Is It Really Steely Dan without Walter Becker?

This week’s episode of Modern Family revolved around Phil and Claire trying to get errands done in time for a 3 pm concert by Steely Dan:

When Phil asked why it was so early, Claire responded, “They are not young men, Phil.”

They are not. In fact, co-founder Walter Becker died just last month. Which made that joke, indeed, the whole episode with its series of references to Steely Dan in concert seem like poor taste to me. Couldn’t they have simply dubbed in the name of another old band?

But when I clicked on Steely Dan’s official website, I was shocked to find that the band is indeed in the midst of a nationwide tour (though no afternoon shows). “They” are playing near me in a couple weeks, Baltimore on the 24th and National Harbor on the 25th. But wouldn’t these shows be more accurately credited to Donald Fagen, solo, . . .

. . .  or will he be touring with a “hologram” of Becker, like Tupac’s at Coachella 2012:


Cheese Samples at the Mall

My friend Tracy was deeply dismayed by my featuring the great Debbie Gibson song “Only in My Dreams.” Clearly, she does not recognize the appeal of cheese.

I’ll let Cartman respond for me:

I’ve written before about age largely liberating me from worries that others might not think my musical choices are “cool.” So I am free to enjoy a cheesy pop tune like “Call Me Maybe” without fear of being judged:

I’ve also written that many songs teenage-me once hated now make grown up-me smile. I was reminded again of this phenomenon last week when I got a nostalgic kick out of hearing King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” in kinda cheesy The Hitman’s Bodyguard . . .

. . . even though I vividly remember quickly switching away every time it came on the car radio during one summer vacation with my family.

But neither of these explains my response to Debbie Gibson’s “Only in My Dreams” when I heard it again this week on the cheesy spoof Blood Drive. I liked that song when it first came out in 1987 and bought the album Out of the Blue to listen to it and the title track:

And even though they were often cast as Beatles vs. the Stones (Stones, all the way, baby!) rivals, amusingly spoofed in Sci-Fi’s cheesy movie Mega Python vs Gatoroid, . . .

. . . I also liked Tiffany’s Tommy James cover, . . .

. . . even though it does not come close to the original.

And then there’s Robin Sparkles’s more recent is-it-homage-or-is-it-spoof (it’s two, two, two songs in one) “Let’s Go to the Mall” on the often cheesy How I Met Your Mother:

So let’s all go to the mall for some cheese samples!

Speaking of cheese, whatever happened to Rebecca Black?

Sam Shepard (1943-2017)

Primarily known as an actor (Bloodline, Mud, Cold in JulyDays of HeavenThe Right Stuff, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for his embodiment of test pilot cool) and playwright (True WestBuried Child, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, Fool for Love, for which he won one of his many Obie Awards), Sam Shepard had a long relationship with rock ‘n’ roll. He sometimes played drums and/or percussion for the lower east side 1960s New York psychedelic folk band Holy Modal Rounders, here featured in Easy Rider:

In the early ’70s, he collaborated with Patti Smith on the play Cowboy Mouth. Their relationship is featured prominently in her National Book Award winning memoir Just Kids.

Nominally, the playwright co-wrote the largely improvised film Renaldo and Clara shot by Bob Dylan during his 1975-1976 Rolling Thunder Revue. Shepard also published The Rolling Thunder Logbook chronicling his  experience of the tour. A decade later, Shepard co-wrote a song with Dylan:

In 2007, Shepard again collaborated with Patti Smith, playing banjo on her cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: