Joey’s Top 10s: Top 10 Steely Dan songs of all time

Joey counts down top 10 songs from 70s hallmark band Steely Dan



Founded in 1971, Steely Dan is lead by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.


Probably the most technically perfect band ever, Steely Dan has only ever consisted of two concrete members, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The rest of the instruments are played by a rotation of session musicians.

Their songs consist of bizarre jazz chord voicing and complex guitar playing, but usually deliver really melodramatic negative stories.

Fun Fact: Comedian Chevy Chase played drums with Becker and Fagen of Steely Dan for a brief period in college.

  1. “Josie” (1977)

“Josie” has a fascinating intro riff, which leads into a little twinkle of bells and a funky guitar part. One of the coolest things about Steely Dan is that you never really know what to expect from a song, other than crazy complicated music theory.

  1. “Bad Sneakers” (1975)

“Five names that I can hardly stand to hear, including yours and mine and one more chimp that isn’t here” is the opening lyric of this song, which is about as offbeat a lyric as you can probably think of.

“Bad Sneakers” tells a vague, sardonic story that is kind of hard to grasp, but the symbolism of the lyrics paints an interesting picture.

  1. “Home At Last” (1977)

“Home At Last” begins with a slightly off-beat piano riff, then leads into a tasty horn riff. This song is filled with jazzy notes; the horns and guitar mesh together well to create a pleasant sonic experience.

The song includes a lot of California imagery, but as always with Steely Dan, the lyrics require a deep dive and a lot of thought to truly comprehend.

  1. “Black Cow” (1977)

“Black Cow” starts out with an absolutely killer bass line and continues to deliver the typical amount of sarcastic Steely Dan storytelling that the band is known for. One of the lyrics, “Down to green street, there you go” is referenced again by Steely Band frontman Fagen in his song “Green Flower Street.”

The album that “Black Cow”, “Home At Last” and “Josie” are from, “Aja,” is pretty much a perfect album in terms of songwriting, production, and musicianship.

  1. “Kid Charlemagne” (1976)

“Kid Charlemagne” is about a person producing drugs in San Francisco; lyrics like “Clean up this mess up else we’ll all end up in jail. Those test tubes and the scale,” paint a pretty clear of the story. The song finishes with a screamin’ guitar solo by Larry Carlton that tops it off well.

  1. “Babylon Sisters” (1980)

A nice, relaxed song by the Dan, “Babylon Sisters” is covered with jazzy horn playing and more read-between-the-lines storytelling that leaves the listener playing the song on repeat to understand the deeper meaning.

  1. “Hey Nineteen” (1980)

The intro guitar piece is instantly recognizable by classic rock fans, but there is nothing special or flashy about it, and that is part of the beauty of Steely Dan. Their music is not flashy, but it is incredibly complex, and that is what draws listeners in to listen to their music.

The verses are sung by Fagen, and he is joined by a backup choir in the chorus to develop a really nice harmony.

  1. “Reelin’ In The Years” (1972)

Do I even need to explain? This song is a classic.

“Reelin’ In The Years” is a staple of the Yacht Rock genre and really exemplifies how fun music can be. The song is not flashy or glamorous, but it is a fun singalong that everybody knows (or should know).

  1. “My Old School” (1973)

Starting out with a slightly unconventional piano part, “My Old School” is another truly fun song to listen to. It is full of choir-esque harmonies and another complex story for the listener to unravel. I have phases of turning this song on repeat and listening to it all day.

  1. “Time Out Of Mind” (1980)

Undoubtedly the grooviest of Steely Dan’s songs, “Time Out Of Mind” deploys horns and piano to create a jazzy feel. Legendary musicians Mark Knopfler (lead singer and guitarist of Dire Straits) and Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers both contributed to this iconic song, according to Genius.