Don’t Take Me Alive: Walter Becker (1950-2017)

Walter Becker (1950-2017) as he will always look in my mind.

The great, sardonic, nimble-fingered, sarcastic, funny, clever, talented, weird and wise Walter Becker of Steely Dan has died, according to his official website.

Steely Dan were an iconic part of my life-long musical adventures, and I’ve probably listened to Walter play bass or guitar more than I’ve heard just about anybody else bend strings, ever.  A devastating loss to the world of music, and to my own musical world. I’m listening to what I consider to be the Dan’s magnum opus, Aja, as I type. It is timeless and sublime — but everything these guys ever put to vinyl or plastic is worthwhile and fine, so play ’em if you got ’em, and get ’em if you don’t.

Especially if you’re one of those types who use “Steely Dan” as shorthand for the types of music that the post-punk hipoisie should eschew. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were cooler before lunchtime every day than you will ever be, and they were doing it long before you even cared about being cool. And they made music that will be listened to decades, if not centuries from now. And I loved it all very much.

Back in the late ’90s, a Dan-loving friend (also RIP, alas) and I developed an interactive website called “WWDWD: What Would Don and Walt Do?” While it is no longer online, except as a broken version on the Wayback Machine, the site’s core idea riffed on the fact that the wisdom of Steely Dan was so sublime that one could get all of life’s answers from it. WWDWD devotees could visit the site, submit an inquiry, and receive a series of answers culled from Becker and Fagen’s lyrics, Magic Eight Ball, or Oblique Strategies, style. As noted, the website itself is broken and lost, but I do have the original text behind it, and I share it here with you as the best possible eulogy I can leave for a dude who made me look at music and life differently, and better, than I would have without him.

REELIN’ IN THE WORLD . . .ONE BLACK COW AT A TIME!

DON AND WALT KNOW WHAT TO DO!!

WWDWD: THE STEELY DAN WAY TO WISDOM!!!

At a time when values education is a burning topic in school debate — even as math, science, English and (most especially) music are neglected, and in an era when corruption and lies are so widespread that the evening news itself has become mundane in its tawdriness, and as our young people are tempted daily by the shocking moral relativism and poor quality control of the entertainment industry . . . where can we all turn for answers?

In these increasingly complicated times, the answer can become increasingly simple for you . . . if you just remember five small letters, and the important message behind them: WWDWD!

These letters can have an immediate impact on those who ask the question behind them: “What Would Don and Walt Do?”

DON AND WALT WILL STEER YOU RIGHT!!!

A lifestyle based on the answers gleaned from that one small question is a lifestyle well and truly enhanced. And if everyone lived that WWDWD lifestyle, then the core values underpinning the moral fabric of our society –integrity, generosity, fairness, truth, respect– would be strengthened and reinforced.

WWDWD boils life’s many complicated situations down to their clearest essence by contemplating what Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker would do if they found themselves in our own shoes, right here, right now.

And for over thirty years, Don and Walt have provided generous guidance and wise counsel, through their wonderful songs, albums and tours with Steely Dan. The Bards of Bard College have tapped that sweet, soulful and uplifting spot up on the hill where Bodhisatva meets the Brill Building, where Eastern mysticism lives here at the Western World, where “FM” gets AM airplay and where everyone plays a good clean game. You need a name for the winners in the world? How about trying “Don and Walt.”

A reflective, respectful WWDWD lifestyle stands in direct contrast to the “just do it” mentality of today’s advertisers, who encourage young people to embrace the mediocre and tear down boundaries between the good and the bad, justifying lowest-common-denominator passions and cheap-and-easy pleasures with situational ethics framed as freedom of choice.

Not so for those who live their lives in accordance with WWDWD! Because Don and Walt Have Always Been Smart and Cool!

By asking “What Would Don and Walt Do?” we invite ourselves to move into a new realm of understanding, one where the material world and its component elements are ordered, rational, professional, and of sparkling high quality, at all times. And by sharing the WWDWD message with others, we do our part to move the world ever closer to a thrilling and unprecedented revolution of taste, style, grace and dignity.

Revolution is ultimately all about emotional and intellectual change. True revolution always begins with a demand for a shift in belief systems, and with challenges to the pre-chewed ideas of the prevailing culture. Revolutions gain critical mass when the few early believers begin sharing their ideas with others. The movement grows and lives are touched. This is how the world changes. And this is our mission here at WWDWD World Headquarters.

We’re glad you’ve found us. We hope you’ll help us spread the good words and the wise deeds, just by asking yourself one simple question when confronted with all of life’s daily decisions . . . WHAT WOULD DON AND WALT DO?

