Feb 20

Logical questions about Pretzel Logic


Today is February 20, 2019 and I’m sure we all know what that means- Walter Becker’s 69th Birthday! Today also marks the 45th anniversary of Pretzel Logic (the album was released on Walter’s 24th birthday). As I was listening to Pretzel Logic this morning, I was examining the picture on the album cover. A few questions popped into my head.

Who is the man selling pretzels?

Was the picture staged? Or did the photographer, Raeanne Rubenstein, just decide to take a picture of some random New York street vendor, and use him in the picture for the cover photo?

Also, on the sign that says, “Hot Pretzles 15 ¢” was ‘Pretzels’ intentionally spelled ‘Pretzles’, or was that a typo?

If anyone knows the answers to these questions, please let me know.

Once again, Happy Birthday Walter!




Feb 20

If I recall correctly, it was a legitimate pretzel vendor; nothing was staged. Check-out this link that gives details regarding the location of the famous cover: http://www.popspotsnyc.com/pretzel_logic/


NOTE: a couple of years ago I was in New York on vacation with my wife and we went to the spot and she took my photo. If I can find it, I'll post it here.

Feb 25

The thought I had while reading this post was the imagining of being 24 and releasing Pretzel Logic! Then, the thought of it being your 3rd release!


When I was 24 I was waking up in strange places with half my face stuck to the floor.


And how as Matt has said


"but I think he really did put the same amount of effort that he had reserved for his music into taking care of himself, and that by definition precluded the kind of output we see occurring around 11ToW, Circus Money, and the intervening Steely Dan albums."


Still, all that Production work in the 80's it just boggles the mind.

May 31

According to Brian Sweet's Steely Dan book, the vendor on the cover of Pretzel Logic was approached to sign a release form for the use of the photograph and he refused. Some digging was done on the vendor to find he had no licence so it was unlikely he would sue, so the photograph was used.

Funny I'd never heard that one (that should say something about how carefully I've read Sweet's book -- urp!). It has an apocryphal sound to it -- but then again, so often does the truth...


Hal, I won't argue with you anymore!

