Steely Dan Creates the Deadhead/Danfan Conversion Chart: A Witty Guide Explaining How You Can Go From Loving the Dead to Idolizing Steely Dan

To the naked eye — or at least to the naked eye of any­one born after about 1990 — fans of the Grate­ful Dead and fans of Steely Dan may look basi­cal­ly the same. Both bands emerged from the 1960s-forged coun­ter­cul­ture of Amer­i­ca’s “Baby Boom” gen­er­a­tion, broad­ly defined, and both have drawn unusu­al­ly ded­i­cat­ed lis­ten­er­ships. Yet few bod­ies of musi­cal work could project such dif­fer­ent sets of artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ties: on one side Steely Dan has the hand­ful of metic­u­lous­ly record­ed stu­dio albums filled with eso­teric wise­cracks and lit­er­ary ref­er­ences, and on the oth­er the Grate­ful Dead has the vast archives of live per­for­mance heavy on both extend­ed impro­vi­sa­tions and good vibes.

Close inspec­tion reveals that the deep­er dif­fer­ences in the music of the Grate­ful Dead and Steely Dan also man­i­fest in the lifestyles of “Dead­heads” and “Dan­fans.” You can see how in this handy Deadhead/Danfan Con­ver­sion Chart avail­able on Steely Dan’s offi­cial site. (View it in a larg­er for­mat here.) Where the accou­trements of the Grate­ful Dead­’s crowd include granny glass­es, VW bus­es, and tat­too­ing, it shows us, Steely Dan’s has its LA Eye­works clip-ons, BMW 353s, and cos­met­ic laser surgery.

Dead­heads read beat poet­ry, receive cos­mic visions, and enjoy the gui­tar play­ing of the late Jer­ry Gar­cia; Dan­fans read the Mac­Mall cat­a­log, send erot­ic e‑mails, and enjoy the gui­tar play­ing of the late Wal­ter Beck­er (among that of the dozens of oth­er pro­fes­sion­als called into the stu­dio).

The Deadhead/Danfan Con­ver­sion Chart also includes a mid­dle col­umn describ­ing the tran­si­tion­al stage sep­a­rat­ing Dead­head from Dan­fan. Between the Grate­ful Dead fan’s sense of one­ness and the Steely Dan fan’s sense of enti­tle­ment comes a sense of despair; between the Dead­head­’s take­out Indi­an food and the Dan­fan’s north­ern Ital­ian cui­sine comes freeze-dried pot roast and gravy. Laid out in this way, the jour­ney from the Grate­ful Dead to Steely Dan mir­rors the life jour­ney tak­en by many a Baby Boomer: from blissed-out utopi­anism, con­scious­ness-expand­ing sub­stances, and free love to cre­ative cyn­i­cism, anti­de­pres­sants, and high-end per­son­al elec­tron­ics. Or per­haps, to use a metaphor pop­u­lar in 1960s Amer­i­ca, the yin of the Dead­head and the yang of the Dan­fan inhab­its us all, regard­less of gen­er­a­tion.

Click here to view the Deadhead/Danfan Con­ver­sion Chart.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Steely Dan Wrote “Dea­con Blues,” the Song Audio­philes Use to Test High-End Stere­os

When Mistakes/Studio Glitch­es Give Famous Songs Their Per­son­al­i­ty: Pink Floyd, Metal­li­ca, The Breed­ers, Steely Dan & More

How Good Are Your Head­phones? This 150-Song Playlist, Fea­tur­ing Steely Dan, Pink Floyd & More, Will Test Them Out

Take a Long, Strange Trip and Stream a 346-Hour Chrono­log­i­cal Playlist of Live Grate­ful Dead Per­for­mances (1966–1995)

11,215 Free Grate­ful Dead Con­cert Record­ings in the Inter­net Archive

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • C. Breyer says:

    Read­ers can decide for them­selves whether the con­ver­sion chart is ground­ed enough in any real­i­ty to be amus­ing (after all, Steely Dan were ear­ly satirists of enti­tled boomers, and the wealthy Jer­ry Gar­cia drove BMW’s), but the source of and/or link to the chart,, is a fan site, not Steely Dan’s offi­cial site. That would be

  • C. Breyer says:

    Read­ers can decide if the chart is ground­ed enough in any real­i­ty to be amus­ing (Steely Dan were ear­ly and con­sis­tent satirists of boomer enti­tle­ment, and Jer­ry Gar­cia drove late mod­el BMW’s), but the list­ed source of/link to the chart is a fan site, not the ‘offi­cial’ Steely Dan site (which is

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