Read Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen Online


In Eminent Hipsters, musician and songwriter Donald Fagen, best known as the co-founder of the rock band Steely Dan, presents an autobiographical portrait that touches on everything from the cultural figures that mattered the most to him as a teenager, to his years in the late 1960s at Bard College, to a hilarious account of a recent tour he made with Boz Scaggs and MichaeIn Eminent Hipsters, musician and songwriter Donald Fagen, best known as the co-founder of the rock band Steely Dan, presents an autobiographical portrait that touches on everything from the cultural figures that mattered the most to him as a teenager, to his years in the late 1960s at Bard College, to a hilarious account of a recent tour he made with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald.Fagen begins by introducing the 'eminent hipsters' that spoke to him as he was growing up (and desperately yearning to be hip) in suburban New Jersey in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The figures who influenced him most were not the typical ones – Miles Davis, say, or Jack Kerouac – but rather people like Jean Shepherd, whose manic, acidic nightly radio broadcasts out of WOR-Radio had a tough realism about life and ‘enthralled a generation of alienated young people’; Henry Mancini, whose chilled-out, nourish soundtracks, especially to films by Blake Edwards utilised the unconventional, spare instrumentation associated with the cool jazz school; and Mort Fega, the laid back, knowledgeable all night jazz man at WEVD, who was like ‘the cool uncle you always wished you had’. He writes of how, growing up as a Cold War baby, one of his primary doors of escape became reading science fiction by such authors as Philip K. Dick, and of his regular trips into New York City to hear jazz. Other emblematic musical heroes Fagen writes about include Ray Charles, Ike Turner, and the Boswell Sisters, a trio from the 1920s and 30s whose subversive musical genius included trick phrasing and way out harmony.‘Class of ’69’ recounts Fagen’s colourful tumultuous years at Bard College, the progressive university north of New York City that attracted a strange mix of applicants, including ‘desperate suburban misfits with impressive verbal skills but appalling high school records’ (like himself). It was at Bard that Fagen first met Walter Becker, with whom he would later form Steely Dan. The final section of the book, ‘With the Dukes of September’, offers a day-by-day account of a tour Fagen undertook last summer across America with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, performing a programme of old R&B and soul tunes as well as some of each of their own hits. Told in a weary, cranky, occasionally biting and always entertaining voice, Fagen brings to life the ups and downs and various indignities and anxieties of being on the road – The Dukes were an admittedly ‘low-rent operation’ compared to a Steely Dan tour – as well as communicating the challenges and joy of playing every night to a different crowd in a different city....

Title : Eminent Hipsters
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ISBN : 9780670025510
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 176 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Eminent Hipsters Reviews

