The Second Arrangement (found studio recording of unreleased Steely Dan track; 1980)
In 1979, during recording sessions for their album Gaucho, the band Steely Dan had originally intended a composition known as "The Second Arrangement" to be included among the tracks. "The Second Arrangement" had been a favorite of producer Gary Katz and engineer Roger Nichols.
In late December 1979, after weeks of working on a particular recording of the track, approximately 75% of the song was accidentally erased by a junior engineer who Katz had asked to ready the track for listening. It was Nichols who broke the bad news about the assistant's mistake to the band; when Donald Fagen was told the news, he walked out of the studio without saying a word.
There were attempts to re-record the song, but none of those takes were satisfactory to core band members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who are both well-known perfectionists, so they abandoned the song altogether. "The Second Arrangement" was dropped in favor of a demo song they wrote called "Were You Blind That Day," which would form into "Third World Man" on the final album.
Given that the song was erased before being placed on any duplicate tapes or spread, people believed that the song was truly lost. However, there is the possibility that Becker and Fagen made up the story to avoid releasing a different version of Gaucho that included "The Second Arrangement."
On August 24th, 2020, the official Roger Nichols account on Facebook, ran by his daughter Cimcie Nichols, posted and revealed that they had found an untouched tape from their mothers' possession of the infamous The Second Arrangement tape before it got accidentally erased. They would later share the tape in September of 2021 with an archiving engineer at United Recording, Bill Smith, in order to transfer the tape in audio form. Gary Katz, one of the producers of The Second Arrangement, would later verify that the tape was indeed the original studio recording of the Steely Dan track . In addition, a DAT was also discovered in Nichols’ belongings that contained a cleaner recording of what appears to be the same mix, but also featuring vocals from Fagen that are missing from the audio cassette version.
The DAT recording wouldn't be digitized until March of 2023 and three months later, on the 24th of June, 2023, the original studio recording of the track can finally be heard by the public and is digitally available via a Substack blog newsletter, the Expanding Dan. In addition, the Expanding Dan blog post also includes embeds of the audio recovered from both the cassette and the DAT.
The original cassette tape recording for "The Second Arrangement" will soon be sold at an auction
Demo Versions and Live Performances
Via bootleg albums leaked in the underground market. Subsequently, onto the internet, demos of the song exist along with many other rough recording sessions of other songs that were abandoned in favor of others.
- Version One: This version is simply played on piano with a keyboard section with minimum if any other instruments with Donald Fagen vocalizing. The lyrics on this version are noticeably different compared to the final demos, such as:
"Here's to reckless lovers! We all need somebody! Stashed in the Yellow Jag, I've got my life and laundry in a Gladstone bag! You should know the program! Just one Red Rose and a Tender Goodbye being Ciao, Bonjourno, baby. It's been a lovely night; the wine was right. I am a refugee, and I like things just the way they used to be. I'm the same damned fool that you knew years ago, so broken-hearted."
- Version Two: The second and more well-known demo is clearly further along in production than the previous one, being less raw in terms of mixing and music. This one has more instruments, including a drum and guitar section with Fagen doing the vocals as usual, but with female vocals singing along with Fagen as he sings:
The lyrics are altered here as compared to the previous version as mentioned above.
"So I run to the Second Arrangement!"
- Incomplete Version: A third version has surfaced in recent years, first as an 18-second fragment, then later a 2-minute version of it was found. Given that no version any longer than this has been found, it is generally assumed that this piece of music is all that is left or is a portion of the allegedly erased tape. It has also been assumed that it may be a demo of one of the failed recording sessions after the loss of the song. The song is similar but very different from the other two demo versions and lacks a vocal track.
- Nichols Tape Version 1: This version, discovered on a cassette found in the belongings of the late Roger Nichols, appears to be a first-generation dub made in the studio. The song ends abruptly approximately 5:20 into the recording, seemingly where the final mix’s fadeout would. Some of Fagen’s lead vocals are inexplicably missing from the track and there is audible tape hiss throughout.
- Nichols Tape Version 2: This is a longer instrumental version of the same mix and found on the same audio cassette as version 1, likely used as a backing track for recording the vocals. It does contain a fadeout at the end, and plays at a slightly faster tempo.
- Nichols DAT: The highest-quality version of the track, similarly located by Nichols’ family sometime after 2020. By far the most complete and highest-quality version of the track, this recording has Fagen’s vocals intact, an extended outro, and a fadeout. The total track length is just over 5:30 and plays at a slightly faster tempo than the versions on the cassette. It contains very mild distortion & slight dropouts during playback, perhaps owed to light damage or aging to the original DAT. The origin of this recording is unknown as the DAT format was not introduced until 1987, 9 years after production began on Gaucho.
On September 17th, 2011, Steely Dan, for the first time, played the song at a rarities show on their Shuffle Diplomacy Tour.
Various covers of the song also exist, notably versions covered on tour by Twelve Against Nature and a studio cover by John Tabacco, posted on YouTube in 2012.
- Wikipedia article on Gaucho. Retrieved 15 Oct '13
- The Twelve Against Nature cover. Retrieved 15 Oct '13
- The John Tabacco cover. Retrieved 15 Oct '13
- Steely Dan: Reelin in the Years by Brian Sweet; page 137 Retrieved 15 Oct '13
- Facebook post from the official Roger Nichols Facebook page revealing the existence of the tape before its deletion Retrieved 30 Jun '23
- Tale of the Tape by Jake Malooly - Expanding Dan Retrieved 25 Jun '23
- Guardian article on the Steely Dan track. Retrieved 29 Jun '23
- Steely Dan Rarities Night on Radio Dupree. Retrieved 15 Oct '13