Steely Dan Sunday, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (1974)

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

Here’s a song where there’s so many delicious angles one could use to write about it: Victor Feldman’s wild electric marimba ruminations the the intro of the album version, the famous borrowing from Horace Silver’s “Song From My Father,” Skunk’s tasty solo or the alleged inspiration for the song’s lyrics. Instead, I’d like to call your attention to the drumming part of the song.

If you ever thought that Jim Gordon was even slightly overrated as a drummer, focus in on his performance the next time you listen to “Rikki.” No, he’s not being Neil Peart behind the kit, but he does all the little things precisely right: the Swiss watch timekeeping, the perfect modulating of cadence, and those impactful little fills he inserts after Fagen sings “send it off in a letter to yourself” and right after “you can have a change of heart.” This isn’t Session Drumming 101, it’s more like 901. Like the consummate sideman that he was, he didn’t make his presence felt ahead of the guys who hired him, but you’d notice right away if the part was played by, say, Jim Hodder instead.

You remember Hodder, the guy who was officially the band’s drummer as the band recorded the entire Pretzel Logic album without him. He saw the writing on the wall and soon afterwards left the band. Hodder was solid; Becker and Fagen fixed something that wasn’t broke. But, man, it’s hard to argue with the results.

“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” was a top 5 hit in 1974 in part because Walter Becker and Donald Fagen didn’t cut corners. Especially when it came to the drummer.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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