Katy Lied

Alternative view of a city scene in Firastefani on the island of Santorini, Greece

In case you did not hear the news, this week marks the passing of Walter Becker. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Becker was one of the co-founders of the sometimes popular but almost always respected rock group Steely Dan. An interesting thing about Steely Dan, actually Becker and Fagen really, is that they are possibly the closest thing found in the post 60’s/Gen X time frame that matches the beat generation. Their lyrics were often obscure, sometimes hard to decipher, but rife with situation and presence. The characters were larger than life, if not a bit tragic. Not tragic in the classical sense of the word, more like people on the edge really. The stories were filled with characters who were losers, social misfits, lovers trapped in oddball relationships, and often dealing with a dark reality. Steely Dan is almost a study in edge cases or people lost in their own obsessions. The over thinkers of the world? Yeah, you can find them trapped in many a Steely Dan song.

Becker and Fagen were not your typical rock stars either. They were sort of the college educated “it wants to be jazz” type of songwriters who would more easily be classified as hipsters today, rather than your typical late 60’s rockers like, for example, Keith Richards or Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. Becker and Fagen were college educated, a fact they could not escape, and the type who could more easily pass as dorks or geeks, rather than the rebellious rocker types. They were unconventional in the least but in a way this helped solidify their music. In an odd way, being educated, knowing the jazz age, and being one of the original hipster duos gave them an oddball sort of “street cred.” They had to be good, right? Anybody else in their shoes would wind up coming off like a dork, but they saw your “dork” and raised you a “hip” on the flop. They were sort of like what you might get if you were to cross somebody like a Bill Gates with, say, a Nat King Cole. A little bit of jazz but still somehow not able to look all that good in a suit jacket no matter how much you tip the tailor.

Now, you might be wondering what all of this, what any of this really has to do with photography. Another interesting thing about Steely Dan is that they spent a lot of time at Bard College and wandering the streets of places like Brooklyn. They highlighted the town I was raised in, Scarsdale, in one of their songs (Hey Nineteen mentions “[moving] down to Scarsdale” along with the popular reference to “Cuervo Gold.”) They were, quite literally, from my old stomping grounds. Maybe because of this I have always felt a weird kinship with Becker and Fagen. There’s just something about them, I didn’t just listen to their music, no, in some ways, I wanted to be like them. They are sort of the off-the-cuff jazz influenced, turtleneck wearing, almost dorky artist types I could picture myself being if, you know, I could turn myself into an artist type. I guess it’s safe to say I aspire to be like that somebody. Yes, I know it’s kind of sad now that this someday has sort of passed us by with Becker’s passing, but the acute influence is still there and stronger than ever. If I could turn myself into the photographic equivalent of Steely Dan, why,  I think it’s safe to say I’d do that in a heartbeat.

I know there have been photo projects on Tom Waits. He’s deserving of such respect as he too is a type of larger than life character, invoking the surreal and oddball characters that we’ve grown to love from his songs over the years. He’s more of the all night diner type but still the notion that a musician, one single musician, can inspire an entire body of work for a photographer is not really a novel idea. It does make me wonder, however, what a photographic body of Steely Dan work might look like. And that, that sense of wonder, brings me to crafting images in my head. I mean, can you just imagine what Peg might look like as a single frame of film? What about Kid Charlemagne? Or the protagonist from Rikki Don’t Loose That Number? My mind boggles over this but, in some ways, I also don’t want to touch it for it’s so golden I wouldn’t know where to begin. It makes me think, heck, why isn’t this a movement already and where the heck is Gregory Crewdson or David Lynch? Do I really need to do this all by my lonesome? (Hmmm. I wonder if Kickstarter would fund the likes of this project? At least half of me doesn’t even want to ask that question. This one cuts close and runs a bit deep but there it is.)

Oh, and in case it’s not clear from my ramblings, it really goes without saying but, rest in peace, Mr. Becker. You, sir, will be missed.

Until next time…

PS In keeping with the oddball juxtaposition of the night, this shot was taken in the town of Firostefani on the island of Santorini where, presumably, there was not much Cuervo Gold to be drunk but maybe somebody named Katy did once lose a number or two. Canon 5DS walkabout lens you fill in the suburban angst.

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