New Posts
  • [ Howard Rodman's remarks made as keynote address on the occasion of the re-naming of the corner of 112th Street and 72nd Drive in Forest Hills, Queens as ‘Walter Becker Way.’ ] In his legendary essay, “Paris, Capital of the 19th Century,” the German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin talked about the ways in which Paris, with its boulevards, its arcades, its poets, was truly the capital of the 19th century. But an equally compelling argument can be made: that Forest Hills, the community that spreads out from the very corner on which we stand now, was indeed the capital of the twentieth. Think about it: how many of the disparate musical and cultural strains that define the second half of the twentieth century had their origins right here. Paul Simon grew up at 137-62 70th Road. Jeffrey Hyman, later Joey Ramone, grew up at 102-10 66th Road, and John Cummings, Tommy Erdelyi, Doug Colvin – later Johnny, Tommy, and Dee Dee Ramone respectively – came up a street or two away. It’s hard to think of Bridge Over Troubled Water and Beat on the Brat [with a Baseball Bat] as coming from the same planet. But in fact: they came from within blocks of each other. The Ramones and Paul Simon were not Forest Hills’s only odd pairings. Leslie West and Pia Zadora. Donna Karan and Thelma Ritter. Wilhelm Reich and Anthony Wiener. But in weighing the contribution of this piece of outer-borough soil to the country, and the larger world, we inevitably find ourselves speaking of Walter Becker. Who when I first knew him, age ten, lived right there. Like many of the friends and comrades with us this morning, we went to PS 196, whose anthem I can still sing, “PS one hundred and ninety six, we raise our voices high…” I wish Walter were here to sing the rest. Though in theory there were no ‘tracks,’ everyone knew that 5-5 and 6-2 were the IGC classes. In theory that stood for Intellectually Gifted Children. In practice: smart-ass wiseacres, using whatever intelligence we could muster in service of mocking the world into which we’d been born, fueled by transistor radios and Mad magazine. And even then, just kids in Miss Bishop’s class, in Miss Cathey’s class, Walter’s lead was the one we followed. In Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth , as deep as they go, cavern after cavern, they again and again come across a scrawl or a sign of Arne Saknussem – the 16th century Icelandic magician who’d always gotten there first. Walter was our Saknussem. There was something older about him, and most certainly wiser. He had his aesthetic down cold, as if received. And was extravagant about letting the rest of us know what to listen to, what to read, what to watch. He gave me my first Borges, my first Nabokov, my first Burroughs. He told me what movies to see. He’d toss music my way — I remember, in particular now, Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity . And if I balked, or was unreceptive, he’d say, “You’re going to like this in a year or so, so why don’t you start now and save yourself some time.” While the rest of us were (awkwardly; clumsily) fashioning our personas, his seemed always to have been there. Part Terry Southern, part Lenny Bruce, but always — as was the case with him, and not yet with us — far more than the sum of his influences. We’d drink Romilar, bought over there, and watch re-runs of The Million Dollar Movie , in his apartment right up there. Somehow, the movie was always Panic in the Year Zero . On another night Walter and my mother and me got so stoned that we listened to a record skip-skip-skip for half an hour before we realized it wasn’t intentional. An evening I had forgot entirely about, until Walter chose to recount it, forty-five years later, at a Steely Dan concert during the vamp of Hey Nineteen . At the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. In front of six thousand people. In detail, and with my mother’s name carefully pronounced. (Word travels fast. When I got home that night my fifteen-year-old son had a Cheshire Cat grin. And said, “Dad, is there anything you want to talk about?”) But back to days and nights in vintage Forest Hills. We had our peacoats, our McCreedy & Schreiber boots, we walked like this, we’d take the E train to the Village on Friday nights to hang at the Café au Go-Go. I see a few people out there who will know exactly what I mean. We were, face it, tragically hip bridge-and-tunnel teenyboppers. As John Boylan, one of Walter’s early collaborators would put it, “E train, to Forest Hills. E train, so easy to find. E train, home from the Village, let mother take care of your mind.” But Walter didn’t have a mom to come home to. Perhaps this accounts for why he was getting stoned with mine. Perhaps this accounts for how he was able to run so wild, and so free: with no mother at home, and a father so often away, and a grandmother whose threats terrified no one, Walter could do as he pleased. We’ve long recognized the astonishing, revelatory work that this enabled. But let us take a moment, too, to acknowledge the pain. He taught those of us who knew him, and millions who didn’t, how to become what he and Donald would call “gentlemen losers.” But all of that came at a real cost that neither he nor we would often want to name or to face. Which is why my favorite of Walter’s songs might be This Moody Bastard from 11 Tracks of Whack . These days it's like a tomb/ Amid in the stacks of gloom/ Looking out the window/ In the downstairs room And the time goes by/ And the time goes by/ Sometimes it goes so slowly/ You know a man could cry Till the day goes down/ In deep disgrace/ With empty pockets/ And a dirty face This moody bastard remembers/ You were some kind of friend even then Once in a great while/ He needs one... I think we all of us know what “once in a great while” means. We’re left with memories, to be sure. Glorious memories. And we’re left with the music, which is indelible, music which was never was quite in sync with its time, and because of that will never grow old. Nor will the world he limned: an unparalleled gallery of local losers, smalltime hoods, dive-bar cynics, rooming-house romantics, would-be has-beens; the autodidacts, the isolatoes; the carneys, shills, junkies, dealers, conmen, fugitives – all of them on the run from the one thing they cannot change: who they are. We feel large and uneasy empathy for them, even as we know they’re getting exactly what they deserve. We know them better than they know themselves. And Walter knew them best of all. This would be the place to mention the obvious: that if you’re looking