Steelin' In the Dan

By Joe McAlhany and Scott Beckett

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Joe McAlhany and Scott Beckett explore the enduring allure of Steely Dan, a band whose music has been described as "...among the most genuinely subversive ouevres in late 20th-century pop." Each week we advance chronologically through the band's discography and discuss one song by the Dan, and two related creative works as chosen by the hosts.

Episode Date
Episode 11: Can't Wrap an Album
We bring in some friends to take a look back at Steely Dan's debut album, Can't Buy a Thrill. We've been sitting on this episode way too long because I've been too lazy to do links and artwork, so I'm posting it more or less as is. Thanks for your patience, and apologies to our delightfull guests Lauren and Josh. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: William Gibson review of Two Against Nature ( Lauren's Twitter ( Josh's Twitter (
Aug 14, 2020
Episode 10: Love ‘Em Till They Run for Cover
Get ready for one digression after another (and a little Reddit theater) as Scott and Joe piece together their thoughts on Can’t Buy a Thrill’s final track “Turn That Heartbeat Over Again.” The song’s narrative inspires Scott’s choice, the “try-hard” meth noir The Salton Sea (2002), starring Val Kilmer and a cranked-up Vincent D’Onofrio. Joe is similarly criminal minded, pulling focus to the Safdie brothers’ unrelenting Good Time (2017). Also discussed: heat checks; the destructive power of Disney; Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems; an underrated Paul Schrader gem; the healing power of the drums… I told you it was a digressive one. Just remember: Steely Dan is NOT prog rock. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: William Gibson review of Two Against Nature ( S. Victor Aaron's take on "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" (Something Else!) ( The Salton Sea trailer ( Roger Ebert on The Salton Sea ( Good Time trailer ( Film Comment Podcast with the filmmakers and Robert Pattinson (  Donate to the Byrd Theatre ( Matt Zoller Seitz on Disney (Vulture) (
Mar 03, 2020
Episode 9: Dinner at Zabriskie Point
On a particularly coastal episode, Joe and Scott survey the "sun-struck L.A. optimism of 'Change of the Guard'" and end up agreeing with (later) Donald Fagen that it "approaches a level of filler," though Skunk delivers another killer guitar solo. The boys swing east to grab a bite at Bob Giraldi's stylish and entertaining Dinner Rush (2000) before going back to Cali for a tour of the counterculture and the desert in Michaelangelo Antonioni's divisive Zabriskie Point (1970). Scott hits the flyover states to recommend rock out of Austin and jazz out of Chicago; while Joe goes global with a film out of Brazil, as well as a post-punk record and a modern Gothic horror novel out of England. We're willing to die too, but not of boredom. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: Steely Dan Setlist at Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA September 20, 2013 ( KUTX - Austin, TX ( WDCB - Chicago, IL ( Bacurau - 2019 ( The Dentists - Some People Are On The Pitch They Think It's All Over It Is Now (Full Album, 1985) ( The Fifth Child - Doris Lessing (
Jan 20, 2020
Episode 8: The Tao of a Brooklyn Landlord
Joe and Scott keep it (relatively) tight this week as they tackle the back-half filler track "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)", a 68 out of 120 on Dakota's smooth rockin' scale. Then they study the philosophy of cool presented in The Tao of Steve (2000), a leftover of the 90s Gen X indie boom starring Donal Logue as a fat guy who (you'll never believe this) fucks. Your white hosts then squirm their way through a discussion of race and class provoked by Hal Ashby's forgotten gentrification dramedy The Landlord (1970). This episode answers the immortal question "How do we live?" so maybe you should tune in. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: The Tao of Steve trailer - YouTube ( "Secrets of the Seducer" - Los Angeles Times ( The Landlord trailer - YouTube ( John Allison's Twitter (
Dec 30, 2019
Episode 7: Kings On Fire, Queen On the Bound
In this piano-driven installment, Joe and Scott dig into the “Do It Again” B-side “Fire In the Hole”, a sleeper hit hiding on Can’t Buy a Thrill’s back half. The boys follow the piano line into the opening track of Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn…, “On the Bound” from 1999, and a discussion of “a jazz singer for the end of the millenium”, late ‘90s production tropes, and Paul Thomas Anderson. Then it’s off to the Continent for a tour of Arnaud Desplechin’s 2004 French drama Kings and Queen, with tonal dynamics to rival the Dan. Dakota keeps the boys in line, Scott reviews a Flying Lotus show, and Joe delivers a heart-felt send-off to the musician, singer, poet, and cartoonist David Berman. Email us! () Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links:  Fire In the Hole - YouTube ( Donald Fagen Interview - Rolling Stone ( On the Bound - YouTube ( Paper Bag Music Video - YouTube ( Fiona Apple pretending to be Magnolia ( Kings and Queen (2004) Trailer - YouTube ( Flying Lotus - YouTube ( The Boys - Official Trailer ( Silver Jews - American Water - YouTube ( David Berman - The Charm of 5:30 (
Dec 16, 2019
Episode 6: Like a Reelin’ Stone
