Eminent Hipsters (9781101638095)

Eminent Hipsters (9781101638095) by Donald Fagen

Book: Eminent Hipsters (9781101638095) by Donald Fagen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Donald Fagen
the next forty years.
    Walter Becker and I had many interests in common: jazz, blues, all sorts of popular music, Nabokov and the writers of what was then called the “black humor” school, science fiction and so on. Walter shared an enormous room in Ward Manor with a dandyish wag by the name of Randall. Randall didn’t seem to mind when Walter carted in two humongous Altec monitor speakers through which we blasted, for both pleasure and as a matter of professional interest, some of the great music of the time. We had very similar taste, which ran from Miles Davis to the Mothers of Invention, whom we had both seen during their infamous run at the Garrick Theater on Bleecker Street. Walter hipped me to inspiring stuff both old (Howlin’ Wolf) and new (Laura Nyro) for the first time.
    We started writing music and lyrics together, mostly on anupright piano in a small sitting room in the lobby of the Manor. One of us would come up with some clowny idea and we’d bounce it around until we were so convulsed with laughter that we’d have to quit. For whatever reason, the combination of the funky grooves, the jazz chords and the sensibility of the lyrics, which seemed to fall somewhere between Tom Lehrer and
Pale Fire
, really cracked us up. Of course, at that point, what we were doing was pretty crude compared to some of our later efforts, but it was never less than fun.
    We also played a few pickup gigs. One was for a student art show opening at the Procter Art Center. I had borrowed a Fender Rhodes keyboard from a big blond named Dinah. After pounding on the thing for a couple of tunes, the heavy instrument slipped off the table it was sitting on and crashed to the floor. Mortified and fearful of facing Dinah’s wrath, I walked out of the place, leaving Walter to finish the set on his own. Unbeknownst to me, he had prepared for the performance by ingesting a powerful psychedelic and had to face the crowd in a state of total ganglial exposure. Sorry, W.B. And sorry, Dinah.
    There was a lot of trouble back then with tripping musicians. Another time, we were booked along with a drummer, Ike, to play an NAACP benefit at the Beekman Arms, an old hotel in Rhinebeck, just across the Hudson. In this case, it was the drummer who’d thought LSD would enhance his performance. For an hour or so, Walter and I struggled to lock in with Ike, who was sounding like Elvin Jones, literally, on acid. For the ’67 Ward Manor Halloween party, we assembled a dance band that included our classmate Chevy Chase on drums. Chevy looked like a frat boy who’d wandered onto the wrong campus, but he was professional,talented and compulsively funny. He kept excellent time and, at least that night, didn’t embarrass us by taking off his clothes or doing any of his Jerry Lewis bits. On the other hand, I, in a misguided attempt to effect holiday cheer, had stapled a string of large black faux-feathers to my long thrift shop overcoat. I ended up looking like an accident involving a giant crow and an electric fan. No matter—half the crowd was tripping anyway.
    Walter dropped out at the end of the academic year in 1968. I began to lose interest in school. Missing the input of an actual jazz instructor, I started skipping classes, and despite the support I got from Jake “The Rake” Druckman, I was finally tossed out of the music department. I switched back to English, arranged my classes so they were all bunched together on Thursday and Friday, and moved to Brooklyn with Walter and my girlfriend, Dorothy White. We found two apartments in Park Slope, which had yet to become the Hipster Heaven that was to be. Back then, it was still Archie Bunker Heaven. It was the sort of neighborhood where shoulder-length hair could provoke comments like “Are you a boy or a girl?” and “Go back to the Village!” We persevered, and began our two-pronged assault on the music business: we began peddling pop tunes

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