The Fifth Element #43 A Letter

A letter in response was published in October 2007 (Vol.30 No.10):

Don't lose that number
Editor: Regarding John Marks' call for the "extra-credit essay question" about Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number": No essay required, as your editor, John Atkinson (a fine bass player himself), already knows. The bass line for the tune has no relation to Coltrane's piece but is, in fact, a quote of the bass intro to Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," the Blue Note sessions for which occurred just a month and a half prior to Coltrane's Impulse! recordings.

Sorry, just couldn't let that one go...Still, much appreciation for trying to raise the bar of America's musical awareness. Watch out for those windmills.—Elliot Kallen
The Tweak Shop
Santa Rosa, CA

Thanks for writing in, Mr. Kallen. Readers Rafael Teodoro, Eric Jenkins, and Spears Mullen made the same point. I must confess I had been ignorant of the Silver/"Rikki" connection, though now that I've listened to 30 seconds (though not the first 30 seconds) of "Song for My Father" on, I can hear the obvious similarities, especially in scoring.

I heard the story of the writing of "Rikki" third-hand, from Rick Derringer's second wife. As the song was being written, it was actually addressed to Rick Derringer, whose absence was holding up the recording session. I suppose I should tell that whole story in my column some day.

Here's what I was thinking, in my ignorance of the Silver tune: The bass line of Coltrane's "Acknowledgement" seems to me to be "a LOVE su-PREME," or F A-flat / F B-flat; while the bass line of the intro to "Rikki" (no words) seems to be E E / B B (in the rhythm ba-bum, ba-bum). On the keyboard, you can play both figures with your hand in exactly the same place, for whatever that's worth. But the Silver piece is obviously the closer source.—John Marks