  • Ned
    2019-05-02 07:12

    I read this slender volume in nearly a single run, having the day off (thank you MLK). It is an absolute hoot and had me rolling with laughter. Fagen is absolutely what you would expect, if you are of my generation and remember when those sweet and perfectly sharp Steely Dan (SD) riffs started coming through the newly sound-enhanced FM radio about 1975 or so. Donald Fagen is one half of the SD genius, and clearly 90% of the brain trust. What amuses me is that he is nearly exactly what I expected him to be: Erudite, disrespectful, sharp, hilarious, depressed, brutally honest, acerbic and all that you would expect from a modern day anti-hero. The overused hipster is defined explicitly as "an artist "whose origins lie outside the mainstream or who creatively exploit material from the margin or who merely because they live in a freaky space have enough distance to see some truth". Some truth can be found in this quirky account by a faux Jewish kid with a past and perpetually lost in America.The first few "stories" describe his chronic misfit status (a "subterannean" as he puts it) in modern times, ear to a transistor soaking up the airwaves in the New Jersey night of the 60s. I can relate to his disgust with suburbia, hunger for blood and guts musical ecstasy amongst stultifying "modernity". He is sickened by those "little phones" and all the trappings which separate humanity from itself. Fagen is a jazz music historian who was prescient enough to catch a few of the giants in the village in NYC toward their end, as the pop culture was emerging and consuming the remnants of non-commercial art. This explains the penchant for SD finding all those incredible virtuosos to play on their albums.The last chapter is from his personal diary whilst touring with an assembled entourage including Boz Skaggs and Michael McDonald known as the "Dukes of September" as they toured America in 2012. This finds the 65 year old aging "rock star" enduring the agony of travels and finding some bliss in between all the sturm and drang.Don on Canadians and manners:"..they've inherited their culture from Britain. Brits, by necessity, had to evolve a system of rigorous interpersonal courtesy so that they wouldn't tear each other apart. Fine, except that there are side effects: the more civilization, the more repression. So, unlike typical American audiences presented with an irresistible groove, Canadians (at least when they're sober) just sit motionless for 2 hours, fighting every impulse to nod, tap a foot, say hooray or move any part of their bodies. That is, until the big finish of the show, when, as their superegos are no longer able to contain the furious directive of the lower brain, they rise to their feet and, at last, explode with bestial cries and applause. Of course, when islanders drink, it's a different story. AS Freud like to say, the superego is soluble in alcohol". Fagen's writing is reminiscent of the young Hunter Thompson, splashed with a Bukowski fluourish.Don on persistence of conservatives and an Indifferent Audience:"In the sixties, during the war between the generations, I always figured that all we had to was wait until the old, paranoid, myth-bound, sexually twisted Hobbesian geezers died out. But I was wrong. They just keep coming back, these moldering bloodless vampires, no matter how many times you hammer in the stake. It's got to be the amygdala thing. Period, end of story. The crowd sat through our versions of some of the great sixties soul tunes, hating them, waiting only for the amygdala-comforting Doobie Brothers hits that Michael sings, Boz's dance numbers and the Steely Dan singles that remind them of high school or college parties. They despised the old Ray Charles tune, and I started to despise them. Toward the end of the show, during McDonald's piano introduction to 'Takin it to the streets", .. as a way of venting my range, I'd begun imagining a slash theater fire that would send the entire audience screaming up the aisles, trampling each other ...ending up in a horrible scene outside on the sidewalk with people on stretchers, charred and wrinkled.... when I'm fighting exhaustion, putting everything into the performance and still feeling like I'm getting an indifferent response from the house, it's easy to morph into the Hulk. I guess I'm getting more and more thin-skinned as the tour goes on...." In case you think the performer doesn't need the audience - Don dispels that!Don on being a curmudgeon:"In '64 long-playing vinyl records sounded great. It was the age of high fidelity, and even your parents were likely to have a good-sounding console or tube components and a nice set of speakers, A&R, KLH and so on.... Anyone could work a TV set, even your grandmother. Off, on, volume, change the channel, period. .. the signal was stonr: ten, twelve simple channels of programming, not all good, but lots of swell black-and-white movies from the 30s and 40s, all day and most of ht night. No soul-deadening porn or violence... yeah call me old uncle Fuckwad, I don't care. William Blake's 'dark Satanic mills' of the industrial revolution may have enslaved the bodies of Victorian citizens, but information technology is a pure mindf*&k. The TV Babies have morphed into the Palm People... those in the audience who can't experience the performance unless they're sending instant videos to the frinds: ' Looka t me, I must be alive, I can prove it, I'm filming this s*#t."Don on the good nights and what makes it worth it:"The Rochester gig turned out to be a solid gas. Joy trumps ATD*, for a change. Good crowd, good enough sound, nice vibe all around. In a house where I'm able to hear some detail in the monitors, there's no better job than being in a good rhythm section. If it's jazz, there's more freedom, but juicy groove music has its own thing. ...When everything's working right, you become transfixed by the notes and the chords and the beautiful spaces in between. In the center of it, with the drums, bass and guitar all around you, the earth falls away and it's just you and your crew creating this forward motion, this undeniable, magical stuff that can move ten thousand people to snap free of life's miseries and get up and advance and scream and feel just find... Wait, I'm in too good a mood. Somebody stop me please."OK, I'm stopping here, this book is chock full of hilarious anecdote's, fresh from the mind of a master who created a great musical lexicon we can all enjoy today.

  • Joel
    2019-04-22 00:17

    I'm a huge Steely Dan fan, but didn't care for this. A few reasons:1. It's a bit of a rip-off -- a padded 159 pages. 2. It's disjointed -- there are a few appreciations of other artists, a story about starting college, and a very lengthy tour diary.3. Maybe it's unfair to talk about the book I wish he'd written, but why not do a formal autobiography? Topics pop up here -- the start of Steely Dan, his late-in-life marriage to Libby Titus, his relationship with his mother -- that could've been better fleshed out. Then he could've "earned" the sentimental sections of the tour diary.4. Speaking of the tour diary -- it's long been clear to me that, while Fagen is a very talented guy, he's also a pretty miserable human being. The tour diary is just page after page of complaining, about various physical ailments, tour conditions, humanity in general, etc. etc. etc. I've come to expect a lot of sarcasm and humor from Fagen, but this isn't really sarcastic or humorous -- it's just annoying and fairly childish.

