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The L.A. Times, Sunday, July 27, 1997

Steely Dan's Modest Proposals

T he Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in May was full of excitement and controversy: Neil Young boycotted over the hall's policies on reimbursing performers and televising the proceedings, there was turmoil about the exclusion of members of bands that had lineup changes, and one inductee (Joni Mitchell) was absent so she could spend time with the daughter she gave up for adoption years ago.

     Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the core members of Steely Dan, want nothing less if they're inducted--as is likely--in their first year of eligibility next year.

     To wit, they have launched a series of "correspondence" about the hall on their official Web site in a section labeled "Countdown to Infamy." It's pretty clear that they have about as much reverence toward the impending honor as they do for just about every other institution.

     Starting with a "generous" offer to donate their collection of "historically significant" digital multitrack tape recorders to the facility for display in exchange for a tax write-off, the duo goes on to outline conditions under which they will participate in the induction:

     * Invoking Young's action, they want assurance that they will be paid "adequately" for their appearance. "Anything short of that is un-American and contrary to the spirit of rock 'n' roll," they write, before stating what they consider an adequate fee--an outlandish $380,000.

     * They want to be the only members of Steely Dan honored, since after the first few albums they were the only permanent personnel. "If the original band members are absolutely necessary, perhaps some of them could receive their statues or belts or whatever it is they get off-camera, backstage, at some other place and/or time." They also want veto power over members of other groups being inducted, they say.

     * They claim to be mounting an "exhaustive search for any long-lost female love-children of ours." Success in that, they say, will mean they will be unavailable for the ceremony.

     Fagen, who has attended several hall inductions, favors a certain amount of anarchy at the ceremonies, it's clear in a follow-up interview with Pop Eye.

     "When they started, no one knew what they were supposed to be and it was fun," he says. "It wasn't televised or anything, and you got to see rock stars acting as real people. And then once in a while someone would go completely ballistic--Mike Love started raving one year, Phil Spector gave his rambling speech another time."

     As for Steely Dan plans, Becker and Fagen--continuing the reunion that spawned two concert tours and a live album in recent years--are currently writing songs for a new studio album (the first since "Gaucho" in 1980), which they'll record if they ever have time between Web activities.

Copyright 1997 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved

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