Need words of wisdom right now from Don and Walt?

Then find a safe place, meditate on your problem, ask “What Would Don and Walt Do?” and click here for help . . .

[And here are the lists of Steely Dan lyrical quotes that would be returned to guide you, one at a time, queued up randomly, so you could just keep hitting refresh for more wisdom as long as you wanted . . .]

  • Act natural like you don’t care.
  • All I ask of you is make my wildest dreams come true.
  • Be glad if you can use what you borrow.
  • Be part of the brotherhood.
  • Be very very quiet.
  • Break away, just when it seems so clear that it’s over now.
  • Bring back the Boston Rag. Tell all your buddies that it ain’t no drag.
  • Bring your horn along and you can add to the pure confection, and if you can’t fly you’ll have to move in with the rhythm section.
  • Call in my reservation, so long, hey thanks my friend.
  • Call your doctor, call your shrink, western science she strictly rinkydink.
  • Careful what you carry ’cause the man is wise: you are still an outlaw in their eyes.
  • Check out the work itself: A mix of elegance and function.
  • Clean this mess up else we’ll all end up in jail.
  • Climb up the glacier, across bridges of light.
  • Clock everything you see.
  • Close your eyes and you’ll be there, it’s everything they say.
  • Come on, come on, soon it will be too late, bobbing for apples can wait.
  • Come on, come on, soon you will be eighteen, I think you know what I mean.
  • Come to old blue eyes, tell me: who do you love?
  • Dance on the bones till the girls say when.
  • Do you have a dark spot on your past? Leave it to my man he’ll fix it fast.
  • Doesn’t matter where you been or what you’ve done.
  • Don’t bother to understand.
  • Don’t lose that number, it’s the only one you own.
  • Don’t lose that number, you don’t wanna call nobody else.
  • Don’t question the little man.
  • Don’t stop, he’ll be callin’ out your name.
  • Don’t take me alive.
  • Don’t tell it to a poor man.
  • Don’t tell your mama, your daddy or mama, they’ll never know where you been.
  • Don’t think that I’m out of line for speaking out for what is mine.
  • Don’t you scream or make a shout. It’s nothing you can do about. It was there where you came out.
  • Dream deep my three times perfect ultrateen.
  • Drink your big black cow and get out of here.
  • Drive me to Harlem or somewhere the same.
  • Drive west on Sunset to the sea, turn that jungle music down, just until we’re out of town.
  • Drop me off in groovetime.
  • Feed her some hungry reggae, she’ll love you twice.
  • Find yourself somebody who can do the job for free.
  • Flash ahead to a yummy playback, just you and me in a room.
  • For one more time, let your madness run with mine.
  • Freddy, can we cut to the chase?
  • Get along.
  • Get rid off him.
  • Get tight every night, pass out on the barroom floor.
  • Get with it we’ll shake his hand.
  • Give her some funked up music, she treats you nice.
  • Give your room-mate Yvonne a ring.
  • Go buy a program and/or a hat, you don’t pass up a deal like that.
  • Go play with someone else.
  • Go bang-zoom to the moon on things unknown.
  • Grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last.
  • Grab Big Dog a blanket, angel of my heart.
  • Have you ever seen a squonk’s tears? Well, look at mine.
  • How about a kiss for your cousin Dupree?
  • I’ll teach you everything I know if you teach me how to do that dance.
  • Hush brother, we cross the square.
  • I can tell you all I know, the where to go, the what to do.
  • I’d like to see you do just fine.
  • If you listen you can hear it.
  • If you’re feeling lucky, you best not refuse.
  • I’ll scratch your back, you can scratch mine.
  • Imagine your face, there is his place, standing inside his brown shoes.
  • It’s last call, to do your shopping at the last mall.
  • Keep your eyes on the sky.
  • Kick off your high heel sneakers, it’s party time.
  • Kiss the check out girls goodbye.
  • Knock twice, rap with your cane.
  • Lay down the law and break it.
  • Lay down your Jackson and you will see the sweetness you’ve been cryin’ for.
  • Leave me or I’ll be just like the others you will meet.
  • Let’s admit the bastards beat us.
  • Let’s keep it light . . . we’ll do a fright night with blood and everything.
  • Let’s plan a weekend alone together.
  • Let’s say we spike it with Deludin, or else maybe tonight a hand of solitaire?
  • Light the candle, put the lock upon the door.
  • Listen to what I say.
  • Look at all the white men on the street.
  • Look at this chain of sorrows, stretching all the way from here and now to hell and gone.
  • Look in my eyes, can’t you see the core is frozen?
  • Love your mama, love your brother, love ’em till they run for cover.
