Update: Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene has taken exception to Fagen's criticism of the magazine and his article, pointing to another media source's interpretation of the story. Here is the link to the original interview at the Rolling Stone site.
It has not been a good week for the venerable Rolling Stone magazine. They have been taken to task in the media and the court of public opinion for using the Boston bomber on the cover of their latest issue and, now, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan has ripped into them for what he considers misinterpretations that have portrayed him as harshly judging artists like Bob Dylan and his Dukes of September tour partners Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs.
Saturday night, on Facebook, he posted a letter that called out RS writer Andy Greene for, as he put it, "confusion about some things I said (or didn't say)." Specifically, he claims that a discussion of Bob Dylan's latest work was somehow twisted into him walking out of his live shows and that a new book he has written on his work with the Dukes of September was interpreted as him needing to take "certain pharmaceuticals" to make it through the tour.
The following is the full text of Fagen's statement:
RE: DYLAN, MIKE, BOZ, JEWELS AND BINOCULARS, ETC.
I did an interview with this guy Andy Greene that appeared in the recent issue of Rolling Stone. You know, the one where they thought it was cool to put the mass killer on the cover. There’s been a little confusion about some things I said (or didn’t say) so I’d like to clarify.
The interview was supposed to be about drumming up business for Steely Dan’s summer tour. Walter Becker and I were originally scheduled to do the interview together on the phone, but it got botched up and we ended up talking to Greene separately.
For a while, it was a typical promo-type phone interview of the sort I’ve been doing for forty years. Greene was asking questions that fans might ask and I was answering as best I could.
He asked about set lists. Because most of the audience is there to hear the popular favorites, Walter and I like to make sure there are a fair number of hits in the show – at least the ones that aren’t too cringe-worthy. Then we talked about how some artists seem immune to audiences’ expectations. Greene brought up Bob Dylan. Because I could tell that Greene loved Dylan as much as I did, I let down my guard, and we started in with the classic fan talk, picking apart his recent work and mourning the fact that his erstwhile astonishing voice has now been reduced to a croak.
For Dylan idolaters, Bob analysis is a real party. We try to mimic his many eccentric vocal styles – folky Bob, psychedelic Bob, post-motorcycle accident Bob, Jesus-freak Bob – it’s fun. In college, we played a Dylan lyrics game:
“Name two items that hung from the head of the mule”.
“Oh c’mon, that’s easy. Jewels and binoculars, of course.”
For a moment, forgetting I was talking to a reporter, I started joking about the recent albums that always seem to have several, long blues-based tunes in minor keys. The lyrics are always great, but the tunes have limited musical interest, perhaps because Dylan needs to accommodate his damaged voice. Because Bob has meant so much to us for so long, because he’s astonished us for so long, maybe we feel we can kid him as if he were family.
Big mistake, as you will soon see.
And it got worse. Greene had read the galleys of a book I wrote, Eminent Hipsters, a collection of pieces I’ve written over the years that’s coming out in October. The most recent is a journal I kept during last summer’s Dukes of September tour. The Dukes are Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs and myself singing some of the R&B and soul tunes we grew up with, plus some of our individual radio hits.
The piece is an entirely subjective, jokey view of what it’s like to be on tour. I talk about the stress of doing one-nighters in your sixties, living on buses and in hotel rooms, moving around the country in a state of perpetual exhaustion. I get upset about the lukewarm audience response for the great old tunes we love and fantasize taking out my rage on the crowd. It’s that sort of thing. I also confess my worries about taking prescribed pain-killers for the various aches and pains of aging. There’s almost no personal information about my friends Mike or Boz in the piece.
Greene said he enjoyed the piece and we talked about it for a bit. Mike and Boz never even came up.
Nevertheless, the next day, on a bunch of tabloid sites, I see this:
Donald Fagen blasts boring Dylan, McDonald & Scaggs
Cranky Steely Dan star Donald Fagen has blasted Bob Dylan and his Dukes of September tourmates Michael Mcdonald and Boz Scaggs in a new Rolling Stone magazine article.The 65-year-old rocker reveals he has walked out of several Dylan shows because he finds the folk-rock icon "tedious" and admits he took "certain pharmaceuticals" to help him relieve the boredom of touring with Scaggs and McDonald.
Keep your powder dry, y’all.
July 20 ‘13