Song Lyric Sunday — Don’t Lose That Number Redux

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams has asked us to find a song that includes a number. I’m actually going to take a bit of a liberty with that instruction and select a song that doesn’t include a specific number, per se, in the title or in the lyrics, but one wher a number — a phone number — is central to the song nonetheless. I chose Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

Truth be told, this is a repeat performance. Back in February 2018, I used this song when Helen Vahdati was still behind the Song Lyric Sunday prompt and gave us theme “phone calls/calling.” But since that was more than two years, and because I’m a big fan of Steely Dan, and because this is one of my favorite Steely Dan songs, I’m using it again.

“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” was a single released in 1974 and was also the opening track of Steely Dan’s third album Pretzel Logic. Written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, it was the group’s most successful single, peaking at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1974.

There was speculation about the song that the “number” in question was slang for a marijuana cigarette. “Send it off in a letter to yourself” was supposedly a way to safely transport one’s pot back before the post office abolished general delivery mail. Both Becker and Fagen denied that.

Fagen insisted it was a simple love song and said that the Rikki of the song’s title was Rikki Ducornet, a New York writer and artist. Fagen met her while both were attending Bard College, a small liberal arts school located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Ducornet said 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 was tempted to call him, but she decided against it.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

We hear you’re leaving, that’s okay
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart

Rikki don’t lose that number
You don’t want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don’t lose that number
It’s the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

I have a friend in town, he’s heard your name
We can go out driving on Slow Hand Row
We could stay inside and play games, I don’t know
And you could have a change of heart

Rikki don’t lose that number
You don’t want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don’t lose that number
It’s the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

You tell yourself you’re not my kind
But you don’t even know your mind
And you could have a change of heart

Rikki don’t lose that number
You don’t want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don’t lose that number
It’s the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

20 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Don’t Lose That Number Redux

  1. newepicauthor May 17, 2020 / 7:51 am

    Becker and Fagen decided to retire from live performances after Pretzel Logic and make Steely Dan a studio-based band.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango May 17, 2020 / 11:21 pm

      I did see a live Steely Dan performance with Becker and Fagen in 2011 at Tanglewood in Western Massachusetts. It was aptly named “The Pretzel Logic Tour” and it’s was outstanding.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. msjadeli May 17, 2020 / 9:58 am

    I don’t know how anyone could think this song is about weed. I love Steely Dan and everything they do. Great choice, Fandango.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango May 17, 2020 / 11:27 pm

      Thanks. Yeah, that people thought it was about sending weed really took me by surprise. Strange what people will read into song lyrics.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Marleen May 17, 2020 / 10:53 am

    That’s an enjoyable song in the nostalgia category.

    From the guilty (as in stupid) pleasures file:

    867-530 ni-ee-i-ee-i-ine

    This band tryout show (with famous people choosing a new lead) had two seasons on network television. I saw one of the other contestants live as a guest singer with a classic crooner at a world-class symphony hall, which was curious.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. aisasami May 24, 2020 / 5:43 am

    Steely Dan has been playing A LOT of my Spotify lately because maybe I need feel-good 70s rock in my life? Always loved Rikki since I was little and it is a great late spring night song: cool and refreshing.

    Liked by 1 person

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