  • My poison’s named, you know my brand, so please make mine a double, Sam.
  • Now come my friend I’ll take your hand and lead you home.
  • Now you gotta tell me everything you did, baby.
  • Nuke the itty bitty ones right where they lay.
  • Pack some things and head up into the light.
  • Pick up what’s left by daylight.
  • Please take me along when you slide on down.
  • Pull up the weeds before they’re too damn big.
  • Put a dollar in the kitty.
  • Rave on my sleek and soulful cyberqueen.
  • Ride the ramp to the freeway beneath the blood orange sky.
  • Roll out the bones and raise up your pitcher, raise up your glass to Good King John.
  • Roll your cart back up the aisle.
  • Scrape the wallboards the whole damn batch, catch the maggoty eggs before they hatch.
  • See the glory of the royal scam.
  • Send it off in a letter to yourself.
  • Shake the rubbish out on the patio floor.
  • Shine up the battle apple, we’ll shake ’em all down tonight.
  • Show me how it’s done.
  • Show me my rival.
  • Show me where you are.
  • Show the world our mighty hidey-ho face.
  • Slang me!
  • Sleep on the beach and make it.
  • So let’s switch off all the lights and light up all the Luckies, crankin’ up the afterglow.
  • Soak the timber with special spray.
  • Sooth me with the slang of ages.
  • Step on in and let me shake your hand.
  • Stir it up nice I’ll eat it right here.
  • Sue me if I play too long.
  • Take a good look it’s easy to see: what a shame about me.
  • Take it in your hand, all the sirens and the band get to bendin’ my ear.
  • Take the firemop, sweep it kissing clean.
  • Take your guns off if you’re willin’ and you know we’re on your side.
  • Talk about your major pain and suffering.
  • Tell me I’m the only one.
  • Tell me where are you driving, midnight cruiser?
  • There’s no need to hide, taking things the easy way.
  • Throw a kiss and say goodbye.
  • Throw back the little ones and pan-fry the big ones.
  • Throw down the jam till the girls say when.
  • Throw down your disguise. We’ll see behind those bright eyes, by and by.
  • Throw out the hardware, let’s do it right.
  • Throw out your gold teeth and see how they roll.
  • Try again tomorrow.
  • Turn slowly and comb your hair, don’t trouble the midnight air.
  • Turn the light off, keep your shirt on, cry a jag on me.
  • Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening.
  • Two against nature, stand alone.
  • Unhand that gun, begone, there’s no one to fire upon.
  • Use tact, poise and reason and gently squeeze them.
  • Use your knack darlin’. Take one step back darlin’.
  • Walk around collecting Turkish union dues.
  • We could rent a paranymphic glider.
  • We could sail ’til the bending end.
  • We could stay inside and play games.
  • We will spend a dizzy weekend smacked into a trance.
  • When the demon is at your door, in the morning it won’t be there no more.
  • Whip the bastards while they still green.
  • Why don’t we grab a cab to my hotel and make believe we’re back at our old school?
  • With the long weekend that’s comin’ up fast, let’s get busy, there’s just too much to do.
  • Won’t you sign in stranger?
  • Won’t you smile for the camera? I know I’ll love you better.
  • Won’t you tell her I love her so?
  • Won’t you turn that bebop down, I can’t hear my heart beat.
  • Worry the bottle Mamma, it’s grapefruit wine.
  • Would you take me by the hand?
  • Wrap your mind around this sound and let the goodness ripple down.
  • You and I will spend this day driving in my car through the ruins of Santa Fe.
  • You better be ready for love on this glory day.
  • You better run run run.
  • You better step back, son, give the man some whackin’ space.
  • You can choose the music, I’ll set up my gear; later on we’ll chill and watch the fireworks from here.
  • You can try to run but you can’t hide from what’s inside of you.
  • You don’t have to dance for me, I’ve seen your dance before.
  • You go back, Jack, do it again.
  • You got to come on man and take a piece of Mister Parker’s band.
  • You maybe got lucky for a few good years, but there’s no way back from there to here.
  • You must put them on the table.
  • You should know how all the pros play the game: You change your name.
  • You throw out your gold teeth. Do you see how they roll?
  • You turn that heartbeat over again.
  • You will be what you are just the same.
  • You zombie, be born again, my friend.
  • You’ll have to do it yourself when the going gets tough.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Take Me Alive: Walter Becker (1950-2017)

  1. I didn’t realize how much of life I’ve missed because I haven’t listened (enough) to Steely Dan. I must admit that I don’t think there would be a “What would Jimmy and Robert do?” site. 🙂

    Bob

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