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How Steely Dan made their classic album Pretzel Logic

Fawned over and derided in equal measure, Steely Dan are a rock’n’roll group that aren’t really a group and don’t really like rock’n’roll, but have sold 50 million records to people who do...

In 1977, the American glossy magazine New Times interviewed William Burroughs, the beat writer and junkie figurehead who had inspired many of the rock generation. Burroughs’s 1959 novel Naked Lunch had been required reading for aspiring beatniks, and featured a sex toy that, as every Steely Dan bore knows, the group named themselves after.

Burroughs had never heard Steely Dan’s music until his New Times interviewer turned up with their latest album, Katy Lied. After listening to the opening track, Black Friday, the king of the beats delivered his verdict: “They’re doing too many things at once,” Burroughs complained. “To write a best-seller you can’t have too much going on. You take The Godfather – the horse’s head? That’s great. But you can’t have a horse’s head on every page.”


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