September this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first record by Steely Dan, the band formed by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in 1972 that went on to release nine albums over the 30 years that followed. Now Chicago Review Press is publishing Nightfly: the Life of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen
by music journalist and author Peter Jones
The book is a warts-and-all account that not only relates the often-untold stories behind one of rock’s most iconic bands, but places Steely Dan
and Fagen in their historical and cultural context. It also critically evaluates the band’s recorded legacy, as well as the four solo albums released by Fagen.
The smooth, radio-friendly veneer of the Fagen-Becker songs made Steely Dan internationally popular and famous in the 1970s, but the polish glossed over the underlying layers of anger, disappointment, sleaze, and often downright weirdness lurking just beneath the surface. The elliptical lyrics were—and continue to be—an endless source of fascination. What kind of person was capable of writing such songs?
Fagen has always kept his true self hidden behind walls of irony, confounding most journalistic enquiries with a mixture of obscurity and sarcasm. Nightfly
cracks open the door to reveal the life behind the lyrics and traces Fagen's story from early family life in suburban New Jersey, to his first encounter with Walter Becker at Bard College, their long struggle for recognition as songwriters, and the formation of Steely Dan. The band!s break-up in 1981, re-formation in 1993, and Fagen's parallel solo career are covered in detail.
Commented guitarist Jay Graydon, who played on Steely Dan’s Aja
is a must-read for every Steely Dan fan. Peter Jones covers all aspects of Donald Fagen's career, both with Steely Dan and as a solo artist. I am amazed as to the level of detail in the descriptions of the recording sessions and the analyses of the lyrics of the songs.”
Added Publishers Weekly: “Fagen fans will find this detailed account a worthy complement to the singer!s own memoir, Eminent Hipsters
Author Chris Epting said: “Peter Jones has done an impeccable job illuminating one of music’s most mercurial and mysterious figures. Exhaustive research, rich storytelling, and keen observations make this a must-read, not just for Fagen fans and Steely Dan devotees but any music fans that relish compelling inside stories from the vinyl era. A comprehensive, critical biography that will also help you listen to classic albums like Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, Aja
, and others with fresh new ears.”
Peter Jones is a jazz musician, journalist, and author. His two recent books are the much-lauded This Is Hip: The Life of Mark Murphy
and This Is Bop: Jon Hendricks and the Art of Vocal Jazz
, which was greeted with equal enthusiasm. Both books won ARSC awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research. Jones writes for Jazzwise magazine and the website All About Jazz
. As a singer and composer in his own right, he releases music with Zoöphyte, a cross-genre project featuring the cream of younger UK jazz musicians.
The hardback edition of Nightfly
(366pp) retails at $30; the Kindle version is $9.99, and an audio book narrated by Michael Butler Murray is also available.