Legendary lost Steely Dan song "Second Arrangement" surfaces

This has been a big week in the Steely Dan world.

Earlier this week, a long-lost television performance from 1973 emerged, with Steely Dan playing "Show Biz Kids" on The Midnight Special.

And now, a virtually complete version of the legendary lost song "Second Arrangement" has been put online.

You can listen to it here, on the Expanding Dan newsletter.

The story goes that when recording their Gaucho album, they had all but completed a song called "Second Arrangement," with only horns and "a fade" to be added, when the recording group decided to call it a night. The following morning, when they got to the studio to resume work, they discovered that a studio technician had accidentally erased the entire song.

They tried to salvage the work from rough mixdowns, but the the quality wasn't up to standards. They tried re-creating the song.

"We tried cutting the song again," [engineer Roger] Nichols wrote in a post on an EQ magazine audio forum in 1999, "and finished it. Horns, backgrounds, lead vocal. We listened to it and Donald [Fagen, half of the Steely Dan duo] said, 'NAW…scrap it!'" 

Bootleg versions in low fidelity and various stages of completion have existed. And Steely Dan played "Second Arrangement" once live at the Beacon in New York City, with Fagen saying "That's the first and maybe only time that will ever be performed." But a complete studio version as Steely Dan originally wanted it has never been heard publicly.

But it turns out on that fateful evening of erasure, Nichols happened to have brought home a cassette copy of the song as it existed at the time. And now, along with an account of the tortured history of that cassette tape, through the death of Nichols, and his daughters' indecision about what to do with it, Expanding Dan has posted the music on that cassette tape in its newsletter.

The cassette also includes an all-instrumental version of "Second Arrangement," and a mix of "Were You Blind That Day," a song that would eventually be changed into "Third World Man," which is a Gaucho track.

"Second Arrangement" sounds like a great song that would have fit right into the groove of Gaucho.

I can't find any word on whether Fagen, the only surviving member of the Steely Dan duo, has granted permission to post the song, nor on his reaction to this revelation.