- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Their cover of Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-oo", both in terms of its parent album (1974's Pretzel Logic) and the Dan's career as a whole.
- "Dirty Work" is a very Beatlesque pop tune amid the jazz-rock songs on Can't Buy A Thrill, and is even among the few Steely Dan songs not sung by Fagen (David Palmer sings it. In live shows they have their backing singers do the vocal).
- Critical Dissonance: The Royal Scam is especially loved by fans, but its often rated by professional music critics as among their lesser albums.
- Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming: Not many due to their largely cynical worldview, but this little gem from "Deacon Blues" counts:
This is the night of the expanding man
I take one last drag as I approach the stand
I cried when I wrote this song
Sue me if I play too long
This brother is free
I'll be what I want to be
Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you, my friend
- The message of "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" is that troubles are all temporary, even though they have to be endured.
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won't be there no more
Any major dude will tell you
- Crowning Music of Awesome: Many of their songs, but their album Aja is often considered the zenith.
- "Bodhisattva". So simple, yet oh so badass.
- Despite its troubled production, Gaucho contains some of the band's best music, such as "Hey Nineteen", "Time Out Of Mind" and the title track.
- Development Hell: Two Against Nature. From the DVD:
- Interviewer: It took you 19 years to release this album. What is up with that?Donald: We didn't do much for the first 17 and a half years.
- Although some would say they just needed time to create. A lot of time.
- You can realistically call it about 15 years. Becker and Fagen began work on new material in 1986, after reconvening during the recording of Rosie Vela's album Zazu. They composed early versions of "Snowbound" and "West Of Hollywood". Some time after, they composed "Fall Of 92". They decided to work on their own solo albums. Both were started around the same time, but Fagen's Kamakiriad was released earlier. It was produced by and featured Becker, and featured "Snowbound", which was the only song Fagen didn't write entirely himself. Conversely, Becker's solo album "11 Tracks Of Whack" appeared in 1994, and was a combination of home recordings with drum machine and some stuff done with a full band. By this point "Fall Of '92" was too dated - chiefly because of its political lyrics referring to Bush Sr. being in the white house - so it was dropped, though appeared as a B-Side on a promo CD. In 1993, the band had started touring for the first time in 19 years, assembling an all star band, and rearranging a number of tracks, as well as playing tracks from their two solo albums, plus "Fall Of 92". In 1996, after touring for a few years and wanting to spice up their oldies-heavy setlist, the band wrote three new songs, "Jack Of Speed", "Wet Side Story" and "Cash Only Island", and played them on tour. In 1997, the band began more concrete work on writing songs for Two Against Nature, but spent a lot of time meticulously getting the songs 'right', using the technology Pro-Tools and writing a lot of the drum beats using programmed samples. The band recorded the three songs they had played on tour, but of them, only a reworked "Jack Of Speed" appeared on the album, with the other two still unreleased. When "Two Against Nature" finally came out in 2000, many were happy to hear the album, but felt it was overproduced, preferred the tour arrangement of "Jack Of Speed", were baffled at the omission of "Wet Side Story" and "Cash Only Island", and found its lead single "Cousin Dupree" to be lightweight. Despite winning a Grammy for it, the band must have listened to this criticism because the follow up "Everything Must Go" was produced more quickly, and in the style of the old Steely Dan albums.
- Epic Riff: "Reelin' In The Years", "Hey Nineteen", and a non-guitar example, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number".
- The opening "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" riff is lifted directly from the Horace Silver Quintet's "Song for My Father." Well, they are a jazz fusion duo, after all...
- "Black Friday" is also a good example, with the riff being played by a combination of two electric pianos and a guitar.
- "Don't Take Me Alive" is, atypically for the band, led by a heavy guitar riff played by Larry Carlton. Whilst their guitarists would usually only get the chance to shine on solos, this song is led by one. It is one of the band's most popular songs amongst fans for this reason.
- "Aja" has several, most notably the two-chord riff that begins the instrumental break.
- "Bodhisattva" definitely counts as well.
- Face of the Band: Started with a full band, but ended up being whittled down to just Fagen and Becker with a bunch of studio musicians.
- Subverted, in that they simultaneously retired from public performance, so they essentially became a faceless band.
