Why I ❤️ Steely Dan's The Royal Scam, by Rudolf Schenker

Rudolf Schenker
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

I found out about Steely Dan from Erwin Musper [who has been involved in the production of Scorpions albums from the 1990s onwards]. We have never played on the same bill as Steely Dan, but I did once meet [guitarist] Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter. And he was a great guy, as well as also playing with the Doobie Brothers. 

Steely Dan were mostly a studio band, but although they specialised in music of an unbelievably high quality they were also able to write hits. I like them because the guitar playing was amazing, but also because they weren’t thinking about stardom. They were real musicians. 

The lyrics on this album are quite deep and depressing. Maybe people will be surprised that a musician from the Scorpions, who I guess are seen as a party band, can appreciate such a group. But we never wanted to be seen as a party band, we want to be taken seriously. Slade were a party band, not the Scorpions. 

Anyway, why can’t you like Steely Dan as well as Van Halen? Both styles of music help me through the day.

“My favourite bands were Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, but Steely Dan was different. It was music that you could sit back on a Sunday afternoon, relax and appreciate. The Royal Scam has some incredible rock guitar on Kid Charlemagne and Don’t Take Me Alive, but it also uses really complicated song arrangements. 

The track Hiatian Divorce is absolutely great. But for me the whole album is strong – that was the point. The songs flowed together. Steely Dan didn’t need to rely on chart singles or clever sleeves – although I do like the image on The Royal Scam of the tramp beneath the skyscrapers. There was also a lot of humour in their music, which I liked a lot. 

The production, by Gary Katz, is also perfect for the songs. A bit like The Beach Boys, the tradition of [Steely Dan mainmen/nucleus] Donald Fagen and Walter Becker was to work and work and work, until each song sounded the best it possibly could. I’m sure that must have annoyed the musicians that they worked with. But you can hear the way that the songs have been crafted. 

But Scorpions fans don’t need to worry, we don’t have any plans to make a journey into jazz rock with our next album.

Rudolf Schenker was speaking to Dave Ling