Scott and Joe flip over to side two of Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill and revisit the classic rock staple “Reelin’ In the Years.” Their verdict: it never gets old. Next your hosts cower before the intimidating authenticity of Bob Dylan as they discuss his ramshackle masterpiece “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965). Then the boys head back to school to unpack their conflicted feelings on an old favorite, Roger Avary’s The Rules of Attraction (2002). Scott confesses that he’s a Dawson’s Creek fan, and Joe casts Eric Stoltz as Donald Fagen in the Steely Dan biopic in his head. How’s my little girl? Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: Elliot Randall in Guitar World ( Ben Beaumont-Thomas on Steely Dan (The Guardian) ( Rolling Stone on “Like a Rolling Stone” ( Sleepwalkers on Bandcamp (
Dec 09, 2019
Episode 5: Episode 5: Only a Fool Would Throw That Brick Through the Window
Scott and Joe wrap up side one of Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill with their analysis of the seemingly cynical “Only a Fool Would Say That.” They find parallel visions of the world in the Mothers of Invention’s protest blues “Trouble Every Day” (1966) and Rian Johnson’s snazzy high school neo-noir Brick (2005). The hosts venture out of their depth to talk Frank Zappa, LBJ, the Watts riots, silent cinema, and Mexican stews. Utopian dreams are smashed, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is pounded to pulp. Young ones listening to this podcast: you are the resistance. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: “The Incredible History of the Mothers” (Hit Parader) ( AP archival footage of the Watts Riots ( Zappa stands up for his Cadillac ( Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants ( “Ricky Jay’s Magical Secrets” (New Yorker profile) (
Oct 24, 2019
Episode 4: Duets, Anti-Buddies, and Midnite Cruisers
It’s a jumbo-sized episode this week as Scott and Joe crack into one of Can’t Buy a Thrill’s sleeper tracks, the bittersweet “Midnite Cruiser.” They then try to establish a cult for the baffling competitive karaoke dud Duets (2000), starring Gwenyth Paltrow, Huey Lewis, Andre Braugher, and Paul Giamatti (with hair and an earring!). Things veer into darker territory as the hosts grapple with Mikey and Nicky, Elaine May’s unflinching look at two ungentlemanly losers. Your humble episode description writer thinks this may be the best episode yet. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: A.O. Scott’s review of Duets ( Heaven Can Wait: The Hidden Genius of Elaine May (The Ringer) ( The Mysterious Elaine May: Hiding in Plain Sight (Jonathan Rosenbaum) ( Piranha Rama's Bandcamp (
Oct 05, 2019
Episode 3: “Kings” of New York, Princes of Thieves
This week, Scott and Joe scrape the flesh off of Dakota’s favorite Steely Dan song (so far), the mock-anthemic “Kings.” Then they take aim at Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and fall under the spell of Abel Ferrara’s dreamy gangster story King of New York (1990). Historical myths (and Kevin Costner’s ego) are deflated, and Christopher Walken is recognized as true royalty. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: The Steely Dan Reader (w/ Metal Leg archive!) ( Ebert on Robin Hood ( "This Is The Most Filmed In Alley In NYC" ( Abel Ferrara on Conan (
Sep 21, 2019
Episode 2: Closer to That Most Important Thing: “Dirty Work”
Scott and Joe sift through their mixed feelings about Steely Dan’s soft rock classic “Dirty Work” and have a tough conversation with sad sack guest vocalist David Palmer. Then they zoom in on the messy, tangled love affairs depicted in Mike Nichols’ kinda naughty "Closer" ( (2004) and Andrzej Zulawski’s totally bonkers "That Most Important Thing: Love" ( (1975). In the process, your hosts critique Donald Fagen’s looks, praise Julia Roberts’ cargo pants, and yearn to see the mythical Nymphocula. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: * The Producers podcast ( (hosted by our pal Jonathan Mostowy) * Roderick on the Line ( (The Long Winters' guy's podcast) * SORTEDfood (
Sep 07, 2019
Episode 1: Inside the Ballad of “Do It Again”
Scott and Joe commence their journey through the Steely Dan discography with track one, side one from Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972), the “noodly” “Do It Again.” They then go deep on the parallels between Steely Dan and the Coen brothers, specifically focusing on Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018). If you want to hear the boys get to philosophizin’ on fatalism, fuckups, and electric sitars, you’re in the right place. Plus: Scott does a pretty great off-the-cuff Stephen Root impersonation. Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: * "Do It Again" on Midnight Special ( * "Inside Llewyn Davis: The Sound of Music" by Kent Jones ( * "Second String: Inside Llewyn Davis" by Greil Marcus (
Aug 24, 2019
Episode 0: Steely Dan 101
Before tackling the Steely Dan discography song by song, Scott and Joe initiate newcomers and skeptics into the cult of the Dan with their personal playlists of the band’s essential cuts. They discuss their own origins as Dan fans, provide a brief (and half-researched) historical sketch of the band, and muse on the dark heart at the center of the smooth grooves. Also: Scott unveils a new t-shirt, Joe introduces his theory of the shadow path, and the fellas forget the title of “Glamour Profession.” Email us! ( Follow us on Twitter @steelininthedan ( Links: "Leave Alexa Alone" by Paul Grimstad ( (the essay that started it all) "Any 'Mount of World..." ( by William Gibson Steely Dan Confessions (from Everything Must Go) ( Tune In Tomorrow trailer ( Joe's playlist - Bitter Boomer Addict Jazz ( Scott's playlist - My Own Private Danaho (
Aug 08, 2019