ABOUT THIS SITE
WalterBeckerMedia: That bright light…that music…where am I ?
DID WALTER APPROVE?
WBM: Oh yeah I get it — nice! But, if it doesn’t seem too impertinent a question to ask, are you for sure it's okay to post this stuff? I know Walter was pretty strict about not disseminating music he didn't feel was release-ready. Is it cool for us to dig into his archive and send his songs out to the world all unfinished like?
Mod: Before Walter died, he realized that his backlog of demos, false starts, half-written tunes and so on were never going to be finished. Very little in his back library had been abandoned completely because he thought they were just simply hopeless; everything else went into his pipeline. Like many writers, Walter would sometimes dip into his pipeline for "new" compositions. Hell, there are songs that turned up on Circus Money that had early demos in 1992! In any case, in his last months, he realized that when he died, all that material would die with him… unless he empowered an “intellectual/creative property” trustee to release some of it to the public. He named me that trustee some years ago. We talked about some specific songs and approaches, and he could and would rely on me knowing his general concerns, tastes, and what he would and wouldn't want to be heard at all. But he did explicitly request that some subset of his unfinished work be heard by anyone interested enough to listen. Dying sucks in an infinite number of ways. In Walter's case, one of those ways was related to his regret that what he could offer a listener had come to an end; he could no longer offer his music to the people who were kind enough to listen— people he appreciated and was grateful for more then you could imagine. So when the time came, it was as though he looked around and asked; is there anything else I have here to offer? Is there anything here that might allow me to keep amusing folks … just a little bit longer?
Hence this site and its contents. Could you please pass me a tissue?
DISCUSSION FORUM RULES
WBM: I’m sure I’m not alone in expressing more than a little gratitude that he’d give us such a gift. And that you’d accept such a monumental, one might say Herculean, chore. And I think your answer to my first question starts to answer my second, which is why the discussion forum is here too. I remember way back in early days of the Internet’s infancy, when lo did Walter begat steelydan.com, and that he seemed fascinated with this new space where like minded people could communicate with one another. I remember well how that process eventually created a community of folks who knew each other online by various ridiculous handles like Hoops, Miz Ducky, St. Al, and Rajah or less imaginative names like Matt, and how some of those folks even met up "out there, where some true friendships were forged.” I know he was proud that the early steelydan.com became a water cooler for that process, and I recall that there was even some talk that maybe he would put a discussion forum on walterbecker.com, which would have been super cool. I think, and hope, that he would be delighted to be able to offer an opportunity for freeform discussion — wouldn't you say?
Mod: Indeed I would, grasshopper. And there's only a few limitations on what people can post here. First, posts must stay on topic, broadly defined. Discussing other artists is fine if that discussion serves to illuminate the WB material at hand. Politics? No fucking way. Heavy duty, negative opinions about the music that appears here is okay too— honestly: God knows Walter wasn't oversensitive to criticism. But most importantly, posts must stay within the bounds of basic human decency. Gratuitous nastiness, serious violations of privacy and basic good manners, ad hominem arguments or comments about the posters rather than the posted will come down. So far we've seen nothing but good stuff from our visitors, and it wouldn't surprise me if we end up not needing moderators at all
WBM: That would be awes—wait, hold on…if that happens won’t I be out of a job? Should I start stirring up the proverbial shit to ensure a little job security?
Mod: Fear not; there will always be plenty to do here. Correct and manage sound quality for one.
WBM: Oh hey, since you brought it up, I’ve already heard from some visitors, noting the obvious: that the quality of the audio so far might not exactly measure up to— in fact is lightyears away from— the exacting standards one has been lead to expect from a Steely Dan or Walter Becker album. I mean, I’d be happy to hear some of this stuff played on a kazoo at the end of a set of cans connected by a string across an interstate, but do you think the future holds something better? And why is the quality at what might be called a “slightly less than standard” level of quality now?
Mod: Have you ever seen the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles?
WBM: Is that one of those Fast and Furious movies? Because I stopped paying attention after Fast and Furious 5: Furiouser and Furiouser.
WBM: Kidding, kidding, yeah, of course I’ve seen it, it’s a classic.
Mod: What was the plot?
WBM: I accidentally forgot to go during the semester I was signed up for 1980s Film Studies at community college, but I’m happy to play along. Steve Martin and John Candy, in order to get home for the holidays, have to take a series a conveyances to reach their destination — and when they finally arrive, they’re all that much worse for wear. You know, “Six bucks and my right nut says we’re not landing in Chicago.”
Mod: It would've been a lot easier, Wouldn't you say, if they could just jump on a plane, settle into a nice first-class seat, and reach their destination clean, well pressed, and not smelling so bad?
WBM: Okay I think I know where you’re going; sometimes a chained series of conversions and piggybacks and clumsy connections may have been required to get any sound at all out of these crusty old tapes and DATS and cassettes, risking a potential loss of fidelity with each conversion. Right?
