Quantum Criminals: a book based on characters from the music of Steely Dan

Originally published at: Quantum Criminals: a book based on characters from the music of Steely Dan | Boing Boing

Well, since this post brings up gender, I wonder what the ratio of men to woman musicians they’ve worked with is? And have they ever had a woman on stage with them who wasn’t a backup singer, that is again, a musician? :thinking:

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Let’s ask Google!



I imagine the Steely Dan rogues’ gallery described in this book is all male too, except maybe a gun moll or femme fatale or two. :yawning_face:

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Perhaps women don’t want to work with them?
There’s some unsavoury stuff here and that’s just from 5 songs.

From an article on SmellsLikePop . com

No One Is Ever In Love in Steely Dan Songs

I once read that Steely Dan has never written a love song. This is true, but simple. In my estimation, no Steely Dan song from their classic period utilizes love or desire as the motivating engine to the song or the characters housed within. Instead, Steely Dan songs tend to frame moments or narrative long after love and/or desire have given way to diseased obsession.

Take, for example, “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies,” in which a middle-aged man in a suburban neighborhood invites the children to his den to watch 8mm pornographic film loops.

Or consider “Everything You Did,” which recounts (in the first person) a howling boyfriend’s rage towards a woman he suspects of cheating, uttered as he animalistically prowls about the apartment hunting down the scent of her potential lover.

Consider “Dirty Work,” which chronicles an affair (or series of affairs?) in which the narrator appears so disinterested in the whole ordeal, that, despite the fact that he “foresees terrible trouble,” he simply “stays there just the same.” No effort is exerted to end or preserve the illicit affair.

Even “Hey Nineteen,” which appears on its surface to be a quaint May-September romance between a man in his mid-30s and the titular subject, upon closer inspection reveals a creepy guy in a bar propositioning a parade of uninterested, unnamed younger women, trying in vain to ply them with promises of cocaine and tequila.

Somewhat paradoxically, something resembling love can cruelly stir in the ashes once it is too late to be of any use. Take “Charlie Freak” in which a homeless junkie is starving to death. The narrator, a friend, buys Charlie’s gold ring – his sole prized possession – for “chicken feed.” This leaves Charlie with sufficient money to score drugs. Greedily, Charlie overdoses. Guilt-ridden, the remorseful narrator rushes to the scene in a belated attempt to right his wrong.


Ugh. Yeah, Hey Nineteen always did creep me out.

Could be, though it became a gig most musicians would find tough to turn down if asked.

I suspect few if any women musicians were ever even asked to join that particular and particularly poisonous boys treehouse gang. I can easily imagine that the Dan dudes felt (if they ever even thought of inviting one) that a woman’s presence would like, mess up the whole vibe, man.




Are backup singers not musicians themselves? :thinking:


Toxic Man-cave Spelunkers?


Can’t fool me, that’s the punchline for a filthy joke, right?


Huh, Ive never heard them referred to as musicians, since i think of vocalist as a term that distinguishes a singer from someone who plays an instrument. If both are also referred to musicians by some, that’s fine with me.

I do think the distinction matters in this context, since as far as I know, the famous “masters” that Dan was renowned for hiring were um, instrumentalists?

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Singing is part of music, certainly. I mean, we can all sing, but generally speaking people who are doing it professionally are trained to some degree to work with their chosen instrument. Back up singers are often highly trained and are called on to do a lot of heavy lifting in pop songs, often with far less pay and recognition for what they do… I’m thinking of things like the singer (Merry Clayton) on the Stones “Give me Shelter” who clearly outshone Jagger in that song.

So, I’d argue that a great singer is no less a musician than an instrumentalist. Singing well doesn’t just happen, but that’s often the perception (a myth promoted by the recording industry, no doubt, in part to get out of paying singers fair compensation for their work).

I would say in the case of Steely Dan, they’re certainly promoting the dichotomy that instrumentalists are “real” musicians and any broad can be a back up singer…It’s a pretty well-known fact that the recording industry in the 60s and 70s was deeply misogynistic, and pretty much any woman seeking to be in a band as an instrumentalist was going to have a rough time of it (I’m sure that the few session musicians or women in bands that were predominantly men at the time can attest to that)… full on all-women bands were often seen as “novelty” acts rather than on par with their male peers (thinking of bands like Fanny and the Runaways)…


Kristen Wiig Yep GIF by Where’d You Go Bernadette

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I love Merry Clayton’s version so I put it in their covers thread.

Where I also say that as women as musicians were traditionally in the white wealthy north confined to singing it may be why people assume singers aren’t musicians. Ingrained cultural misogyny.

Actually there are many bands I consider the singer to be the best musician (as it happens they includes the Rolling Stones though everyone says Charlie Watts. But everyone knows drummers just hang out with musicians so they can hit things for a living.)

While I was looking for videos for the covers thread I came across this:

But she didn’t play for the Dan, they’d have been lucky!
Extra Edit
She was a huge fan of Dan apparently according to Zappa:

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I learned about Merry Clayton in 20 feet from Stardom. Very interesting film.

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