In a new interview, Katz, who besides being Steely Dan’s longtime producer has also worked with the likes of Diana Ross, 10cc and The Mamas & The Papas, talked about the creative process behind the band’s most recognisable hit.
“In the chorus, the backgrounds are sort of the lead,” Katz told Ultimate Classic Rock. “It wasn’t like a [usual] background part.”
As Steely Dan were putting the track together, Katz and the band’s frontman Donald Fagen discussed how they “both liked Henley’s singing” and decided to bring him in with Linda Ronstadt to track some vocals for the song.
“So, I called Irving [Azoff, the Eagles and Steely Dan’s manager]… Linda wasn’t feeling well, so Nicolette Larson came.”
However, when it came time for Henley and Larson to learn the parts Fagen wanted them to sing, the result wasn’t great.
“There wasn’t patience as much as instant reaction of the realities of the moment,” Katz said. “We didn’t jerk people off by letting them think it was going to work and have them sit for two hours. When we knew it wasn’t going to be OK, Fagen would tell me to end it. So they sang it again, and it was no good.”
Not long after, Fagen singled for bandmate Walter Becker to “go get a sandwich” with him, and as the pair left the studio, Katz said Fagen told him to fire Henley and Larson. The command left him “with my finger up my ass having to fire Henley. Which I did – and have heard about for 35 years since, in various ways.”
Elaborating on what he meant, Katz said: “The last time I saw Henley, he sidled up to me … and he said, ‘Are you going to fire me again today, Katz?’ But he didn’t smile when he said that.”
He agrees it was “a difficult day at the office, because, like [Fagen and Becker], I was part of that inner-circle crowd. We were all in the same little area. We lived in the same place and had the same manager. It was always Eagles and Steely Dan for a long time in L.A.”
The legendary group – comprising Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit with Deacon Frey and Vince Gill – announced back in November that they would be heading out on the road in celebration of their 1976 album ‘Hotel California’.
Now, they have unveiled a number of new stops in Cleveland, Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Columbus, Buffalo, Belmont Park, Houston, Nashville, Tulsa and Salt Lake City.
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