Steely Dan: Pretzel Logic
Pretzel Logic (MCA 11917)
David Palmer (background vocals), Wilton Felder, Plas Johnson, Ollie Mitchell, Jerome Richardson, Ernie Watts (horns).
Composed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, late 1973
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
The hidden meaning of Steely Dan's "Pretzel Logic" will remain uncovered without asking Walter Becker and/or Donald Fagen for a direct explanation. I, however, hear a tale that longs for the simplicity of the Golden Age of Hollywood as it reluctantly accepts the entertainment industry's current condition. "Those days are gone forever," Fagen sings as he laments stepping "up to the platform" and being scrutinized for his shoes. This may be a statement on the platform shoes that celebrities wore during the 1970s; their cartoonish implications lead an obviously popular performer to retort that he "seen them on the TV-the movie show."
That his word choice is "seen" and not the proper form of "saw" is crucial to any sort of comprehension of the setting, because the very first lyrics implore that the same person would, "love to travel the Southland in a traveling minstrel show." It is unknown what kind of entertainment the person is providing, but it is certain that the person speaking either was born and raised in the southern part of the USA or knows that his roots lie there, even if he no longer benefits from the South's perceived simplicity of lifestyle.
Musically, the track is built around a rather simplistic (for this group, anyway) blues pattern. The instrumentation is spare and the vocals are abundantly multi-tracked. A horn section simmers in the background and, although it is not one of the prominent sonic aspects, its inclusion fills up the entire sound spectrum. Even with the thought provoking lyrics, without the brass, the tune would have sounded somewhat less full-and that would have subtracted from its power.
Reviewer: Marcus Singletary