  • Josh
    2019-05-06 03:27

    Say this for Eminent Hipsters: It does seem very authentic to Donald Fagen, permeated by snarky (often condescending) humor and a sincere love for jazz, and paying tribute to some of the formative influences in his life; there is almost nothing here that qualifies as truly revealing autobiography, but then, Fagen fans probably know better than to expect anything too earnest or personal.The first half of the book includes a number of essays on his formative influences-- a somewhat interesting, technical appreciation of the Boswell Sisters, an interesting take on Jean Shepherd, and-- best of all-- an account of the times he spent in NYC jazz clubs, seeing folks like Mingus and Coltrane. Other sections here leave less of an impression; his tribute to Ray Charles is heartfelt, but all too brief and slight.Then comes the back half of the book-- Fagen's cranky, complaint-filled tour diary, wherein he voices his disdain for the touring life-- and his audience-- on every page. It's essentially a long, whiny tirade about how much Fagen seems to hate the life he chose for himself; about how he feels entitled to something better. It's off-putting, to say the least.All told? There are a couple of sections that make this worthwhile for the devoted, and the jazz clubs section is worth seeking out if you happen to enjoy lore from the 1960s jazz scene. Overall, though, the book is too sour and too slight to be particularly enjoyable.

  • Garrett
    2019-04-26 01:07

    They say never to meet your heroes. Maybe don't read them either.Would you like to hear the self-absorbed opinions of a jazz-loving, curmudgeonous hipster? Do you consider wikipedia direct-source information? Do you not have much use for organizing conversations? Have you ever thought, "Well, it would be nice to know more about Henry Mancini, but it would be better if someone could ramble on without context about him"?Well, then this book is for you!I bought this book at a library sale for a dollar. It's going back. I'll even pay them another dollar to take it.

  • John Connolly
    2019-05-21 06:21

    I felt a point of contact with Donald Fagen, whose Eminent Hipsters provided a palate cleanser between novels. I’d kind of skimmed through it before Christmas, but I wanted to return to it when I had a little time on my hands. Okay, so there’s something mildly frustrating about one half of Steely Dan writing a kind of memoir in which Steely Dan is barely mentioned, but I can only assume that he’s saving the Dan years for another book, which is fine with me.The essays that form the first part of Eminent Hipsters are curious and amusing, but the real meat is in the tour diary that takes up most of the book. I suspect that Fagen has partly created a character called “Donald Fagen” who is marginally more curmudgeonly than he is, but not by much. He clearly doesn’t care much for traveling, yet making a living requires that he tours. He gets annoyed that the audience for his tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald want to hear old Dan tunes instead of the R&B and soul that is the backbone of the trio’s set, yet also recognizes that the only reason that most of them have bought tickets is because he’s half of Steely Dan. Finally, he shares with me one of my own bugbears at concerts: the apparent inability of people to simply attend a concert without holding up a cellphone and watching it on a screen as they record it. As Fagen notes, it’s as though they can’t conceive of actually being present unless they have some physical evidence to remind them.So put your phones away, or Fagen and I will do for you.

  • Chrissie
    2019-05-03 00:20

    I've seen some of the critics' reviews of Fagen's new book and it's puzzling because it just seems like they are reading each others' reviews and repeating what each other are saying. They keep complaining that the book seems "bitter" and "mean", including in the NY Times book review section. Of course, the NY Times book review section may still be respected but they have lost credibility over time, only giving air time to big publishers and to the big names - and it shows in some of their reviews and some of the shameless crap they promote. So for them to slam Fagen's book was expected. But, in the book, Fagen himself describes the events and the emotions and the external circumstances that led to his feeling cranky most of the time - so it's plainly a book that is revealing - Fagen is showing us himself, warts and all. The critics and the other dummies who didn't get this, might also complain if the book wasn't forthcoming enough. This is the essential paradox of "The Critic" - they are, almost always, failed writers or filmmakers who have a very deep-seated anger and bitterness at those who create art so well and these critics quite often fail to appreciate something different or odd that is done by others. Occasionally there are decent reviews these days, if you find a reliable source or writer.Fagen's book really delves into the heart of the matter - he explores, in a very concise and direct way, the ugly side of entertainment, music, and what it all means in a cultural context. I've read a few other rock star autobiographies lately and they all seem to be these epic tomes and mostly just blathering on about inconsequential horseshit, because their lives really aren't godlike or even that interesting. But when they get the book contract, they seem to feel compelled to mythologize themselves and pad the book with a hundred bloated tales that don't do much besides add to their already grandiose grandiosity. Keith Richards, for example. Boring book, his book "Life", most of which is either made up or embellished to be sensational by his ghost writer. Of course, Keith himself acknowledges that if it wasn't for his guitar talent, he'd be a "dead junkie", in his words. So we shouldn't expect wisdom from someone like that. And there's the gap in our celebrity culture - they aren't royalty, role models, or even intelligent, most of the time. But - Fagen is very intelligent - and his intelligence is abundant in his observations in this book.Donald Fagen clearly didn't, as Richards did, resort to the laziness of a ghost writer or co-writer and has given us a great look into his day to day life on the road and his origins. Mind you, the whole book isn't a big complaint. The first half to two-thirds is his personal history and then the last part is a tour diary. But I found it to be a valuable bunch of tales and glimpses. It's extremely candid and it spares no emotions. Fagen thinks we can handle his cynicism - and, yeah, it's cynical - but based in reality, our shitty, over-digitized, somewhat soulless age of clusterfuck idiocy. So, Fagen does us the favor of being completely honest. Also, it may be important to remember that Fagen was heavily influenced by the caustic wit of William Burroughs - the Steely Dan band name was even derived from a phrase in one of Burroughs's books, as some people know. So, the sideways contempt for the modern world has always been a part of Fagen, which a lot of people very much enjoy. I think anyone who knows much about Fagen will not be surprised at the book, either. He's always been a pretty revealing guy, for the most part. If you want a lot of bullshit and name-dropping, there are the other rock stars who whore themselves constantly - Jagger/Richards, McCartney, Madonna, Elton John, and so on. Fagen gives you something that will affect you and maybe even disturb you. He's not just trying to portray himself as some kind of superhero or god to make you go out and buy more of his albums, which is what so many cocky celeb books really are attempts at - tying themselves in with an album release or some other nakedly brazen marketing ploy. Fagen is giving you himself, undiluted and pissed off and honest.

