The Lost Steely Dan Song: ‘Gaucho’ Outtake “The Second Arrangement”

After the 1977 release of Steely Dan’s massive commercial and artistic triumph Aja, band masterminds Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, having taken most of 1978 off, reconvened in 1979 for a follow-up, which would be Gaucho.

One of the first things they got on tape was a song called “The Second Arrangement”, and all involved in its creation were extremely proud of the song. In fact, Backer and Fagen are said to have considered it to be among their best.

But in cueing the song up for playback, a junior studio engineer accidentally erased most of the recording.

The band attempted to re-record the song, but they couldn’t come up with a take that satisfied notorious perfectionists Becker and Fagen. The song, which might have given Gaucho a third hit single, never appeared on record. It was replaced on Gaucho with the more somber and shadowy “Third World Man”.

Over the years demos and bootlegs of the song have turned up, giving fans a glimpse of how glorious the Gaucho album could have been with the inclusion of this gem.

Below are two representations of “The Second Arrangement”. The first is a muddy working demo from the Gaucho sessions. The second, a live performance by Steely Dan tribute act Twelve Against Nature, is fleshed out with a horn section in an attempt to show what the lost final version may have sounded like.

 

 

Pour out the wine, little girl
I’ve got just two friends in this whole wide world
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
[One last goodbye]

And I run to the second arrangement
It’s only the natural thing
Who steps out with no regrets
A sparkling conscience
A new address
When I run to the second arrangement
The home of a mutual friend
Now’s the time to redefine the first arrangement again

It’s a sticky situation
A serious affair
I must explain it to you somehow
Right now I’ll just move back one square

Here comes that noise again
Another scrambled message from my last best friend
Something I can dance to
A song with tears in it
Old friends abandon me
It’s just the routine politics of jealousy
Someday we’ll remember
That one red rose and one last goodbye
[One last goodbye]

Then I run to the second arrangement
It’s only the natural thing
Who steps out with no regrets
A sparkling conscience
A new address
When I run to the second arrangement
The home of a mutual friend
Now’s the time to redefine the first arrangement again

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