Even for this wryest of bands, it must be a moment of delightful irony for Steely Dan – that they, the most notorious of all studio perfectionists, should return to the public imagination by virtue of a song which doesn’t appear on any of their albums, and which exists only as a cassette rough mix.
That, however, is the state of play in 2023. Six years after Walter Becker’s death, the Lazarene reappearance of “The Second Arrangement” – a track accidentally erased during the overdub sessions for their Gaucho album from 1980 – has served to remind, or perhaps even notify, a wider audience of Steely Dan’s enduring greatness.
“The Second Arrangement” is just one of the topics you’ll be able to read about in this expanded and updated deluxe edition of our Ultimate Music Guide to Steely Dan. In these pages there’s a dive into this and 19 other Dan deep cuts, a new interview with producer/engineer Elliot Scheiner, and insights into the band’s genius from contemporaries including the late David Crosby, who gave one of his last interviews to us about Steely Dan – this having been one of his favourite subjects.
With what you might observe as a customary smoothness, ‘Dan momentum has been steadily mounting. While “The Second Arrangement” has supplied a story, it has only fleshed out the feelings of intrigue, entertainment and arched goodwill building on Twitter (inside we catch up with Alex, curator of Twitter’s bodacious aggregation @baddantakes) and elsewhere online. It’s a story with the depth of a limited event streaming series: with many players, some deep intrigue, but only two chief architects.
Their full story is in to be found in the following pages. We have selected the best Steely Dan interviews from the archives of NME, Melody Maker and Uncut. Alongside them, we present the kind of coverage that these perfectionists deserve: our in-depth reviews of every album by Steely Dan, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.
Notoriously, the band quit the stage in 1974, in order to concentrate more fully on their recording process. Over the past decade, though, that decision has been walked back somewhat, with Steely Dan – both before Walter Becker’s death and since – stepping back out in front of their public. As Peter Watts discovers in an exclusive new feature, catching up with the band as they prepare for their extensive upcoming tour with former sparring partners The Eagles, things have changed. They have embraced residencies – notably at the Beacon Theatre in New York – full album shows, even rarities nights (playing “The Second Arrangement”, of course…). They may even have come to relax a little.
“I’ve read since about how particular Donald and Walter were and how much they hated playing live because you couldn’t get the same standard of performance,” one player tells us. “Over time, it seems they started to accept the imperfections and enjoy the fact they were playing in front of audience who want to see them, and love them.”
Enjoy the magazine. It’s out next Thursday but you can pre-order it here.