Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen Thinks the Eagles Are a ‘Good Band’

Breaking news: The Eagles are a “good band.” This review is brought to you by Steely Dan leader Donald Fagen, who was interviewed by the Steely Dan Substack newsletter Expanding Dan recently.

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Why is this newsworthy? Well, my good hombre, these two groups have some history. Or maybe it’s more like “history,” if you dig, because there are two sides to every story — but as we all know, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

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The legend in question, as Vulture points out, is that back in the 1970s, in the heyday of both bands’ careers, certain lines in certain songs in both artists’ catalogs seemed to be taking shots at the other. Case in point: “Everything You Did,” from Steely Dan’s 1976 album The Royal Scam, where Fagen sings the line Turn up the Eagles / The neighbors are listening on the bridge.

Glenn Frey, the late Eagles songwriter and co-leader, explained in the liner notes of The Very Best of the Eagles compilation from 1994 that the lyrics may have come at his band’s expense. “Apparently, [Steely Dan member] Walter Becker’s girlfriend loved the Eagles, and she played them all the time,” he wrote in text that’s thankfully preserved online. “I think it drove him nuts. So, the story goes that they were having a fight one day, and that was the genesis of the line.”

It also helped Frey, Don Henley, and Don Felder sneak a creative dig into their own song “Hotel California” — They stab it with their steely knives / But they just can’t kill the beast — the following year. “During the writing of ‘Hotel California,’ we decided to volley,” Frey wrote. “We just wanted to allude to Steely Dan rather than mentioning them outright, so ‘Dan’ got changed to ‘knives,’ which is still, you know, a penile metaphor. Stabbing, thrusting, etc.”

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Now that you’re up to speed, it’s crucial to understand the other part of this story. Though Frey and Becker have both since passed, Steely Dan and the Eagles linked up for a tour this fall, which kicked off at the end of last week.

When Fagen was asked recently for his take on the two groups’ alleged Cold War — the one between the New York hepcats and the California cowboys — he settled the matter once and for all. “Because we share a manager, I’ve run into the guys now and then over the years. Good band,” he said.

He also offered some bonus bridge-mending material. “[Eagles member] Timothy Schmit used to help out singing backup in the ’70s, and Don Henley did a couple sessions as well,” Fagen said.

This tour is young, my friends. The possibilities of finally hearing Henley sing on a Steely Dan track are endless.

Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns

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