Hear Steely Dan’s Previously Unreleased 1979 Song “The Second Arrangement”
In 1979, a studio technician accidentally erased a new Steely Dan song called “The Second Arrangement.” Attempts to rescue the recording were futile, and everyone assumed the tune was lost to history. They tried to record the whole thing again, but Donald Fagen was so displeased with the finished product that he decided to scrap it. No one realized that the band’s longtime engineer Roger Nichols had already created a rough mix of the original “The Second Arrangement” recording, taken it home on one of countless stray cassettes, and eventually filed it away into a desk drawer.
As Expanding Dan explains, it wasn’t until after Nichols’ death that his daughters discovered the tape marked “SECOND ARR” in 2011. They were aware that “The Second Arrangement” was the song that had been deleted, but they didn’t know what to do with the tape and were preoccupied with clearing out their father’s significant archive of possessions. During the pandemic lockdown of 2020, Nichols’ daughter Cimcie was taking a closer look at her dad’s stuff in the hopes of supplying some documentarian with material to tell his story. She posted a photo of the tape online with the caption, “We’ve never played it. What should we do with it? It feels like a magical treasure that my mom has kept safe for decades.”
They were worried the tape might have disintegrated over the course of 40 years and were being hounded by Dan fans online. In September 2021, they took the tape to United Recording in Los Angeles, where archival engineer Bill Smith physically transferred the cassette’s magnetic tape to a new case. They played the tape and discovered “The Second Arrangement” as well as an instrumental mix of the song and “Were You Blind That Day,” which later became “Third World Man.” The Nichols sisters didn’t want to just throw it up on YouTube, but today the full cassette — as well as another DAT with a version of “The Second Arrangement” missing some vocals — is posted at Expanding Dan. Hear it there and preview it below.