Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Steely Dan, "Pretzel Logic" (1974)


I believe a slightly trimmed version of this was actually the first single released from the album of the same name. I see that it peaked at #57, not even close to its follow-up, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," which made it all the way to #4 and has become the song that people sing with in the movies now. Injustice! They should be singing with this one, I have always been certain of that, even now, when it's all but exhausted after too many years of '70s hard playing constantly. Indeed, you might well hear it better than I can any more, but I am nothing if not loyal to those fond memories of staying up all night over at one person's apartment or place or another and sooner or later this side went on, and this song played again. It's practically a little movie all in its own right, with the big boss blues riffs commanding all attention and Fagen's crazy-wacked surrealist lyrics strained through the blues gestures bringing up the rear. I suppose it's a somewhat tepid workup compared to the evident sources of admiration, Bob Dylan and William Burroughs, appearing in a figurative soft-shoe routine for the ages: "I stepped up on the platform / The man gave me the news / He said, 'You must be joking son / Where did you get those shoes?'" (compare "And dropping a barbell he points to the sky / Saying, 'The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken,'" but never mind, not important). I loved this band and this album in this moment and you can hear all the reasons for it here—a certain swagger, an appreciation for the turn of phrase, spiffy-clean playing everywhere you look. It was Steely Dan's world. We just lived in it.

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