Steely Dan Sunday, "Bad Sneakers" (1975)

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With Steely Dan completely freed up to go out and get the best musician for any part within any song, Becker and Fagen started mixing and matching more liberally on Katy Lied. At the same time, they made heavy use of two members of their 1973-4 road band: the teenaged hotshot drummer Jeff Porcaro and a little-known backup singer from St. Louis, Michael McDonald. We already made hay over the rhythm wizardry of Porcaro, who drums on all but one track on this album, but Katy Lied is Steely Dan’s Michael McDonald Show.

A backup singer shouldn’t make much of an impact on a record, especially one that has so many other things going for it. But—and you already know this—McDonald is no backup singer: he’s a lead singer whose let someone else handle most of the lyrics while his bit part grabs all the focus. Quick, what do you remember first about “Ride Like The Wind”? It’s not Christopher Cross.

The quivering baritone that would soon after go on to take over Tom Johnston’s Doobie Brothers and spawn a new sub-genre of Adult Contemporary, “Yatch Rock,” had his coming out on the second track of Katy, “Bad Sneakers.” This song continues on the same cool, jazzy gait the band rode on to a #4 hit with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Here we get a second decent guitar lead from Becker in a row. But the big moment comes on the second go around of the chorus…

Fagen: Yes I’m…
McDonald: …goOoOo-wing sane
Fagen: You know I’m…
McDonald: …laughing at the frozen raAaAain
Fagen: I feel like I’m…
McDonald: soOoOoOo aloooone

Yes. This was where the rock yatch got set sailing, folks.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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