„Eminent Hipsters“: Grouchy Donald Fagen Slams TV Babies and Coco Chanel („She F*cked Igor Strawinsky Into a Reactionary Spin!“)

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Donald Fagen: Eminent HipstersI had lots of fun listening to emusic’s audio book version of Donald Fagen’s „Eminent Hipsters“, read by himself. It is not a regular autobiography but a collection of articles, „from portraits of the cultural figures and currents that shaped him as a youth to an account of his college days and of life on the road“ (publisher’s description). The book is both insightful and hilarious.

The main piece is a grouchy diary of a The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue tour Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen did with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs from 2010. Favorite quote: „By the way, I’m not posting this journal on the Internet. Why should I let you lazy, spoiled TV Babies read it for nothing in the same way you download all those songs my partner and I sacrificed our entire youth to write and record, not to mention the miserable, friendless childhoods we endured that left us with lifelong feelings of shame and self-reproach we were forced to countervail with a fragile grandiosity and a need to constantly prove our self-worth — in short, with the sort of personality disorders that ultimately turned us into performing monkeys?“

Steely Dan in concert in Luzerne, Switzerland, 2007

Steely Dan in concert in Luzerne, Switzerland, 2007. Photo: Stephan Neuner (Public domain/Wikipedia)

Later on, Donald Fagen mentions the French movie „Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky“: „I guess the filmmakers couldn’t resist the idea that when Igor got to shag Coco he was inspired to compose this wild atavistic new kind of music in a sort of reversal of George Clinton’s slogan ‚Free your mind and your ass will follow‘. In truth, by the early ’20s, Igor was actually through with that stuff and had retreated into a more conservative neo-classical phase. It’s much more likely that Coco who would eventually became a Nazi spy fucked Igor into a reactionary spin that would last for the rest of his life. – Good music, though.“

Fagen also quotes a classic opening line from the Gore Vidal article „The Ashes of Hollywood“:

“Shit has its own integrity.”

Why does he do it all? „When everything’s working right, you become transfixed by the notes and chords and the beautiful spaces in between. In the centre of it, with the drums, bass and guitar all around you, the earth falls away and it’s just you and your crew creating this forward motion, this undeniable, magical stuff that can move ten thousand people to snap free of life’s miseries …“

Praise for „Eminent Hipsters“

  • „In short, this is moaning of the highest order — jazz moaning, you might call it — and Fagen keeps it up for 70 brilliant, hilarious pages.“
    (Marcus Berkmann für The Spectator: „Morrissey can’t even moan properly — here’s a frontman who can“)
  • „This book is a piece of pure bliss, and it’s not even the book I thought or hoped it would be. (…) At times you wonder how he manages to get out of bed, let alone do a gig every other night. It’s tough being Donald. Yet even at his most audience-weary and misanthropic he saves himself with a killer turn of phrase: ‚If these people could only see into the mind of the viperous Robespierre they had invited into their midst …‘ Viperous Robespierre!“
    (Anthony Quinn for The Guardian: „Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen – review“)
  • „Among the things that Fagen complains about in his tour diary: the tour bus, hotel swimming pools, Apple AC cords, poor ventilation, Canadians in general, blue type in emails, pay-per-view, dressing rooms, expensive sound equipment in old music halls, unresponsive audiences, paranoia, insomnia, the shabbiness of the Toledo Zoo, playing corporate gigs and staying in lousy hotels (‚Isn’t there some rule that says the floral pattern on the wallpaper can’t be duplicated on the carpet?‘).“
    (Christopher Borrelli for the Chicago Tribune: „Steely Dan singer Donald Fagen just ‚being honest‘ in new book“)

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