Looking around the gig guides up and down the UK (and indeed overseas) it certainly is a credit to Steely Dan, that there are so many of us ‘tribute’ bands out there having fun playing their wonderful songs. I’m sure you’ve all been in the same situation as us, when you list Steely Dan amongst your listening favourites, only to be met with the fairly typical responses of:
a) Never heard of ‘em.
b) Weren’t they the ones who did ‘All around my hat?’
c) Weren’t they the ones who did ‘Stuck in the middle with you?’
Yep, we’ve heard them all!
So it’s always a constant pleasant surprise when we turn up at gigs to a room full of people who obviously know all the SD back catalogue in great detail (arguably more so than us sometimes!) and who get such a kick out of hearing the music from their own CD (and probably vinyl) collections brought to life in some way. And, in the regular absence of Donald and Walter from these shores I guess it’s the only option we have!
From our own experience in going to see some of the other excellent SD bands out there (Nearly Dan, Stealing Dan and Don, Gas in the Car, to name a few) there’s also some room for manoeuvre in how you can interpret the original tracks. The Stanley approach has always been to try and stay as close as possible to the studio versions, while some of the other bands take those originals as a base and have fun re-interpreting, improvising and putting their own stamp on it. It’s a testament to the original tunes that they work just as well whichever way you want to treat them, and also a testament to you Dan fans out there who have ears that are possibly a little more open than most and appreciate the music from all angles!
I think from a muso perspective, the reason why there are so many of us SD tribute bands out there is because there is just so much to get our teeth into. While we won’t deny the sheer joy of bashing through a raucous Johnny B Goode now and then, it’s really great to be able to delve into the harmonic richness of those SD tunes and try and get our collective heads around the genius of how those guys managed to come up with that stuff in the first place!
Also, thanks to the fairly low public profile of the band it is a huge relief that there is no expectation from the gig-going public for us to have to try and look like the people whose music we’re trying to replicate!! Having said that, a pair of Denny Dias dungarees might just have to make an appearance at a future gig…….just to properly keep up the whole ‘tribute’ thing!
So, there you are. A rambling piece of nonsense I grant you. But all in all I guess this is just a thank you from the band to Steely Dan for giving us all this great repertoire in the first instance. And thanks to you who come and see us and the other Dan-bands out there, for letting us have a chance to get up there and enjoy playing it to people who truly appreciate it.
Stop Press: Due to several requests, it may well be that ‘All around my hat’ makes an appearance in 2016.