for a top-40 hit, you don’t use as your hook, “Even Cathy Berberian knows there’s one roulade you can’t sing.” Yet Walter and Donald did, anyway, and sold forty million records, anyway. They did it not by reverse-engineering what an audience might like, but by being deeply, obsessively, cannily true to themselves. The success of Steely Dan was because, not in spite of, its celebration of the marginal. With the passage of time one learns to look past Walter’s brilliance, past his astonishing way with words and with music – strike the Mu Major chord! – past the sensibility he helped forge, past the obsessive dedication to getting it right— Past all of these to Walter’s true generosity of spirit. Reaching deep inside himself, taking the joys and pains he found there, and making them our own. As Walter Benjamin put it: “The flâneur stood at the margins of the great city. He sought his asylum in the crowd.” It took Walter Becker – indelibly cool, impossibly droll, triumphantly cryptic, unimaginably hip, with the intelligence to see life as it is, and the heart to set it down in ways that have now circled the globe it took Walter Becker to look out at this suburban landscape of postwar six-story housing, and recognize it for what it was: not a bedroom community, a bridge or a tunnel or an E-train away from Manhattan, but as something grand and glorious in and of itself. Forest Hills. A place he saw as the capital of the 20th century. And then: made it so.
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see so many lap steels in Walter's vast collection. somewhere around 30 of them. I'm wondering if he played much steel, or spoke much about it. as far as I know, he never recorded any. I was also a little surprised that he owned dozens of lap steels but not a single modern-day pedal steel... guess it just wasn't his thing. the Gibson Electraharp he had was obsolete by the 1960s and was missing parts. aloha and mahalo!
  • Scattered here on this board and across other SM sites are a few comments from those who bid and won or bid and “lost” on this past weekend’s Becker Auction. I’d love to hear from all of you and gather your comments here. It would also be interesting to hear from those who just observed — either in person, or via the live-stream. I was at the live auction for most of the time, and what I missed in person I was streaming at my hotel room. Matt, I think, was there 100% of the time; would we possibly expect otherwise from First Lieutenant Atticus Matticus, Director Of Operations, Technology, Motivation, and All-Around Righteous Action? I have plenty of observations of the action, both the substance (items, bidders, prices) and the process (the mechanisms and the social psychology of the event were fascinating), and I’m betting Matt and you do too. Collecting reports here from all sides of the event would be pretty interesting, and would be a place for questions and answers (or hypotheses) about this mysterious and brutal ritual. [In my dreams, it's also a place where I finally respond to the worst of the know-it-all know-nothings. ooooo, so tempting...and it would be so satisfying...!] I'd also love to hear about fans who managed to snag something; it's been great to read, for instance, that one of you got a blue Hahn...and that a musician friend got the dreamy White J-style Sadowsky bass. So wonderful to learn that some of our lovelies haven't disappeared into the far nowhere after all. Are you game? If you’ve posted your experience elsewhere, can we convince you to drop a line or two here as well? And I promise lurkers will be gently welcomed, with our gratitude. I’ll start off with with a couple of mine, in no particular order: == If I was Auction Queen, I’d have the Auctioneers study the items they will cover. It’s pretty clear they ad lib lists like ours (I’m sure for one of Elizabeth Taylor’s world-famous Hope Diamond necklaces they’d know and use many details). At minimum I’d have them quickly review at least what was printed in the Catalog description, and make sure they understand it. For instance, it seemed random if they’d mention if an item was custom made for Walter, or was a gift. Or sometimes you could see they were reading a word or two into the description, but wouldn’t necessarily pick up on what was important or even obvious — for instance, from a catalog heading “Bozo Les Paul 227” saying it was a “Les Paul”…but skipping the luthier Bozo and thus not paying attention to the fact that it was Bozo’s version of a Les Paul design, not a Les Paul. This was an especially frustrating omission for some significant items. Take for instance, Sadowsky’s prototype of the signature model. As I recall, the auctioneer just said “Stage-played Sadowsky” or something. If they had reviewed items, and had someone on hand to expand the meaning and point out the significance (which could be done in a sentence or two) then their few words about an item would be both more informative (and correct) and include what made the item special or unique. On the other hand, I guess they reasonably assume that bidders have done careful research on the item of interest…at the very least, they have read the catalog description! But observers are more likely to become bidders, I think, if the Auctioneer’s info is engaging and deep(er). I’m also well aware that my suggested change would go against an industry-wide practice that would be impossible to replace with this suggestion. Hey-- I didn’t say we had to be realistic. == For a long time, I thought the auction biz practice of setting estimate ranges low went against a robust finding of social cognition: the effect of anchoring and adjustment, or framing. Briefly: anchoring people on a lower quantity — doesn’t matter of what — then having them estimate something else, they will provide lower ending numbers than if anchored on a higher quantity. But observation of the auction in vivo , if you will (supplemented by a later glance at the literature, I confess) made me realize why their practice was not wrongheaded. (Reasoning on this in a later post, if anybody’s interested). Wonder if anyone else thought about this or about the effect of estimated ranges in general ? So in short 🤣— let's hear from those who snagged something ..what did you get, and did you get it at your price? …was your guitar well set-up?…what about those who missed out on something?…what was the bidding experience like? … did you go too high or stop too soon?…did you learn something about ‘human nature’ or the ‘engines of commerce’ or ‘modes of production’ lol or whatever?…oh it’s just endless. C’mon in!