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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I want more!
As a huge, obsessive Steely Dan fan, I was so excited to find out Donald Fagan had put out a book of his thoughts in regard to culture. He's neurotic, intellectual, witty and very opinionated. The essays on his musical taste, and influences were a bit over my head because I have no references in regards to jazz. However, I adored his journal from his last tour with the...
Published 8 months ago by Stanley Hoffman

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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half of a great book
I bought both the audio book and the hardcover book. I listened to the entire audio book, but have not yet started reading the hardcover, which I expect will be the same content. I want to let it settle a bit before re-exploring the story.

I loved the first half of the book. It describes the musical and other cultural influences on Donald's life. It starts with...
Published 8 months ago by S. D. Johnson


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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I want more!, November 9, 2013
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Hardcover)
As a huge, obsessive Steely Dan fan, I was so excited to find out Donald Fagan had put out a book of his thoughts in regard to culture. He's neurotic, intellectual, witty and very opinionated. The essays on his musical taste, and influences were a bit over my head because I have no references in regards to jazz. However, I adored his journal from his last tour with the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue. It was so insightful and interesting to hear about his disgust and irritation being on the road, going from gross hotel to grosser hotel, swimming in dirty pools with screaming children, eating bad food, his bouts with insomnia, and his misanthropic attitude towards human beings. His nostalgia for the good old days was moving. If you're looking for a book about Steely Dan's music than this isn't for you. If you're curious about what goes on in a musical genius's mind, than purchase it.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half of a great book, November 7, 2013
By 
S. D. Johnson (La Sierra, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Audio CD)
I bought both the audio book and the hardcover book. I listened to the entire audio book, but have not yet started reading the hardcover, which I expect will be the same content. I want to let it settle a bit before re-exploring the story.

I loved the first half of the book. It describes the musical and other cultural influences on Donald's life. It starts with a detailed accounting of the story of the Boswell Sisters, who predated the similar sound of the Andrews Sisters in the 1930s. The book slowly traverses through his life until it reaches what would have been his senior year at Bard College, when he and Walter were arrested on trumped up drug charges by G. Gordon Liddy before he became known as a felon for Nixon.

At this point the story abruptly skips over decades to morph into the tour diary of the Dukes of September with Michael MacDonald and Boz Scaggs. At first it was rather interesting, but it quickly bogged down. He kind of obsesses about different things and seems somewhat neurotic in his fear of dealing with fans or swimming in the hotel pool.

While I appreciate the baring of the soul, it seemed kind of sad. I would have much preferred a continuation of the story in the same vein (somewhat detached) and hear about the forming of Steely Dan, his experiences in writing and working with Walter Becker, etc. It feels very much like Donald got about half-way through his book before losing motivation and then, to finish it up, they just slapped in the tour diary to fill out the minimum required pages.

I love all the music of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. I'd love to hear more of their story. Hopefully Walter will continue where Donald left off or maybe Donald will write another book with the second half of the story.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but brief glimpse at the cofounder of Steely Dan, November 22, 2013
By 
Leslie (Midwestern USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Audio CD)
Fagan begins with a little background on his early years growing up in a New Jersey suburb in the 1960s and talks about the jazz singers and songwriters that were an influence on him. He touches on his high school and college years and briefly mentions meeting Walter Becker, his future partner in Steely Dan, while attending Bard College. In the last part of the book he chronicles his recent cross-country tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald as the Dukes of September, an R&B band.

As a long-time Steely Dan fan I enjoyed learning more about one of my favorite singer/songwriters. But in a way, the book was too short. Perhaps that was deliberate because it only touched on a lot areas of his life and in most instances didn’t go into a lot of detail. While mostly interesting, the material is a little scattered and rambles at times.

I particularly enjoyed the essays about his love of science fiction. (Yes, I did mention he got a bit random at times.) A loner in high school, he would escape into books, specifically science fiction. Many of the authors and novels he mentioned were refuges of my own youth and I enjoyed and easily related to this.

I already knew Fagan didn’t like to go on tour, but the second half of the book, a diary he wrote while on the road with the Dukes, really brings that home. It’s pretty obvious he loathes touring: The hotels, even the swimming pools at the hotels (hmmm), the food, the room service, the venues, even some of the fans. It annoyed him that so many fans wanted to hear only his old hits. This part of the book did get a bit cranky but was written in a humorous, sarcastic manner which gave me a few laughs. He was told by his people that if he wanted first class hotels and happy fans he needed to tour as Steely Dan, not the Dukes as the Dukes were not a big enough draw. After listening to an hour of this I began to wonder why he toured at all. I never did get an answer.