  • Thierry Côté
    2019-05-08 01:12

    The best way to describe this book is to say that it is almost exactly what you would expect when picking up a collection of essays-cum-tour diary written by Donald Fagen. Erudite, caustic, cynical and often genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, Eminent Hipsters covers everything from Fagen's fascination (eventually followed by disillusionment) with raconteur extraordinaire Jean Shepherd to a conversation with Italian film score composer Ennio Morricone to the unbearable "TV babies" in the audience at Dukes of September (Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs) shows during a long slog through a summer tour of casinos and sheds. Don't pick this up if you want to read the autobiography of a member of Steely Dan–this book more closely resembles in form Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One or perhaps the better moments of Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace, but is far better than the latter and arguably as good as the former. A brisk read (I finished it in one sitting), I would recommend this without reservation to fans of Fagen's inimitable songwriting.

  • Patrick
    2019-05-17 08:11

    I’ve been on a pretty major Steely Dan kick lately, so it was perhaps inevitable that I’d buy this as soon as I learned of its existence. It’s a short book which is split between a collection of semi-biographical essays, and excerpts from a tour diary written in 2012. On the whole, it’s an enjoyable and insightful read, and though there's nothing here that might compare with the stature of the author's musical career, it did lead me to discover some interesting stuff that I wouldn't previously have known about.The title is presumably intended to be taken quite seriously, referring as it does to the primary subjects of the essays: these ‘hipsters’ were not the post-ironic posers of today but the effortlessly cool and talented men and women of the 1950s and early 60s who were the author’s key influences. Jazz music is the one thing which seems to tie them all together, and in particular the notion of the hipster as an interpreter or transmitter of something deep and vital about jazz culture. There’s some really excellent writing here on musicians like the Boswell Sisters and Harry Mancini, and comedians like Jean Shepherd, and the DJ Mort Fega; it’s the kind of thing which is so infectious in its enthusiasm that I felt compelled to go and seek out the work of these people, even when I previously knew nothing about them.The prose style here is smart and quippy. He’s erudite, and thinks nothing of dropping a little Edmund Wilson into his thoughts on Connie Boswell. Though his music criticism occasionally lapses into some highly technical jargon, the writing always entertaining and often quite funny, even when the author is in the middle of an anguished what-is-the-world-coming-to breakdown. As with Morrissey’s recent autobiography, it is never quite clear how seriously we are meant to take these barbed asides, and the book is ultimately at its best when the author is expressing sincere enthusiasm rather than just venting his spleen.That brings me to the tour diary, all of which is pretty much an extended exercise in spleen-venting. Shut into a variety of hotel rooms in between stops on what seems like a never-ending tour of middle America, the author castigates venues for their sloppy sound, his elderly audiences for their cloth-eared lack of appreciation, and lays into pretty much anyone else who catches him in the wrong mood on any given afternoon. The diary excerpts are generally short and bitter, but they’re still full of inspired put-downs and aphorisms. ‘Asking me to play golf would be like asking me to drive over to the town dump and separate all the wrongly placed bottles and cans from the regular garbage,’ he muses. (On the other hand, there’s also a dreadful racist joke about hotel sheets smelling like soy sauce which any sensible editor should have quietly struck out. )The author is particularly harsh on those ‘TV Babies’, a term which he borrows from the movie Drugstore Cowboy to describe those Americans who he sees as being raised from birth under the influence of television and an aggressive corporatised media. Though that generation is relatively close in age to the author’s own, it’s the one which he considers himself most removed from. Perhaps it’s the product of a kind of buried resentment: the ‘TV Babies’ are, after all, the ones who would go on to buy all those Steely Dan records; the implication being that even though they might have made the author successful, those fans never entirely understood what it was that the music was doing in the first place. And it’s TV culture that he really seems to hate most of all; later on he mentions that the TV Babies have ‘morphed into the Palm People’, with reference to the disagreeable habit of filming concerts with mobile phones. And while he states that ‘information technology is a pure mindfuck’, he’s not a total luddite: he always seems to be on the internet in the hotel, always listening to music on his laptop. Trying to figure out how he really feels about all this is fairly confusing. Here’s the closest to a coherent explanation we get of this philosophy: ’Actually, it always seemed to me that the class of ’68 was the last bunch of kids not seriously despoiled in their youth by television (with its insidious brainwork commercials) and drugs. Chances were they’d spent their first years of life without a TV and had to use their imagination to entertain themselves. Perhaps they’d even played with some non-corporate-developed toys and read a few books. Sans malls, they hung out at candy stores and had milk delivered by the milkman and the doctor came to their bedrooms when they were ill. Since then, TV and the malls and the drugs have annually compounded the Big Stupid we live with now.’There’s a quaint sort of reactionary small-c conservatism here. On one hand there’s a bunch of semi-valid points about the dissolution of community, and the diminished expectations of a new middle-class which could only aspire to a crass commericalism; but there’s also a wistful, almost Edwardian sense of a loss of innocence, a regret that society has changed significantly and permanently for the worse. And it’s not clear what the author wants us to do about it, either: he just wants things to be like they were back then. He wants all his old stuff back! Whether any of this is actually true or fair is kind of irrelevant: it’s how the author feels, and only deserves to be taken seriously as a kind of bar-stool expressionism.

