Fandom can be a lonely place. If you love a band, truly love a band with that slightly teenage desperation you hope never to grow out of (until they make a substandard record and you abandon them forever), it’s a love affair like no other. Other fans may love the same band, but they love them differently. My favourite band, as I may have mentioned in this space once or twice, are Steely Dan, a pair of jazzy old perversities now in their fourth active decade. My friend Mitch is also a fan, and every time the group release a new album we have roughly the same conversation on the phone: me enthusing ridiculously and saying it’s the best album they’ve made in years, and him saying he’s not so sure and really it’s not a patch on The Royal Scam (1976). What’s particularly infuriating is that he always turns out to be right. At the same time he is an evangelist for Neil Young and is always trying to coerce me to buy some of the old fool’s millions and millions of albums, which I have done, without feeling that they have enhanced my existence to any significant degree. It’s all ridiculously subjective, of course. We are all locked into our own enthusiasms, and as unable to persuade others to share them as we are to sprout wings and fly.
So the other day Mitch rang up for a chat and I asked him whether he had bought the new Walter Becker album yet. I should probably mention that, as well as occasionally releasing group albums, the two members of Steely Dan even more occasionally infest the world with solo albums. Donald Fagen had one out a couple of years ago, and now it’s Becker’s turn.