Steely Dan – ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’
  • Writers: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
  • Producer: Gary Katz
  • Recorded: Late 1973/early 1974 at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles
  • Released: March 1974
  • Players:
    Donald Fagen — vocals, keyboards
    Walter Becker — bass, guitar, vocals
    Jeff “Skunk” Baxter — guitar solo
    Michael Omartian — piano
    Chuck Rainey — bass
    Jim Gordon — drums
  • Album: Pretzel Logic (ABC-Dunhill, 1974)
  • Also On:
    Greatest Hits (ABC-Dunhill, 1978)
    Remastered — The Best Of Steely Dan (MCA, 1993)
    Citizen Steely Dan: 1972-1980 (MCA, 1993)
  • “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” was the first single from Steely Dan‘s third album, Pretzel Logic. It was the band’s biggest hit single ever, reaching Number Four on the pop charts.
  • Singer-keyboardist Donald Fagen called it “a very simple love song to a young lady. I always thought it was a rather erotic, decadent sort of thing. Here you find a guy, a rather rich gentleman living in a resort, and he somehow manages to capture this young lady.”
  • The Rikki in question was actually a woman Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker met while they were students at Bard College in upstate New York.
  • Fagen has denied that the “number” in the title refers to a marijuana joint. “I think that’s San Francisco slang, but we didn’t know that… The fact is we were simply referring to a phone number, so I think people should take the lyrics more literally and be on the safe side.”
  • The odd, polyrhythmic sound that precedes the song was played on a flopanda, an instrument similar to the marimba.
  • The song — particularly the introduction — has been likened to jazz master Horace Silver‘s “Song For My Father.” Fagen explained, “It was supposed to be a Brazilian bassline, and when (drummer) Jim Gordon saw the chart, he naturally started playing that type of beat.”
  • JeffSkunkBaxter‘s guitar solo was played without an amplifier — he just plugged his guitar directly into the board. During the first few attempts, some dropouts appeared on the tape — and when the group sent the tape back to its manufacturer, engineers there discovered that the glitch was caused by mustard that had leaked into the board.
  • As soon as the song was finished, session pianist Michael Omartian bolted to Las Vegas to get married — but not before Steely Dan toasted the nuptials with an impromptu champagne party in the studio.
  • The Pretzel Logic album peaked at Number Eight on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than a million copies.
  • It also marked the last vestiges of Steely Dan as a “band.” Following a tour to promote the album, the group became a session vehicle for Becker and Fagen.


  • Becker and Fagen broke up after the 1980 album Gaucho, but they reunited in the ’90s, first for Fagen’s New York Rock & Soul Revue tours and finally, in 1993, under the name Steely Dan.
  • Steely Dan resumed studio recording with Two Against Nature in 2000, which won Grammy Awards for Album Of The Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording, while the single “Cousin Dupree” was named Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.
  • Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Proving that they didn’t take the honor all that seriously, they put Becker’s Rock Hall trophy up for a mock auction, just days after the ceremony.
  • Steely Dan’s most recent album was called Everything Must Go, released in 2004.
  • Walter Becker is releasing a solo album June 10th, called Circus Money.

Steely Dan is touring the U.S. this summer, on the Think Fast Steely Dan tour.