I would love to tour the Southland
In a traveling minstrel show
Yes I'd love to tour the Southland
In a traveling minstrel show
Yes I'm dying to be a star and make them laugh
Sound just like a record on the phonograph
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah
I have never met Napoleon
But I plan to find the time
I have never met Napoleon
But I plan to find the time
'Cause he looks so fine upon that hill
They tell me he was lonely, he's lonely still
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah

I stepped up on the platform
The man gave me the news
He said, You must be joking son
Where did you get those shoes?
Where did you get those shoes?

Well, I've seen 'em on the TV, the movie show
They say the times are changing but I just don't know
These things are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah

Lyrics submitted by AbFab

Pretzel Logic Lyrics as written by Walter Carl Becker Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Pretzel Logic song meanings
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  • +6
    General Comment

    Pretzel Logic, a great song but the lyrics seem to have confused a few.

    It is about TIME TRAVEL.

    Donald Fagen, in an interview said, " I stepped on the platform / the man gave me the news - we conceived the 'platform' as a teleportation device"

    "The man gave me the news" - the protagonist has looked at the date on a newspaper - different from the time he just left.

    Fagen also said, " And there are other key lines like, 'I've never met Napoleon, but I plan to find the time'. What we're actually saying is I plan to find the time that he lived in".

    A great song.

    LeatherCanaryon July 19, 2016   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    In the Steely Dan Biography "Reelin' In The Years", Donald Fagen claims the lyrics of this song are about time travel. In many ways however, I wouldn't be suprised if this song was meant to be somewhat autobiographical. Pretzel Logic was released around '74 or so at time in which the musical landscape was experiencing a transition towards more heavier sounds. Artists such as Grand Funk Railroad and Deep Purple were paving the way for the more edgeier "Classic Rock" Artists that would define the mid to late Seventies. Even by their own self admissions, Steely Dan acknowledged that live audiences were becoming non-receptive towards The Dan's more structured Jazz inspired improvisational performances....a factor which contributed to the abandonment of touring after the Pretzel Logic album. In addition to this, the booking of Steely Dan at this time was ridiculous. There would be shows in which The Dan would be booked with the likes of Black Oak Arkansas...and of course they would get blown off the stage. All of these factors, coupled with the factors of which we do not know, had to raise some self-doubts within Steely Dan. Perhaps there were nights when they would question weather or not they should adbandon their jazz style in favor the more straight forward hard rock style of music occurring at the time

    Udiceon September 22, 2008   Link
  • +4
    My Interpretation

    "These things are gone forever, over a long time ago"...what things? 1) wanting to be a star, 2) wanting to meet an lonely Napolean, and 3) being embarassed about the unfashionable shoes one happens to be wearing....

    This is a song about the ego dying..the part of you that gives a shit about inconsequential things...that adolescent kid grows up....The Dan are cool...cuz they went through these deaths and are out on the other side...grown ups playing grown up music

    hans5on May 10, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    A man (young? old?) wants to be an old-style entertainer, but nobody watches that type of entertainment anymore, so he's got no prospect of success. His belief that he can still make this work is illogical: logic twisted like a pretzel.

    The event concerning Napoleon is probably a moment captured in War and Peace, when he had just about captured Moscow and stood on Poklonny Hill in anticipation of what he thought was inevitable victory. As it turned out, capturing Moscow was the beginning of his end. The grandeur the singer believes to be within his reach is never going to come -- just as Napoleon's belief that Moscow would be the last victory he'd ever have to win was illusory. Oh, but the glory of standing on that hill and taking in that view before everything unravels.

    rikdad101@yahoo.comon October 30, 2006   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning

    Man! Every time I think that a Steely Dan song is above board...I do some research and the bottom falls out! (This is another one of those times.)

    If you read some of the earlier posts, mark36 has it right: Pretzel Logic is twisted logic. Or as the Open Dictionary puts it, faulty or circular reasoning that does not stand up to scrutiny. And that is really what this song is all about!

    Take a look at the lyrics, find some of the references and see if you agree with me.

    The first verse talks about the creators of Amos and Andy, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden in the 1920s and 30s. If you look up the somewhat notorious show or read the Wikipedia entry, you'll know three things: 1. The creators of Amos and Andy were white, not black. 2. They were both familiar with the minstrel traditions and met in the south (Durham, North Carolina). 3. Prior to each show, Gosden and Corell recorded the show on records and were then able to distribute the records to radio studios. According to the article, Amos 'n' Andy was the first radio program to be distributed by syndication in the US and was a huge hit.

