Dan writes a speech called “Phish: The First Four Albums”

You know how certain, seemingly inconsequential things you learn about people just tend to stick in your mind after your hear them once? Well, one of the things I’ve always known about Pam is that she doesn’t like watching sports on TV because of the constant hum of crowd noise in the background, which can drive a person crazy if, well, that person doesn’t like the constant hum of crowd noise in the background.

Such a conundrum came to me the other night after Pam and I talked on the phone about luminary jam band Phish for the better part of an evening (I know. You wish you could be a fly in the fiber optic cables for our amazingly exciting conversations…get in line). She knew practically nothing about the band, up to and including the correct pronunciation of the guitarist’s last name (sound it out with me, people: an-iss-STAHS-i-o). Conversely, I spent every spare penny I had in college (the ones not wasted on cigarettes or those delicious Combos with the pretzels and the cheddar cheese) on Phish concerts, Phish bootlegs, Phish merchandise (er, “swag” from “Dry Goods,” I mean), and gas for my 1993 Saturn to drive me to Phish concerts. In 2001, I attended my fiftieth Phish show, in Hartford, Connecticut, got trapped in a hazy cloud of pot and patchouli, sat outside in the mud for four hours, rolled my eyes, proclaimed, “I am officially too old for this shit,” and called off my ongoing relationship with Phish. Dan’s love of Phish: 1993-2001. RIP, guys. And thank you, Trey. As the old bumper sticker goes.

But still, I retain the knowledge of my time with the band, and wanted to share with Pamie what makes them so brilliant. But the best of Phish can only be experienced live, and listening to scratchy bootlegs or the slightly more pristine live versions of shows that have been released on CD are just as much an experience in background hiss and crowd noise as they are in listening to actual, y’know, music.

So I decided to go for the safe route, introducing Pam to Phish in the same way I met them: via their first four studio CDs, “Junta,” “Lawn Boy,” “A Picture of Nectar,” and
“Rift.” So for those of you fans out there who check out the CD label below and are all, “But Dan! Where’s ‘Possum’? What of ‘Suzie Greenberg’? What of Gamehendge, Dan? WHAT of GAMEHENDGE?” To you I say: pipe down and get your face out of the vacuum cleaner tube. One thing at a time. Also, to those people I will share that “Tube” is my favorite song ever, and my favorite version of it was played live on 9/13/90, when they debuted it at Wetlands. Also, pppppfht on all of you.

Anyway, I made the mix and then took it with me and listened to it on my travels yesterday, convinced I’d package it and mail it as soon as I got home. But I realized on my third listen that I was about to send Pam a CD on which no actual lyrics were sung until seven full minutes in. And then the first word was “Fluffhead.” I couldn’t do it to you, Pamie. I just couldn’t. So I have a CD sitting on my living room table called “Failed Phish Mix for Pam.” Anyone want it?

So I redid it, and here it is:

1) Manteca: From the band’s “A Picture of Nectar” album, a fun instrumental ditty highlighting the talents of all four band members. Whose names I’ll spare you. FOR NOW.

2) Reba: A very early challenge for Pam’s mettle. At twelve minutes, this is a pretty good indication of what the band sounded like in the early, jammy days. We often got high in college and tried to say the words, “Rita flush a flesh farm leftover thunder in a circle down the pipe,” to very little success.

3) Fast Enough for You: Or “FEFY,” as it’s called on hastily written setlists in the dark. I’d like it if Pam and I could dance to this song at our commitment ceremony. It’s from the album “Rift,” which is the first one I ever owned. It’s kind of a concept album, so a lot of the songs are connected, which is why it goes right into…

4) Stash: On “A Picture of Nectar.” Ask me where to clap before you see them live, or you’re going to look like an idiot. Seriously. Do it. The words to this song are a little “Dungeons & Dragons.” You don’t have to tell me. I already know. At least it has words, okay? Thank heaven for the small favors.

5) Poor Heart: They like bluegrass. And sometimes, they like short songs as well.

6) My Friend, My Friend – I’ve looked for years for a compelling reason to make “My Friend My Friend He’s Got A Knife” a TWoP homepage headline, just because I love it so much as an expression.

7) Bathtub Gin – Annoyed yet? If not, you might love Phish!

8) The Mango Song – I love the build at the beginning of this song, with the guitar and the piano, etc. For that reason, I always thought it would make a good a cappella song. Which is clearly our next mix CD challenge.

9) Golgi Apparatus – I could have put this first, but then I’d just be coddling you. Nobody doesn’t like this song. Listen to it twice, and then try to get the line “I saw you with a ticket stub in your hand” out of your head.

10) Guelah Papyrus – From “A Picture of Nectar.” You’ll die laughing at the Magic The Gathering nature of the words, but this song continues a fugue. A fugue!

11) Esther – Do NOT listen to this song while you are home alone. It’s about a cute doll that kills a little girl, and it scares the shit of me.

12) Horn – From “Rift,” the rare example of the song that sounds much better on the CD than it does live. He could never get the guitar solo right, ever.

13) Sample in a Jar – Okay, I cheated a little on this one. This song is actually from the band’s fifth album, “Hoist,” which requires a bit of reevaluating lo these many years later. When it came out, the faithful FREAKED because all of the songs were really short and poppy and very not Phish-y. They even made a video for one song (“Down with Disease”) that aired, like, once, and they released this song as a single as well. Whenever they would play it in concert, Adam and my friend John and I would always clap politely and be all, “Well, maybe next they’ll play “Harpua” or something and we can forget about all this selling out they’re doing.” But seriouisly? This is a really freakin’ good pop song, right here.

14) Tweezer Reprise – So there’s this song named “Tweezer,” and it’s the reason this whole Phish conversation started at all. The album version is NOT GOOD. And it is TOO LONG. But this right here is a two-minute album-ending ditty that they would usually end a show with when they played the first “Tweezer,” with its legendary, long-winded guitar solos.

Anyway, clip and save this. The actual CD is coming without a label.

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