- Fagen and Becker being the Faces of the Band was not their intention to start with. The duo felt more at home as songwriters and instrumentalists. Fagen volunteered to be the band's lead singer for Can't Buy A Thrill, but was not prepared to combat his crippling stage fright to sing in front of an audience. This is how David Palmer became the band's "lead singer" (even though he only sings two and a half songs on Can't Buy A Thrill) and it was planned that he would draw attention away from Fagen and Becker and become the de facto Face of the Band. By 1973, Fagen and Becker had decided that performing live simply wasn't for them and decided to phase out the other members of the band, starting with Palmer (who sang the songs live in a completely different key than Fagen did on the album), who is almost completely absent from Countdown to Ecstasy (relegated to backing vocals and removed the from official band lineup listing in the liner notes, appearing instead in a list of backing vocalists) and gone completely by Pretzel Logic.
- Foe Yay: hinted at, at the end of "My Rival"
- Genius Bonus: There's at least one website dedicated to explaining some of the obscure references in their songs.
They call Alabama the Crimson TideCall me Deacon Blues!
- Some of the band's references may be so oblique or obscure, that they might often be mistaken as a Lyrical Shoehorn. An example is the chorus for "Deacon Blues". The lyrics, in general, are very dark and melancholy, until it gets to:
- To some, that just seems like a Lyrical Shoehorn, but the part of the chorus just beforehand is "they got a name for the winners in the world/I want a name when I lose". The University of Alabama is chosen as an example of a "winner" and were well known as a dominant force in college football under legendary coach Bear Bryant. The "Deacon Blues" part? It refers to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, a college football team that were particularly lousy during the seventies.
- Growing the Beard: Many fans agree, The Royal Scam was when they grew the beard. Pretzel Logic is also popular.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Donald Fagen's solo track from 2006, "Security Joan", is about someone falling in love with a airport security officer while being searched at a checkpoint. Fast-forward to 2012, when Fagen gets stopped at the US-Canada border because of an FBI file related to the drug bust at Bard.
- I Am Not Shazam: No, there is no guy named Steely Dan.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Josie"
- Memetic Mutation: I think my face is on fire...I think my face is on fire...I think my face is on fire...
- Misattributed Song: No, they did not do "Still The One". That was Orleans.
Which song is the quintessential Steely Dan song?"Ride Captain Ride"note or "Year of The Cat"note
- The Hall of Fame writings from their website include a fictional letter in which a woman pleads for their induction so that she can meet them, and find out which one is her father. Her belief is based on a dream in which she is sitting in their lap, while they sing "Tequila Sunrise".
- Also mocked by the guys in this chat:
- Nightmare Fuel: "Do It Again." From the ominous chords and organ riffs, to the lyrics that imply things like murder, ruin, and even divine judgment.
- One-Scene Wonder: It's the only Steely Dan song he played on, but Jay Graydon's guitar solo for "Peg" is one of the top moments in their catalog.
- Two songs later on Aja, Michael McDonald sings the bridge of "I Got the News" and nearly steals the entire song for himself.
- Similarly, Elliott Randall's guitar solo on "Reelin' In The Years", although he did later do sessions on other Steely Dan albums.
- Sampled Up: The "you know they don't give a fuck about anybody else" line from "Show Biz Kids" is used as the refrain for "The Man Don't Give A Fuck", a 1996 single by Welsh psychedelic band Super Furry Animals. This sample is repeated fifty times in the five minute song.
- The opening riff from "Black Cow" is sampled for "Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)" by Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz.
- Fagen himself jokingly referenced it in a VH-1 special detailing the making of Aja.
- "Peg"'s guitar riff and a part of the lyrics is sampled in De La Soul's "Eye Know".
- The song "Champion" by Kanye West extensively samples Kid Charlemagne. Interesting, they initially denied his request to use the sample, but after he wrote them an emotional letter explaining how important the song was to him, they obliged.
- The opening riff from "Black Cow" is sampled for "Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)" by Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz.
- Tear Jerker: A number of songs, including "Charlie Freak", "Doctor Wu", "Any World That I'm Welcome To", and "Third World Man".
- Values Dissonance: "The Fez." It's about a guy who won't have sex with a woman without wearing a condom (see Get Thee to a Nunnery), and it's making fun of him. Today, wearing a condom is pretty much standard operating procedure (at least until you've been with your partner for a good long while), but back in 1976 (when the song came out), the thought process was that pregnancy was avoidable with all the marvelous contraceptives on the market (the pill, the diaphragm, and the IUD being the most notable), and virtually all STDs were either curable or could not be prevented with condoms anyway, so insisting on a condom was seen as a sign of an overly-cautious, distinctly un-hip man who didn't trust his partner(s). Yeah, HIV/AIDS undid that attitude in a hurry...
- One could also take the song a bit more amusingly literally and see it depicting a certain roleplay or fetish necessary for the first-person voice to get off (wearing the literal hat as some version of a "holy man" seducing an acolyte or something?). This actually seems more in the character of Steely Dan subject matter. Both interpretations probably intended actually.