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Eminent Hipsters [Hardcover]

Donald Fagen
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Oct 2013

In Eminent Hipsters, musician and songwriter Donald Fagen, best known as the co-founder of the rock band Steely Dan, presents an autobiographical portrait that touches on everything from the cultural figures that mattered the most to him as a teenager, to his years in the late 1960s at Bard College, to a hilarious account of a recent tour he made with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald.

Fagen begins by introducing the 'eminent hipsters' that spoke to him as he was growing up (and desperately yearning to be hip) in suburban New Jersey in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The figures who influenced him most were not the typical ones - Miles Davis, say, or Jack Kerouac - but rather people like Jean Shepherd, whose manic, acidic nightly radio broadcasts out of WOR-Radio had a tough realism about life and 'enthralled a generation of alienated young people'; Henry Mancini, whose chilled-out, nourish soundtracks, especially to films by Blake Edwards utilised the unconventional, spare instrumentation associated with the cool jazz school; and Mort Fega, the laid back, knowledgeable all night jazz man at WEVD, who was like 'the cool uncle you always wished you had'. He writes of how, growing up as a Cold War baby, one of his primary doors of escape became reading science fiction by such authors as Philip K. Dick, and of his regular trips into New York City to hear jazz. Other emblematic musical heroes Fagen writes about include Ray Charles, Ike Turner, and the Boswell Sisters, a trio from the 1920s and 30s whose subversive musical genius included trick phrasing and way out harmony.

'Class of '69' recounts Fagen's colourful tumultuous years at Bard College, the progressive university north of New York City that attracted a strange mix of applicants, including 'desperate suburban misfits with impressive verbal skills but appalling high school records' (like himself). It was at Bard that Fagen first met Walter Becker, with whom he would later form Steely Dan. The final section of the book, 'With the Dukes of September', offers a day-by-day account of a tour Fagen undertook last summer across America with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, performing a programme of old R&B and soul tunes as well as some of each of their own hits. Told in a weary, cranky, occasionally biting and always entertaining voice, Fagen brings to life the ups and downs and various indignities and anxieties of being on the road - The Dukes were an admittedly 'low-rent operation' compared to a Steely Dan tour - as well as communicating the challenges and joy of playing every night to a different crowd in a different city.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 159 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books (22 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025510
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 795,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Nerdishly clever, entertainingly original and even a moving reconfiguration of the memoir format." (Bernadette McNulty Sunday Telegraph)

"Fagen, as you might expect, is an elegant and erudite writer." (John Mulvey Uncut)

"If you're a Dan fan you should read this book. If you're not a Dan fan you should read it anyway." (The Afterword)

"Part memoir, part personal dissertation, and it makes for an enjoyable, if brief, read." (Dylan Jones GQ)

"A curious little autobiographical volume by another hero of long ago, Donald Fagen, once and again of Steely Dan." (Spectator) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Book Description

The life and times and cultural heroes of the musician and songwriter Donald Fagen, co-founder of Steely Dan --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sure, he's a Jolly Roger 5 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A must-read for all Don (and Dan fans). He's not a happy man, for most of the time, and while he blames this on his age, you get the feeling that he's always been like this. There isn't a huge amount about Walter and Steely Dan in here, but that's fair enough: it's Don on Don. But here's hoping that the naughty pair will one day deliver the definitive Dan story. Anyway, this a great read, albeit a fairly short one. Do poor old hard-up Donald a favour and punt him a few cents. You won't regret it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Won't you pour me a Cuban Breeze, Gretchen 12 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a concentrated package of delight this is - everything I'd hoped for and more. A collection of essays which chart the esoteric territory of DF's 50s & 60s jazz, sci-fi, movie, literary and other cultural influences and then bring us up to date with his reflections on life on the road from a rather more seasoned perspective. Erudite, acute, and laugh out loud funny at times, this is a real gem from start to finish. He started out thinking he might become a journalist, and it's not hard to see why. But thank the Lord he followed the music.

There, I managed to write all that without saying "sardonic" once.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As droll and as we'll written as you'd expect, with an interesting exploration of Donald's musical influences, and brief but intriguing insights into his personal life and perspective.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 27 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very interesting for the Steely Dan/Donald Fagen lover, but not a book for the average reader.
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4.0 out of 5 stars mad man from the dan 3 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed his take on his early years and in particular on his touring with the Dukes of September.
What is missing is the story of Steely Dan. Now that would surely get Five stars.
PS. When is Donald's audition for Grumpy Old Men?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully morose 28 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A delicious mix of auto-biography, memoir and diary that probably only appeals to ageing musicians like me.
Wonderfully morose, really easy to read and way too short.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Moody funny old git 9 Feb 2014
By Rhino
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a musician myself I know what he's on about when he talks about life on tour, but boy can he moan! World class whingeing there. Excellent slice of life on the road in Fagenland, would have liked a bit more about the Dan but a little's better than nothing.
I'd say probably only for the committed fan
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars is terrific: a series of pithy 26 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This collection of essays and a recent tour diary is every bit as articulate, astute and assured as one would expect (and that's just the words beginning with 'a'). The tour diary, in particular, is terrific: a series of pithy, frequently hilarious reports from the frontline of being an Older Gentleman Touring Gigster. Can't imagine DF being keen on the idea, but on this evidence a full memoir would surely be a delight...
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