Mod: Indeed, grasshopper, you learn quickly. The good news is we are not yet set up with all the gear we need to produce the cleanest, highest fidelity audio files possible for every clip, but that we soon will be — after which point the audio we post should be way mo’ better sounding and some may even stand up to a FLAC treatment. At that time, we'll also go back to redo the clips that are already online, and get them sounding better too. For instance, visitors will discover that we have already upgraded the sound on our first posting, to a quality that will support FLAC on down (see our Downloads page). But our choice was waiting for that set up to be complete versus getting something out to the listeners sooner rather than later, even if the quality was somewhat compromised.
WBM: Looking at the actual media we have to work with, I also realize that in some cases tracks were saved on now dead hard drives utilizing software that no longer exists and resulting in files saved in some bizarre no-longer-supported proprietary format that would require tracking down Golem 2 to properly parse at this point. And depressed Swedish cyborgs notwithstanding, it seems like it may take some time and some luck before much of the treasure trove becomes accessible.
Mod: Are you sure you want to call back that Golem? Well, in any case, we are already on the job. That's one reason why this room looks like the back room of TecServe (RIP); I have to get some of these laptops running to even get to where I can read the hard drive. Sometimes sneaky workarounds, target modes, and all the rest can eke something out of a long dead machine. It can be slow going, but we will get there, to a quality that should satisfy many if not most of our visitors.
WBM: I go even further and say that "the perfect is the enemy of the good."
Mod: Hey, did you know that became one of Walter's favorite observations, especially as he became more and more intolerant of the processes required to produce the “perfect” product?
WBM: There are so many levels of implication there that I think it would be akin to watching that film Memento with Timothy Leary to take even a brief sideways step towards that rabbit’s hole.
‘UNRELEASED' VS 'UNFINISHED' VS…
Mod: Yes indeed it would. We won't be going there now. But tell me, we've advertised that we will be offering "unreleased songs” . Now that we've lived with this project for several weeks, do you think we should modify or clarify that promise at all?
WBM: I do indeed! Thank you for asking. After briefly perusing the stacks and logbooks, it seems that sadly most (but not necessarily all) of the tracks we will be able to offer are incomplete, rough demos,smooth demos, rehearsals, or in some varying stage of undoneness. Few have overdubs, which would have included a polished vocal or things like vocal harmonies, extra instruments, and bitching guitar solos, tastefully restrained sax solos, or some third other kind of solo which would be best describes as “synthetic.” These and other various touches above and beyond the basic track moves a tune towards "unreleased" territory and away from "incomplete" territory, and that isn’t even to speak of the lack of a final mix, likely finessed by a man named Nichols or Scheiner or Russell with whatever engineering voodoo those guys do so well. So in the main, although the stage of "doneness" varies quite widely in the clips we'll be offering, perhaps the most accurate label for all of them is that they are unfinished tracks to varying degrees. The Mona Lisa these are not, but the gentle reader might be reminded that philanthropist and tech glazier Bill Gates paid a bit over $30 million bones for one of Da Vinci's sketchbooks back in 1994, and while the relative merit of different artists and their epochs and so on is certainly an interesting one, the important thing to remember is that we're giving away these babies for free. And who's to say we might not have some talented audiophiles amongst us who wouldn't mind adding to some of the most primitive stuff? I've already got a couple of tracks and projects in mind…
(PSSST....HEY DUDE... KEEP THAT IDEA UNDER YOUR HAT FOR NOW, DIG?)
Mod: Hey, I didn't know you were a philosopher too! Very nice. Also keep in mind that documenting accurate info on who might be playing on some particular clip is not as simple as you would think. We will be doing our best with this, but will probably get some things wrong, In which case we hope the affected party contacts us so we can correct.
DO YOU TAKE REQUESTS?
Mod: What do you think WBM? Do you think that's just a thinly veiled question about the mother of all Becker unicorns, the aural record of one foggy night in the spring of '95, where
WBM: HALT!!! Go no further, and say no more! Unicorns are skittish creatures and we don't want to spook them, do we. Do we?
Mod: That's a bit primitive for me. I would rather join the debate between cosmologists who argue if information, once placed into the universe, can ever truly be destroyed. Is anything ever lost, even if the original form of the information has been blown to smithereens ? Is it inevitable that the essence of the information itself will come zipping around again, even if only as holographic Hawking radiation rotating around a massive black hole? Or even as Easter Eggs, perhaps? One can never really know. I trust you see my point.
WBM: The hell I do, O creepy colleague. And this isn't the first place I've heard somebody babbling about Easter..? Or eggs or something..? Forget it, I'll ask again next week. So my next question is, how far back does this archive go? I mean, I know Sony started releasing DAT tapes back in 1987, and I know you’ve got a significant stack of these things…so spill them beans! Are most of these from around the time of 11 Tracks of Whack, or does the archive go back further (or is it farther) than that?
WHEN WERE THESE THINGS WRITTEN?
