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Music

The mythical creature that links Steely Dan and Genesis together

@TylerGolsen

You won’t get much crossover between American jazz rock legends Steely Dan and British prog-rock gods Genesis. Both share a common love for complexity and a certain intellectual bent, but the way the two acts bring their visions to life is completely different.

Steely Dan were all about fitting classic R&B ethos into harmonically complicated packages, with some dashes of rock, funk, and pop thrown in to make them commercially viable. Genesis, at least in its initial form, had no worries about mainstream: they were a distinctly English form of progressive rock, with extremely long excursions that could blend time signatures, key signatures, and nursery rhymes together.

But just two years apart from each other, Steely Dan and Genesis both made references to an obscure mythical creature that supposedly stalks the American northeast. The Squonk is a distinctive character in American folklore and proceeded the eventual craze of cryptozoology by a few decades. The creature can supposedly dissolve itself in its own tears when cornered or frightened, making it a powerful poetic device for a discerning writer.

The Dan were the first to take on the squonk by giving it a prominent place in the lyrics of 1974’s ‘Any Major Dude Will Tell You’. Comically, the musicians who played on the track weren’t sure what a squonk was but were too afraid of appearing ignorant to ask Walter Becker or Donald Fagen. The two had a very hipster-esque intellectualism about them, which could be either intimidating or a source of scorn for some of the band members who cycled through over the years.

But Steely Dan didn’t devote the entirety of ‘Any Major Dude Will Tell You’ to the squonk. Genesis were the band who gave the creature its own song, with ‘Squonk’ appearing as the third track on 1976’s A Trick of the Tail, Phil Collins’ first album as the group’s lead singer. ‘Squonk’ was actually the first song that Collins performed in that role, having been hesitant to take on the responsibility after Peter Gabriel’s departure. His bandmates responded positively, and Collins proceeded to record the vocals for the rest of the album.

Check out both squonk references down below.