10 Weird And Wonderful Steely Dan Covers



steelydan-bannerI love covers, and so far I have listed my take on the best and/or worst covers by The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, The Who, and The Kinks. But I’m starting to have a problem separating the best from the worst, because really bad covers are sometimes a lot of fun to listen to.

So for Steely Dan I’m going to try something a little different. There are two or three songs on this list which I’m not sure are great or awful, but I’ve included them anyway just for fun. We all need to have more fun these days.

10. Waylon Jennings – Do It Again

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The first verse seems to describe a wild west frontier shootout, replete with stolen water, border runs and hangmen. I always assumed it was allegory, but ol’ Hoss apparently took it literally and successfully claimed it as country, and I guess western too.

 

9. Ben Folds Five – Barrytown

There were several Steely Dan covers commissioned for the 2000 film Me, Myself and Irene, and they were by far the best part of the movie. Some were a little pedestrian, but I thought Ben Folds really nailed this one.

 

8. The Minutemen – Doctor Wu

File this one under weird. The Minutemen proved that you can play just about any kind of song in punk style, and I just love the subversiveness of them covering Steely Dan in 1984, even though it is kind of way out there.

 

7. Joe Jackson – King Of The World

Steely Dan was and is such an original act, and there aren’t many obvious choices of artists who are well-suited to cover their material. But Joe Jackson is one of them. He is one of an elite group of Rock musicians who bring a jazz sensibility to the table.

 

6. Sara Isaksson & Rebecka Tornqvist – Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)

What do streetwise New York hipsters have in common with a Swedish folk duo? They both love a beautiful melody, which I guess is a redundancy like saying people love sunshine and kittens.

 

5. Pat Travers – Black Friday

Great guitar players are faced with a real problem when covering Steely Dan. Can they possibly match the bespoke Steely Dan guitar solos, constructed note-by-note in the studio by session geniuses? Travers gives it everything he’s got.

 

4. Wilco – Any Major Dude Will Tell You

Two things Wilco shares with Steely Dan: complex, creative song structures, and great guitar solos. Jeff Tweedy wasn’t a big Steely Dan fan but he respects all the Rock greats, and the band knocked out this great version for the Me, Myself and Irene soundtrack.

 

3. Herbie Hancock – Your Gold Teeth II

I had to include at least one jazz selection on the list, since there are way more jazz covers of Steely Dan than there are of the Rock variety. The original was pretty jazzy itself, but Herbie really makes the steak sizzle.

 

2. Brian Setzer Orchestra – Bodhisattva

Probably the only Steely Dan song he is qualified to play, Brian Setzer doesn’t stray too far from the original, which was a smart move. I love the little horn accents he added, I’m surprised Becker and Fagen didn’t think of it first.

 

1. Rickie Lee Jones – Show Biz Kids

In my book, this is the best Steely Dan cover by a big margin. It is quieter than the original but more ominous and intense, and let’s face it, the song’s message may be more and more relevant as time goes on. The song’s big payoff line was sung only once on the original, but Rickie Lee sings it three times and it sure packs a punch.

 

Photo credit: By Stephan Neuner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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