“Night by Night” — second song, side one of Pretzel Logic (1974)

I may have purchased this record in 1974, when I was 14, the year I first smoked pot, and was maybe most impressed with the giant, stretched photo of the band on the inside of the gatefold cover—turned vertically, standing in front of what looks like a giant version of the Maltese Falcon—particularly Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, in the foreground, who just looks a lot cooler than the rest of the guys and may as well be wearing a red neon sign that says “weed.” The outside cover folds out to a NYC winter panorama, featuring a gnarly street cart pretzel salesman (this guy had to be a real guy, and I wonder how this affected his life). It's their best album cover. I have to add, one of those pretzels made me sick once. I've always overlooked this song, as it sits between two of my very favorite songs, so it's nice to isolate it and really listen for once. The lyrics are a little general, kind of corny hardboiled, and include the overused idiom, “Until my ship comes in,” which, still, I like a lot, and I actually incorporate into my everyday conversation. The album has no liner notes and very few specific credits, so I have no idea who's playing on what, but there is a list of “thanks” that include a lot of Los Angeles session musicians—I guess this is when SD was transitioning from being a band to more of a recording project. Not that I really care so much about who played what on what, but a lot of people are obsessed with that kind of thing. Before and after the last chorus, someone sounds like they're inventing the 1970s “blistering guitar solo” right there—all in a day's work. I sometimes wonder if musicians feel like they don't get the credit they deserve, though. As the song says: “Everywhere around me I see jealously and mayhem / because no men have all their peace of mind to carry them.” But if you're in that world, I guess you need a thick skin, and just have to take it day by day—etc.

—Randy Russell 8.13.18

Current ranking: No. 34