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Album: Pretzel LogicReleased: 1974Charted:
The keyboard riff was taken from "Song For My Father," which was released in 1964 by Jazz composer and pianist Horace Silver. The opening of both songs is nearly identical. It's a good example of how Steely Dan used elements of jazz in pop songs.
According to a 2006 interview with Entertainment Weekly
, the Rikki of the title is Rikki Ducornet, a New York writer and artist. Steely Dan co-front Donald Fagen had met her while both were attending Bard College, a small liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Ducornet says they met at a college party, and even though she was both pregnant and married at the time, he gave her his number, although not in the same context as the song. Ducornet was intrigued by Fagen and tempted to call him, but she decided against it. A complete write-up of this incident is at ew.com
, and it kind of sounds like it came straight out of a Doonesbury
Frank Zappa fans of course have a different context for this song. Go to your CD collection and get out You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore (volume 2), select Disc 2, and play Track 2: "Dupree's Paradise."
Zappa sings a couple of joke lines from "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," with a hilarious deadpan. It's just after the bass-player rant and just before Frank makes another crack about Suzi Quatro cassettes. Zappa and his gang around this time frequently commented on whatever music was popular at the moment.
Speaking on the subject of playing their hit songs in concert, Donald Fagen told Rolling Stone in 2013: "Walter and I aren't fond of 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number.' It's not a bad song. I think it's 'well-written,' but it's so simple. I just have listening fatigue. It's been played so much. Same with 'Reeling in the Years.'"
The beginning of this song features a flapamba, a rare and unusual instrument that is a variant of a marimba. Although the introduction, played by British jazz musician Victor Feldman, was cut from the original ABC single version, the MCA single reissue restored the flapamba intro but fades out just before the actual end of the track.
Jeff "Skunk" Baxter played the guitar solo on this track. Baxter, who joined the Doobie Brothers in 1975, later became a consultant in the audio industry and also leant his technical expertise to the defense industry.
John Mahoney sings part of this song in the movie Say Anything... when he finds out his daughter is accepted into a prestigious study program.
When we interviewed Rickie Lee Jones
in 2017, we asked about the rumors that this song was about her. "Ha!" was her reply. "I hadn't heard that."