I listened to the audiobook which was read by the author. I have mixed feelings on an author doing the narration. With fiction, very few can carry it off to my satisfaction, but with non-fiction I’m a little more forgiving. Fagan’s narration was wooden at times but listenable, and with memoirs, the author’s reading gives the story a sense of validity. If you’re leaning towards listening, it might be a good idea to hear a sample of the audio first.

This is a nice introduction to Donald Fagan and as a fan I’d like to read more. The writing was good and I look forward to a more detailed future memoir.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Hope This is Volume One, December 14, 2013
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Hardcover)
The first part of the book contains information about musical influences with some fun stories tossed in. There may be more detailed jazz discussion that some readers want, but that section is worth the price of the book in order not to have missed out on discovering the Boswell Sisters (check them out on You Tube). I don't know why some readers are surprised by or disappointed with the second half. If they've ever read an interview transcript with Donald and Walter, they should be glad they have the opportunity to read actual thoughts shared with the public. For me, the road trip pages were hysterically funny and also worth the price of the book. I'll buy any memoirs Mr. Fagen chooses to write, even if they're complete fiction. Right now, I'm waiting for Mr. Becker's memoir response. Seriously, if you're a fan, this book is great fun!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book albeit sad, January 22, 2014
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Hardcover)
I love Steely Dan and expected a very witty and intelligent read from Donald Fagen. I wasn't disappointed. The focus on how Fagen was influenced by jazz among other sources was tremendously insightful. The second half of the book focused on a diary related to a recent US tour. Sadly, this section made me feel that touring is torturous for him. I feel badly for the experiences that Fagen must deal with, but as a counter, I loved being able to see him and Walter live (still the most impeccably produced concert I've seen--and I loved the alterations to the songs). If Donald never releases another album or book, this is a great finish. But I'd love for that not to be the case.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The cranky old hipster delivers, April 23, 2014
By 
Jane E. Stoltz (Corvallis, Oregon) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Hardcover)
Donald Fagen is one of the preeminent geniuses of modern music. It's so obvious from his solo stuff and his work as part of Steely Dan that the guy is brilliant. So obviously a book by him would be amazing, right?

Well, it is...but it's a bit of a mixed bag. Some chapters are about his childhood...some chapters are music reviews...and a large part of the book is a sort of journal from a tour a couple years ago with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs.

It's here that one realizes that the genius also is an unbelievable grouch. He is so neurotic that he elevates complaining about his surroundings and circumstances on the tour to an absolute art form. You shake your head and think you're glad you don't know the guy in person...and then you read a very sweet tribute to his now-deceased stepson and think that there is a tender heart in there somewhere, buried beneath all that hipster cynicism.

