Steely Dan

Rikki Don't Lose That Number

Composed by Walter Becker / Donald Fagen

Song Review by

Just to clear up a generation's worth of rumors about the lyrics of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," Walter Becker stated for the record in a 1985 interview in the pages of Musician that the "number" in question was not slang for a marijuana cigarette ("send it off in a letter to yourself," supposedly a way to safely transport one's dope back before the post office abolished general delivery mail, was held up as the key line), and an uncharacteristically forthcoming Donald Fagen has similarly revealed that the "Rikki" in question was simply a woman he'd had a crush on in college. It says something about Steely Dan's reputation as obscurantists that even a straightforward lost-love song like "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" could be so widely over-interpreted. After a strangely quiet, hollow-sounding introduction played on the flopanda, a sort of electrified marimba, the song proper starts with a bass-heavy piano riff lifted outright from Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," set to a samba-like beat from drummer Jim Gordon, opening into one of Steely Dan's most graceful melodies. It's unsurprising that "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" ended up becoming Steely Dan's biggest commercial hit (hitting number four in the summer of 1974), as it's one of the group's most gentle and accessible songs.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Pretzel Logic 1974 MCA 4:33
Greatest Hits 1979 MCA 4:34
No Image 1984 MCA
A Decade of Steely Dan 1985 MCA / Universal 4:30
Classic Rock, Vol. 1 [MCA] 1990
Various Artists
MCA 4:31
Sounds of the Seventies: 1974 1990
Various Artists
Citizen Steely Dan 1993 MCA 4:07
Remastered: The Best of Steely Dan - Then and Now 1993 MCA 4:32
Classic Rock, Vol. 1 [Universal Special Products] 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 4:33
Showbiz Kids: The Steely Dan Story 1972-1980 2000 MCA 4:32
Can't Buy a Thrill/Pretzel Logic/The Royal Scam 2003 Universal Distribution 4:32
The Definitive Collection 2006 MCA / Geffen 4:32
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection - The Best of Steely Dan 2007 Geffen 4:33
The Very Best of Steely Dan 2009 Universal Distribution / Universal Music TV 4:32
No Image
Various Artists