Steely Dan until California tumbles into sea.
Steely Dan played the Paramount Theatre in Seattle on the first of July, 1974—there's a live recording—and the MC introduced the band thus: 'Ladies and gentlemen, here by popular demand and at great expense to the management, you may like them—personally I don’t—from Los Angeles, California, Steely Dan!' ... Chris Welch describes the Dan in Melody Maker as: 'Really orchestra, designed to present the songs on stage and record in the best way possible'. The two were jazz fans though not quite jazz musicians, and as professional songwriters before starting the band, they reached back to popular song forms from before the 1950s for their values and models ... There are essentially two different things collected within the book: contemporaneous record reviews and interviews/profiles. Major Dudes covers Donald Fagen’s solo albums and ends with David Cavanagh’s obituary of Walter Becker, published in Uncut in November of last year. For a Dan fan, it’s fascinating to read about what the critics were hearing, which was a combination of baffled satisfaction, baffled ambivalence, and baffled displeasure. One thing that is consistent, especially from the British writers, is how different the Dan sounded from everything and everyone else they were hearing.