I ultimately decided that Fagen is a likable curmudgeon who writes prose as deftly as he writes music. This is a short read, and mostly a fun one...his bitchery is so over-the-top as to make you laugh out loud.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The venues seem to be getting smaller", December 22, 2013
By 
Glenn Scott (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Hardcover)
I am one of those people DF refers to as a "TV Baby": born after 1960 -- not long after -- yet long enough to be a high school kid when Aja came out, and I'd never heard anything like it, and I still love it so deeply and profoundly, and forgive me just a little bit if DF and Walter Becker sort of blew my mind with Aja, perhaps -- I offer humbly -- just as masters like Evans and Rollins did for Donald many years before in the clubs; and maybe when the fans ask for the old Steely Dan hits, some of them would also love to tell the story of sitting at that banquet by the drummer at The Vanguard, drinking one of Max Gordon's flat bar Cokes, and they're all hoping that their musical idols will summon their inner Jaki Byard: that Donald will come up to our table and chat with us for a moment, and not turn out to be the guy screaming epithets at Coltrane across the room, or self-absorbing into a Jean Shepard-esque decline. "Good music, though."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Observations From The Road, December 24, 2013
This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Hardcover)
When a book is marked 50% off it always makes me wonder just how bad it is or if it is a publisher's overstock.
As I already knew, Donald Fagan is the mouthier component of a primarily studio band Steely Dan. Over the past few years they have taken off on a U.S tour that typically eats up the summer months. I usually hit one or two cities to see them perform in mostly big venues.
The music I am well familiar with, but Fagan as diarist was an unknown commodity.Turns out that thinking while trying to ward off the inevitable sameness of touring and committing one's thoughts and observations to paper or a MAC has turned out rather well in Fagan's case.
I am still out on whether my enthusiasm regarding Fagan's mental meandering are the result of a generational kinship with him, but much of what he said about being a kid in Cold War America resonated with me. Devouring Science Fiction, snacking on sugary snacks most mothers would frown on today, life in cookie cutters houses in leafy suburbia, assimilation as part of the American Dream and feeling like an alien placed in the middle of it all was very relatable.
Even being driven to college by a decent but decidedly sort of square father with the aim of majoring in English or Journalism could have been part of my story though told more interestingly through Fagan's eyes. Fagan is an extremely good writer who manages to cram in a lot of detail while heading through a variety of themes and topics.
Accounts of his college days at Bard tie in a lot to SD's early music as does his first solo effort when it comes to his love of radio.
While the segments in this book can vary in length as well as content, he runs through a lot of topics from aging (nagging gall stones that take him to the Cleveland Clinic only to confirm that he will live another day) to the realities of life while touring.
A stop in Dearborn MI between venues gives him a good night's sleep at The Henry and a next day tour of the Henry Ford Museum sets him off on car titan Ford and an imaginary request for an anti semetic rant published in the '30's by Ford.
Thinking of the writer Jean Shepard, he recalls his fascination with his radio shows only to have his admiration smashed after hearing him speak at a university appearance that left him ultimately disillusioned with a pompous Shepard who left his radio voice at home or at the radio station.
For the most part this book is funny and bordering on a mix of wry and at times sarcastic whit and Fagan's understanding of history and the world around him. While he really doesn't get maudlin, he speaks of his parents with some warmth and understanding. The closest he comes to sadness is a brief account of his stepson's death and how this affected both himself and his wife Libby.
Ultimately this is a relatively short and well written account of Fagan's thoughts and recollections. I hope he does more as a writer in the future. This book not only kept my attention but did it in a rather unconventional yet thoughtful way.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Deacon pontificates, February 9, 2014
By 
Kiyoshi (Clearview, WA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Kindle Edition)
For those of us who love Steely Dan, this is a great read. You get to find out more about Fagan's influences and his psyche. As a fan of the Dan, you should expect flippant references to obscure cultural references. He is smart, and acerbic--again no surprises. What is a surprise is how fluent he is as a writer. And of course his wit. The man occasionally nails something in a way both hilarious and true. Take his assessment of Ike Turner:

"Ike’s concept (really a more raw and countrified version of Ray Charles’s act) was simple: the band plays tight; Tina goes berserk."

In the latter half he documents his descent into "ATD"--or "Active Tour Disorder"--characterized by his increasing surliness and frustrations with life on the road. Some of the other readers may take it too seriously. I'm sure he was surly and impatient. But he's funny as hell in his honest retelling. I laughed a lot, but also thought "Cool" a lot. He is the eminent hipster. I hope for more.
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pompous and snarky, November 14, 2013
By 
kevnm "kevnm" (Costa Mesa, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eminent Hipsters (Hardcover)
As a result of Mr. Fagen's songwriting, arranging, singing and playing skills, one can't be blamed for having high expectations for his expository writing. He's clever, as would be expected, has an admirable vocabulary and is quite funny at times, but is a much less charming companion in print than he is in song.

A couple of random essays about Sci Fi and the Boswell Sisters are entertaining enough, but the tour diary of shows with the Dukes of September, the heart of this book, is a depressing slog through the author's litany of complaints, hypochondria, resentment, discontent and general misanthropy. In a style borrowing heavily from Hunter S. Thompson, Mr. Fagen exaggerates and overstates every inconvenience into a nightmare, every moment of star ennui into spiritual crisis. It's amusing for awhile, then just sad.

In his defense, I'm sure Mr. Fagen intends all this to be funny, and assumes we don't believe he hates his life. Ultimately, though, the reader ends up hating Fagen's life and loses interest in what the author might actually be thinking or feeling. Over the years, people like Woody Allen have managed make this sort of thing work. Donald Fagen doesn't.
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Eminent Hipsters
Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen (Hardcover - October 22, 2013)
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