“Pretzel Logic“ is a song written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen that was released as a single by Steely Dan from their album Pretzel Logic, originally released in 1974 by ABC Records. It reached number 57 in the Billboard charts.
Steely Dan FAQ author Anthony Robustelli describes “Pretzel Logic” as a bluesy shuffle about time travel. Fagen has stated that the lyrics, including anachronistic references to Napoleon and minstrel shows, are about time travel. According to Steely Dan FAQ author Anthony Robustelli, the “platform” referred to in the song’s bridge is the time travel machine. But Something Else! critic Victor Aaron describes the lines “I stepped out on the platform, the man gave me the news/He said, ‘You must be joking son, where did you get those shoes?’” as a memorable putdown line. Steely Dan biographer Brian Sweet hypothesizes that the first verse was inspired by the band’s distaste for touring, particularly the tours of the American South that their record label had sent them upon the previous year. Brownsville Herald writer Bobby Alvarez felt the song was about Steely Dan’s “quest for stardom” and represented their philosophy about themselves—that whatever they have not done or experienced in the past doesn’t matter anymore since the past is gone.
Rolling Stone Magazine critic Bud Scoppa describes “Pretzel Logic” as one of the album’s most conventional songs, calling it a “modified blues.” Aaron regards it as Steely Dan’s song that remains most faithful to the blues, but acknowledges that a few non-blues chords are incorporated into the refrain. Scoppa particularly praised the electric guitar improvisations for their originality and for pedal steel guitar parts that don’t sound like country music. Scoppa credited Jeff Baxter for this, although according to Steely Dan biographer Brian Sweet Walter Becker played the guitar solo. This is one of the first Steely Dan songs to feature Walter Becker as a lead guitarist. Eduardo Rivadavia cites “Pretzel Logic” as one of several songs on the album on which Steely Dan hones their trademark sound, “as sweetly infectious as it was deceptively intricate, dark and witty.” Alvarez rated it one of the best songs on the album.