Steely Dan Sunday, “Pretzel Logic” (1974)

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I stepped out on the platform, the man gave me the news
He said, “You must be joking son, where did you get those shoes?”

It’s often been pointed out that the blues formed the basis for both jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, the two forms of music that Steely Dan have bashed together for its entire existence. So, it might make sense to find them going back to the kind of music that gave rise to them both. “Pretzel Logic,” the song, is their most faithful fealty to the blues.

The song is full of memorable lines like “I have never met Napoleon, but I plan to find the time,” or the putdown quote above, but I never really understood what the heck the story line in this song was really about. The title, I suspect, provides the clue: it’s not supposed to make sense.

What does make sense is the music, and any band that could handle the subtly odd harmonics of “Your Gold Teeth” or “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” can certainly take on the relatively straight ahead blues of “Pretzel Logic,” with an emphasis on “relatively,” since for the chorus they toss in some non-blues chords that still makes this a uniquely Steely Dan song.

Walter Becker debuts on a Steely Dan record as a guitar soloist, beginning by answering Donald Fagen’s lines of the second verse, and does a fine job throughout. As we will see throughout the rest of Steely Dan’s recordings, he’s at his best on lead guitar when the song follows a blues pattern. The compact horn charts give the tune an expanded feel but keeps the brass and reeds at bay to allow the funky rhythm section to shine through.

One of Steely Dan’s better live numbers (especially when Michael McDonald takes lead vocals), “Pretzel Logic” is a great showcase for the working band – whatever that working band happens to be at the time.

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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  • Preston

    This one’s actually Walter Becker on lead/solo guitar! Excellent!

    • S. Victor Aaron

      Right on both counts Preston, it actually is Becker on lead (the first one he’s done on a SD record), not Baxter, and it is excellent. Thanks for pointing that out.

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