  • Donna
    2019-05-06 07:06

    Read this book reluctantly since I despise the word "Hipster." But in this context it was the true meaning of the hipsters, the cool cats, musicians, the blues, jazz artists! I enjoyed the chapters relating to the jazz greats and anyone who knows who Anita O'Day is, I would presume to admire! The chapters regarding music variations and notes, etc., was way above my music ability. The author came off a bit pompous and his contempt for his fans and audience was palpable. The last diary entries could have been left out entirely since they showed more of his disregard for almost all of the people who admire him! I love to read biographies and memoirs but I could have lived without this waste of my time. Mr. Fagen coined the derogatory term "TV Babies" it left me speechless. Gosh darn, I missed the cutoff date by being born in 1959! Who are you? Do I care? No! An almost TV Baby!I received this free book through Goodreads First Reads.

  • Sicofonia
    2019-05-11 07:19

    Eminent Hipsters can only be defined as a compilation of essays and articles written by Steely Dan's mastermind Donald Fagen. These essays mostly verse on several musicians that shaped Fagen's taste in music. Fagen goes beyond strictly musical matters and throws in his own personal experiences. So the book has also a hint of autobiography, helped by the fact that each essay in this book is sorted chronologically.As a closing chapter there's a piece entitled "With the Dukes of September", a diary Fagen kept for the 2012 summer tour he did with this band. This diary is an assorment of rants, that's how I can describe it, and it digresses from what the other essays talk about.From my own point of view, I think the addition of "With the Dukes of September" takes away the little cohesion the book already had. So we end up with a work that seems a mish-mash of Fagen's up-and-downs during life, which to me could only appeal to Steely Dan's die-hard fans.Incidentally, I happen to be one of those fans. And after listening to "The Nightfly" for the umpteenth time, I could not help but forgive Fagen for all his ranting.I'm giving it 3 stars because I know this is not a book for everyone, and even for fans it may come across as lacking cohesiveness. However, if you are a fan of Steely Dan's acid lyrics, you can be sure you'll enjoy this one.

  • Jeremy
    2019-04-27 07:18

    Have headphones and Spotify nearby for the first half of the book--fantastic to get some narrated note on jazz history through the eyes of a Steely Dan co-founder. This is far from a classic rock memoir: Fagen doesn't even mention the band that made him famous, Steely Dan, until page 87. For awhile I was inclined to give this a very strong review--you're practically bombarded with astute observations and love being led by this guy. Then you get to the 2012 tour journal that anchors this book, and you realize, 'Oh, this whole thing is just a random junkpile of words from Donald Fagen.' I can imagine the publisher's assistant's nose wrinkling at the first read of this collection from her company's client, and shrugging off the notion her Baby Boomer boss had that the book might be an epic. I'm not trying to be harsh--I actually think Fagen would agree with this entire description. Even a C+ book is worth a read by this A+ artist.