    The pretzel logic to this verse is the fact that Correll and Gosden, smart, professional white men, made a fortune playing naive, less than professional black men on the radio. Basically, the public was scammed into believing that two white men were playing two black men.

    The second verse is about Napoleon Hill, a self-help author from the late 1920s through the 1940s. He might be described as a failed businessman (and con man) whose greatest work, Think and Grow Rich was a best seller dedicated to the secret of wealth and achievement. His 'secret' or theory was basically, "you have to have money to make money". Or put a different way, if you think about money, if you plan to have a lot of money and act like you have a lot of money, eventually you WILL have a lot of money. (Anyone see the pretzel logic here?)

    Some articles and bigoraphies describe Napoleon Hill as a scam artist who suffered from depresson and loneliness. And others credit him with creating the self-help industry. But his most popular work definitely contains a lot of pretzel logic.

    The last verse is also about a scam. If you consult 'the Googles', you'll see that it is a common scam in New Orleans. This one, however, is still going on.

    In this part of the song, the singer gets on a shoe shine platform while the proprietor or "business man" tells him where the action in town is, etc. (marking the singer as new to town) asks him where he got his shoes. The scam is that the obvious answer is "on your feet", but if you play the game of having the guy 'guess' - you're going to be out of money when you get the smart alecky answer. If you refuse to pay, I would imagine the consequences are worse. Either way, you'll pay.

    The pretzel logic in this one is the question ("Where did you get those shoes?") and the answer ("on your feet").

    So three stories of cons games and scams... Linked together by "those days are gone forever" the same way The Who sang the refrain "...we won't get fooled again...". Basically Steely Dan are talking about some pretty shady dealings that take in the unsuspecting and also saying all of those "games" were in the past...when not all of them are. PRETZEL LOGIC!

    Even without the revelation, this song has awesome vocals and guitar work. It style and content is representative of and unmistakably 'the Dan'. The strange thing is that this song appeared on the namesake album in 1974 and not on The Royal Scam album of 1976. It would appear that con games and scams were never too far from the mind of Becker and Fagan.

    So yes, the song is about "time travel" ... kinda, sorta, but not really.

    Awesome song!!!


    Hoops McCannon June 05, 2019   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    It's a time travel song. My favorite time travel song ever.

    thermo4on October 08, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Fagen once said one of their songs contains a "hidden" account of Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch. I believe this is that song.

    "I stepped up on the platform The man gave me the news He said, You must be joking Son Where did you get those shoes?"

    Hitler leaps onto a beer hall table and fires a gun at the ceiling. He is arrested, thrown in jail, writes Mein Kamph.

    elegantpieon March 31, 2009   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    Pretzel Logic: I haven't heard this in over 30 years/amazing! Touring the southland in a traveling minstrel show- refers to the fact that the Dan did not like the deep south, did not like touring, and was actually making fun of the record company execs that wanted them to tour to a place they did not like at all. Their answer? Stop touring all together after this album was released. Such sarcasm and irony. Over a long "time" ago/oh yeah This song is about time travel.... I have never met Napoleon, but I plan to find the "time" Over a long "time" ago/oh yeah I stepped upon the platform, the man he gave the news He said you must be joking son-where did you get those shoes? (He is on a platform about to time travel again, and is likely wearing shoes from another era..maybe even Napoleon's era?) Well, I've seen them on the TV, the movie show, (two different eras) they say that "time" is changing but I just don't know over a long "time" ago/oh yeah

    katy22on August 14, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I think the time travel thing is the subject but the meaning is about holding on to outdated or outgrown pleasures. I also suggest that Dan fans need to hear the NY Rock n' Soul Review version. Mike MacDonald singing the shoes line is great. All in all NYRnSR is diverse artists ( Fagen ;MacDonald, Scaggs; Snow; the lead guy from the Rascals) enjoying playing with each other.

    mark102077on December 12, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I think that this song is about the stand point of the French& Danish connection on sweet breads. I also believe this has something to do with the subconscience in how our own lives are twisted like pretzels and that nobody can trace where the original beginning of the pretzel began. Also the thing about salt on our pretzels is pretty much just suming up how people put salt in our wounds after a critical mistake. but this is just my view...

    Sodamanon April 17, 2003   Link

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