On the surface, Steely Dan and Grateful Dead have a lot of musical aspects in common. Since both work outside the confines of usual pop songwriting conventions and yet are highly successful, one could expect that the two bands would at least hold some mutual respect. However, Steely Dan wanted their fans to know that a clear line in the sand exists before becoming a Danhead and a Deadhead.
Going through their albums, there are already some apparent differences between how the groups approach their craft. As opposed to the long extended jams that The Dead were known to make across their classic live albums, Steely Dan was more focused on being studio lab rats, almost using different players as instruments by themselves to get the right tone for a particular song. As for how fans behave, though, Steely Dan followers made a chart to turn any curious Deadheads towards the jazz-rock greats.
When looking at the certain traits that come with being a Deadhead, Steely Dan created a chart for what constitutes a Danhead, alongside what bridges the gap between the fanbases. From drug intake to the kind of attitude that one should have, nothing is off the table when it comes to this chart.
During their prime, Grateful Dead were known as pioneers of psychedelic rock, so naturally, the drug of choice on their side would be acid. With a conversion of vodka and marijuana, the chart argues that a Danhead could switch by adding Zoloft to their drug intake.
Outside of recreational activities, being a Danhead also comes with attributes such as a sense of entitlement, a taste for northern Italian cuisine and the beautiful sounds of a Steinway D piano. This starkly contrasts what the Dead stand for, which would include a sense of oneness, a taste for Indian takeout, and an old Martin D-18 for their keyboard sound.
While some attributes are meant to be comical, a few tend to hit a more accurate nerve than most would admit. Compared to The Dead’s habit of writing songs about free love, Steely Dan’s penchant for songs about self-pleasuring comes through in half of their material. Even though the grooves on Dan albums are too infectious to ignore, the characters that populate tracks like ‘Peg’ and ‘Kid Charlemagne’ are more than a little bit seedy, as Donald Fagen paints their stories with disdain, disgust and just the slightest hint of sympathy.
This also bleeds into the type of characters that have become mainstays in the groups’ catalogues, with the classic movie protagonist Champagne Charlie being the true middle ground between The Dead’s Casey Jones and The Dan’s Hoops McCann from ‘Glamour Profession’.
One hilarious moment comes at the very bottom of the chart, where the truly neutral ground between The Dead and the Dan is Bruce Hornsby since he’s turned in time working on material with each group. While there might be a clear dividing line between both bands based on the chart alone, no one says one can’t have an affinity for each. These aren’t a list of requirements to become a Danhead or Deadhead, but looking through the attributes, they certainly might help.
See the guide below.