  • Todd N
    2019-04-26 07:13

    Impulse buy at Kepler’s because someone left it sitting out on a random table because Steely Dan is awesome of course. I remember being struck by how funny Donald Fagan is on the Making Of Aja documentary, especially the part on Peg. (Search for it on YouTube.)This book is divided into three unequal parts.Part one is a selection of previously-published essays about people who inspired him during his youth in the suburbs of New Jersey. These are the Eminent Hipsters of the title.As expected most are jazz greats, including an interesting essay on Henri Mancini, who I never really thought of as hip probably because there were at least ten of his records in my parents' collection. I agree with Mr. Fagan that Ike Turner’s biggest talent was for organization, though I doubt he really went down to the crossroads.More interesting to me are the essays about radio figures: Jean Shepard and a local New York jazz DJ. Considering his solo album cover is a picture of him as a jazz DJ named the Nightfly at 4:09am, I wasn’t surprised that he spent a lot of nights in his hated suburbs with a radio under his covers. [[[Aside: This is a common thread among the musicians/artists I admire from John Lennon staying up for Radio Luxembourg to Jonathan Richman's “don’t feel so alone with the radio on.”]]]No anxiety of influence with Mr. Fagan. He’s very generous in that regard.Part two is a brief overview of diary of his years at Bard College. It begins with Mr. Fagan mentally freeing himself from Dylan’s tractor beam on the ride up and ends with him being framed for dealing by G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate fame. When California tumbles into the sea, that’ll be the day he goes back to Annandale.Part three probably could have used some more editing, but I’m glad it didn’t get it. We suddenly jump forward about 45 years to a diary from a 2012 tour with Boz Skaggs and Michael McDonald (who sang back up on Peg, by the way).The comedic sensibility is still there, but there are also some pretty plain and well-written struggles with depression and panic attacks too. These are exacerbated by the rigors of the tour, and there are times when Mr. Fagan has trouble getting out of bed. Other times he fantasizes about the crowd burning to death (in Arizona, so it’s okay). It’s sort of an AARP version of The Wall.So while I understand that some may find it hard to sympathize with the poor little rock star out on tour, I liked the gallows humor and the honesty. With no ghostwriters and no eye on “posterity,” I’d rather read stuff like this than Keith Richards “A Life” or yet another McCartney hagiography.But still, if you are going to goof on The Toledo Zoo, which is actually quite nice, don’t forget that you are just one of many performing primates providing entertainment to the nice people of Toledo.

  • Chris
    2019-05-08 04:09

    I liked this book, yet will spend most of this review complaining. This is only fair, given that most of the 2nd half of Eminent Hipsters is complaints. It's a fun book, sometimes, but 2010s-touring Don is a cranky guy. He does not like the new children of technology, the "TV Babies" who hold up iPhones at him, and tell him "F*** OFF" and leave the concert in a huff if he dares to play a Ray Charles cover. (Fair enough.) He hates 21st Century culture, except for a couple of things like Wes Anderson films. (Thumbs up!) He has lots of psychological problems, particularly when away from home for long periods. (Totally relate, Mr. Deacon Blue!) But there are complaints I wish he HADN'T made: 1) He often complains about concert audiences who look soooo old, sooo oooold!... while mentioning more than once that he was 64-years-old as he wrote the tour diary. Hmmm... 2) He admits he can't stand many kinds of people, and he hates touring, and he hates this show's sound, and THAT show's high room temperatures, or THAT show's OLD crowd, or this show's unappreciative TOO YOUNG crowd... etc. I always suspected he hated touring, hated the experience most of the time, in every bio (or auto-bio) thing I read about him over the years. It's this fact (if I might be so bold as to assert it as fact) that has always stopped me from paying to go see him live. Have a strong feeling I'd be watching a bummed-out guy who doesn't enjoy the show he's doing.But hey-- the first half of the book is a bunch of love essays to influences, like Ray Charles, Henry Mancini, The Boswell Sisters, Ike Turner (!) (be assured, Fagen directly and unflinchingly addresses domestic violence/ Tina), Ennio Morricone, and various comedians, authors, and Lord Buckleys. You also get the full story on how G Gordon Liddy was responsible for an international drug arrest record on the (actually-innocent) Bard college-student years of Donald. I think it's important to keep alive names and WORKS of the 20th-century musical pioneers who are often forgotten in favor of poppier, more "Caucasian" and/or commercial versions of the arts. In his efforts to do that, in his reminiscences, Fagan provides a historical service....and the man did Can't Buy A Thrill, for god's sake... read his book!