Mod: Well we don't want to take away all the suspense, do we? The earliest date I found on a DAT so far is 1991, but we haven't even opened the multitrack tape boxes yet! After Whack — which includes several unfinished or unreleased songs — he started wading into the Two Against Nature writing process with Donald (decisions about posting unfinished or unreleased material from that era will be up to DF). But he still made a few DATS of his own stuff, and continued to write on his little Vision deck throughout. Then came the Circus Money batch — and it too left a few tunes unfinished and unreleased--- now blessedly on digital media like CDs or hard drives. Then there were the demos he worked on after its release. In other words, Walter was always writing, or fiddling around with his demo–creating gear. The only thing that slowed him down was his discovery of — or his commitment to finally learning how to use—Logic, Native Instruments, and other various noisemaking software. He became so fascinated with the sonic possibilities that he spent more time exploring sample libraries and modifying instrument tones then he did writing anything resembling a song. He did however come up with some pretty bitchin’ sequences that could probably go over well in the hands of a Brooklyn DJ or as ambient for a dance party.
WILL THEY ALL BE COPY WRITTEN?
WBM: Yeah, will they?
Mod: Yes they will. That's another thing that can hold up posting. The process itself is quite simple, and the song is protected as soon as the publisher sends the application into ASCAP, which is often well before the title turns up up in their database. But an application must include the song (harmonic structure), the melody, sung or not, and a full lyric file. In a couple of cases it has taken a while to find all those pieces, and strip them together into the required form. You are not unfamiliar with the practice of collecting and exchanging, uh, unofficial music, am I right? Why don't you tell the folks what they can and cannot do with these tracks.
CAN I DOWNLOAD, COPY OR [FILL IN BLANK] WHAT YOU POST?
WBM: I’ve collected a fair bit of…what did you call it? Oh yeah, unofficial music in my time. In this case, the holders of the copyrights -- the Estate of Walter Becker -- has decided that people are free to copy, download, or burn these tracks to play on their iPhones or devices, boomboxes, car audio systems, and home hi-fi Dolby 5.1 surround rooms. Everyone who enjoys this music is also free to send the tracks around to friends. In all cases, however, the track must travel along with its copyright information, which is the text that takes the form of:
© Zeon Music LLC 1997, 2018
It would also be extremely helpful, will accrue lots of karma points, and will serve to limit the rights damage that can be done in a few years, if you also pass on the source of the clip, namely walterbeckermedia.com or walterbecker.com.
That’s all lovely and friendly and kind, as it is intended, but here's the one thing that will send the otherwise obliging man, woman, or child beyond that oft mentioned seventh circle of hell, and on towards the ninth, reserved for treachery most foul, and that is to exchange these tracks for money. That is the unpardonable sin. Do not do it. Don't sell it, even for penny, at the flea market or eBay or out of the trunk of your cherry '78 Lincoln Continental or wherever it is that you peddle your wares. Don’t take the track or corresponding video and upload it to YouTube or Vimeo or Facebook or wherever else videos are uploaded and where it can turn into a money-making clip with enough views…. unless it is the form of sharing said track or video from the site you are on right now or from the "Walter Becker Media" YouTube Channel. And if you see someone doing this or selling any of the tracks we’re offering freely here, even for the aforementioned penny, people should please let us know immediately and if they have the opportunity to publicly call this shitheel out and chase them around the Internet for a few laps, they should feel an obligation bordering on covenant to go ahead and chase the fucker around, calling out his sin loudly as you go.
WBM: Could you run that YouTube thing by me again?
Mod: Sure. We've had some video clips on walterbecker.com for sometime now . And the clip of an unreleased track has been available here for over 10 days. DanFans and Beckerphiles did what comes naturally: grabbed the media and posted them on YouTube, where they have been racking up some good hits. Our problem is the now-relentless commercial nature of YouTube, such that popular clips are rewarded with the high honor of forcing visitors to watch an advertisement first. Our channel can mitigate that risk somewhat with a tap dance here, and a soft shoe there. As a rule, you also won't find copyright attribution on these posts which, silly us, as the copyright holders, actually matters a little. Also, until the Becker channel exceeds hits of these other postings, people searching YouTube for a Walter Becker channel will not find it amongst the first several hits unless they look for the precise channel name -- "Walter Becker Media"-- which, if it keeps them from finding our channel, will deprive them of a lot more Becker material. So overall for a variety of reasons, when it comes to media, we would like to be the central source for Becker postings. We can protect copyright, mitigate commercialization, become prominent–– or at least findable––in searches, guarantee as much audio fidelityas the medium will allow, while offering a range of choices in said fidelity.. We're not asking people not to share these materials; hell, we want them to be shared. And we will be paying for the extra bandwidth doing it this way. We're just asking people to use this site, or the official YouTube channel, as sources for the material they would like to share or link to, rather than some x-generation copy.
[A note on quality: any audio, if it comes from or is fed from YouTube, will be of lesser quality than those found on our Downloads page. So for the purpose of accommodating our request to keep our media centralized here on the site (which includes our Downloads page), select the Downloads page option if sound quality is your first consideration; these files are hosted on our server at maximum resolution, unaltered by YouTube's various quality-unfriendly manipulations],
WBM: Got it. Well done.
Mod: And to you as well.
WBM: I thought so! And on that note, time for a break then?
Mod: Yeah, let's knock off now for a while. This FAQ is a work in progress; we'll come back to it soon enough.
HEY HOW ABOUT ME? DON'T I GET A BREAK TOO? HELLO...?