February 1974: Steely Dan Releases "Pretzel Logic"

Steely Dan Pretzel Logic cover art
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(ABC)

Steely Dan as we've come to know them--Donald Fagen and Walter Becker cramming as many musical ideas and lyrical puzzles possible into a disarmingly catchy pop melody with just enough jazz to keep it interesting, all performed by ace session musicians tasked to within an inch of their very sanity--truly crystallized on Pretzel Logic.

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It was during the making of this album that Becker and Fagen would begin to disband the core group that comprised Steely Dan over the first two records, culminating in the final night of the Pretzel Logic tour in Santa Monica, CA, in July 1974. After the show, members of the band would head over to Becker's house and take LSD. The next morning, Becker would announce that the outfit was done.

The success of Pretzel Logic, released on February 20, 1974, would give the pair that confidence. Opening track "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" still stands as Steely Dan's most successful single on the Hot 100, peaking at #4 the week of August 4, 1974. The #1 song that week: John Denver's "Annie's Song."

Of course, Steely Dan albums are measured not by singles, but deep-cut album tracks that have earned the distinction of fan favorites. Case in point: "Any Major Dude Will Tell You," which would serve as the B-side of the "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" single.

"When we moved out to LA, people called each other 'dude,' which we found funny," Fagen said in 2009. "We were trying to speak their language."

Steely Dan would release the album's title track as a single in June 1974. While it's still a favorite on FM radio, at the time the tune logged a modest chart performance, peaking at # 57 the week of November 2, 1974.

Pretzel Logic would be a big hit for the band, peaking at #8 on the Billboard album chart the week of August 17, 1974. The #1 album in America that week: Eric Clapton's 461 Ocean Boulevard.

"You know, I think as far as the lyrics, I think we’ve always tried to be honest and address problems like aging and you know…I think we didn’t even start out pretending we were adolescents or anything like that, so we didn’t have to keep that up," Fagen said in 2006 when asked about the timelessness of Steely Dan's output. "You know, maybe coming out of adult traditions like jazz and literary tradition kept us honest, I think, and so … but on the other hand, the Rolling Stones still pretend they’re adolescents, and they’re in their 60s, and they survived very well, so I’m not sure."

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