  • Barry Hammond
    2019-04-26 08:05

    Not that it's any surprise to those who love his songs but Donald Fagen is a very good writer. The book is part memoir (in that his own life creeps into his subject matter) and part dissertation (rant) about subjects he has an affinity for or in some cases despises. The final section is a tour diary from his 2012 outing with The Dukes of September. All of it provides insight into what makes Donald Fagen tick. The piano playing (and vocals) half of Steely Dan is a complex guy. He loves jazz, R & B and blues and his appreciations of The Boswell Sisters, Jazz Clubs, Ray Charles, and Ike Turner are worthwhile pieces of historical ressurection. Equally interesting is his take on the Alfred Korzybski/ John W. Campbell / A.E. Van Vogt /L. Ron Hubbard strain of science fiction. There are also little gems like his being busted, along with several other students on bogus drug charges by G. Gordon Liddy of later Watergate notoriety. Fagen is not without his problems though and he discusses those pretty frankly in the tour diary, where his paranoia, anxiety, and phobias are released by the general madness of a rock and roll tour. The book is disturbing, informative, interesting, always entertaining, and sometimes hilariously funny but never dull and that's what a reader wants. The only criticism I could level is that it's short at 159 pages and leaves this reader wanting much more. I'd gladly fork out for another (longer) volume. - BH.

  • Tosh
    2019-05-19 00:20

    I'm not a fan of Steely Dan, but I'm a fan of Donald Fagen's taste in music, and therefore I had more than a passing interest in this collection of writings by Fagan. First of all, this is not a memoir of sorts, but more of a collection of writings - including some memoir writing, as well as essays, and tour diary. The strongest part of the book is the essays. Here he covers the aesthetics and world of the Bowsell sisters, Henry Mancini, science fiction books, and a really nice piece on Jean Shepherd. Basically you're getting ground zero aesthetics by the man who co-made Steely Dan. The only low point of the book, disappointedly so, is his interview with Morricone, which doesn't really connect the two together, and I think they should have dumped this piece. Overall Fagen is hysterical, witty, knows how to put together a great sentence, and is acknowledgeable about his subject matters - which is generally jazz and old pop records. The diary or journal is OK, but not as interesting as his essays. What would be fantastic, if it ever happens, is a series of hardcore music essays by this gentleman. He also gets an extra star for mentioning Andre Hodeir!

  • Alyssa
    2019-05-09 05:17

    I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I entered to win this book because I knew a friend of mine would be interested in it. I'll let her read the entirety of it first, but I had to take a glance around. Probably the best part of this book is what Fagan refers to as his "grouchy tour journal". If you are a musician and have found yourself playing crappy gigs, this part is a must read. It doesn't matter if you are a founding member of Steely Dan or not, you will relate. Heavily. This is a look into how live music is doing today, my friend. "The crowd, they know not what they do. But when I'm fighting exhaustion, putting everything into the performance and still feeling like I'm getting an indifferent response from the house, it's easy to morph into the Hulk." -pg. 123I almost wish the entire book was journal entries like these. His commentary of the world around him, especially his bashing of the younger generation (which includes myself), the "TV Babies", is one of the funniest and insightful things I've ever read. I have a feeling though that the rest of this book is just as great, and I think my dear friend will enjoy it.

  • Rob the Obscure
    2019-04-23 07:23

    Any self-respecting Dan fan knows that Fagen and Becker met at Bard College while both were majoring in literature. If somehow that escaped a fan, it's quite clear just reading the sophistication evident in their lyrics:"I crawl like viperthrough these suburban streets,make love to these womenlanguid, and bitter sweet."So, for this master of suave jazz/rock to eventually find his way to publishing his writing was a natural progression. If you are a fan of his music, you will find this book indispensable. The writing is high quality, and it gives tasty insight into what influenced him as a musician, the jazz roots that created Steely Dan's unique sound, and it ends with a delectable journal of the tour made recently with "The Dukes Of September", along with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald.If you love the Dan, buy this book.

  • Jay
    2019-05-09 07:06

    I think a better title for this one would be "Erudite Grouser" -- that would really sum this one up. The first half of the book are short articles on topics of interest to the author, and one short story of Fagen's college days. The second half of the book is a reflection on his 2012 tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald where he recounts daily his issues with being on the road and aging, and his mental health. A few funny turns of phrase are great, otherwise I was glad this was a short book. I'd have been more interested in reading about his music than in his thoughts on hotels in Tulsa, but I get the impression that if he knew someone was interested in a topic, he'd write on something else. Fagen eminates a strong disdain of his audience. He's on his way to becoming an insufferable curmudgeon, but he's not there yet, since this still has some enjoyable parts.

  • CD
    2019-05-21 02:12

    Several disconnected essays masquerading as something interesting. Very disappointing. So much that the book barely is worth talking about beyond my rule that 1 star ratings need some justification. The writing (and editing skills) on display would usually make this a 2 star book, at least. Several personal statements or direct comments to the author could be made ranging from snarky to out and out hostile. None are worth the time it would take to be clever enough to overcome the time expended reading this little book. But I will say this; "Donald Fagen, shut and do what you do well, play a tune or two. And quit whining!"

  • Andy
    2019-05-11 00:06

    Downloaded this book from my local library on a whim and enjoyed it quite a bit. Very different from the typical rock biography format, it reads just like a Steely Dan song - cynical, polished and somewhat cryptic. The first half of the book is a series of essays on "eminent hipsters" - those who influenced Fagen's work and career, including Ike Turner, radio host Jean Shepherd (of A Christmas Story Fame) and a series of sci fi writers. The second half is a diary he kept while on tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald. Fagen is not above revealing himself as an entitled crank with a jaded, almost Larrry David-esque outlook on life. Highly recommend this book.

  • Michael Borshuk
    2019-05-10 03:10

    A wonderful series of memoir-essays by one of my all-time cultural heroes, the reluctant frontman for Steely Dan. Fagen's partner, Walter Becker, often jokingly refers to the Don onstage as a "stern critic of the contemporary scene," and you see why here. That is, the best essays are those on musical influences (Henry Mancini, Ike Turner) and the cultural contexts that inspired Fagen's quirky, ironic writing style (as with the wonderful essay on 1950s science fiction). My favorite though is reminiscence about Fagen's Bard College school days (the period that inspired the SD hit, "My Old School") and the setting for his legendary, formative meeting with Becker.

  • Mike Uva
    2019-05-11 00:30

    I love THE DAN, so I had to pick this one up. You can read it in about two hours. Some good music appreciation essays (I was glad to learn about the Boswell Sisters -- check out "Heeby Jeebies" on YouTube), a rundown of artistic influences, and a very recent tour diary (an alternative to Zagat). As you'd expect, Fagen's a bit of a crank, misses cigarettes, feels alienated, etc. All in all an enjoyable read. Did I mention, I love THE DAN?

  • Don Gorman
    2019-05-18 01:28

    (2). I am a huge Fagen/Steely Dan fan and when a friend of mine told me about this book I immediately reserved it at the library. It turns out Fagan was an English major type guy who thought at one point he might be a journalist. This collection of family stories/influences/tour journal is lots of fun. It is wacky and disjointed, but what did you expect? A nice, short diversion from some of my usual fare and a stellar addition to my never ending music history knowledge base.

  • False
    2019-04-24 07:28

    What a book. Indifferent, miserable childhood. Indifference in college. Drugs., then spends the bulk of the book reflecting in a journal while on the road about how much he hates being on the road: the rotten hotels, the rotten food, the rotten sound systems, the audiences: too old, too stupid, too young. I thought, early on, "WHY does he do this for a living if he hates it so much?"

  • M Christopher
    2019-05-01 04:04

    A mild disappointment. Fagen writes well but the book is short (160 pages in a generous font) and over half of it is given over to a tour diary of a recent "Dukes" tour, which easily could have been edited to half its length. Fagen's essays on music and his childhood memories are engaging but there simply isn't enough of this material and very little on the Steely Dan years.

  • Tom
    2019-05-09 07:26

    The second half is a self-indulgent, rarely revelatory, and off-puttingly grouchy tour diary. The first half, essays about the art Fagen grew up with, culminating in a wonderful piece about his college years, is like crack. Had he fleshed that out and extended the narrative just a few years past the point he did, this would've been an entirely different and, I think, much more satisfying book.

  • Jeff
    2019-05-23 04:23

    It's as funny and well-written as any Fagen fan would expect, but it also reads like the relatively random assortment of essays that it is. Just enough to make you wish he'd write a real book -- preferably one focusing more on his views regarding 20th/21st culture than his career.

  • Arielle
    2019-04-24 00:19


  • Larissa Rose
    2019-05-21 04:09

    Donald Fagen discusses his idols, childhood in New Jersey, college years, and time with Steely Dan and beyond. It's just like Donald Fagen's music: witty, sarcastic, erudite, polished.

  • Tom
    2019-05-09 08:03

    Donald Fagen, one half of Steely Dan gives his take on What It Is, with notes on one of his recent tours.