In Phish’s massive song catalog, there are many songs that have matured over time. However, some have reinvented themselves to the point of becoming entirely new songs. These songs were introduced to us in a live setting, and through the energy of the shows, were changed to become what they are today. I am not talking about songs that were combined to make a whole, such as “Fluffhead”, “The Asse Festival” etc. I am talking about songs that were introduced under one name, and now exist under a different one. Today we’ll look at three examples, and their stages of transition.
Black Eyed Katy – Moma Dance
The original song, “Black Eyed Katy”, made its debut in the first show of the incredible fall ’97 tour at Thomas and Mac Center in Las Vegas. “Katy” was the symbol of the transition into the band’s new funk stage. Showcasing a tight funk groove followed by a jam that stayed within the confines of the song, “Katy” brought the funk every time she made an appearance. With no lyrics, and running as long as ten minutes, the song became a funky jam vehicle to exhibit the bands new direction. Performed seven times on the fall ’97 tour, it seemed as though Katy would become a regular.
However, in the summer of ’98 she left us, adding lyrics and becoming the “Moma Dance”. “Katy” saw a significant development on the ’97 tour, before making the full transition. Through the funk jams in “Katy” the band was able to create an incredible full song with multiple parts and intricate lyrical sections. To see the multiple faces of “Katy”, check out the versions from Winston-Salem 11/23/97 and from Worcester 11/28/97. For a great version of the “Moma Dance” check out 7/16/98 at the Gorge.
Listen to “Black Eyed Katy” from 12/30/97 at Madison Square Garden.
Oblivious Fool (Olivia’s Pool) – Shafty
Perhaps the most significant transformation took place with “Oblivious Fool”, which later became “Shafty”. Coincidentally, “Oblivious Fool” was debuted at Brad Sands house in Charlotte, VT on 6/6/97. The song made its live public debut a week later in Dublin, Ireland 6/13/97 along with Vultures, Ghost, Water in the Sky and Limb by Limb (wow). Starting off as a Little Feat-like blues shuffle, “Oblivious Fool” was a fun number to hear. The lyrics about hell and fools sounded like a joke over top of the unlikely rhythm. Performed seven times in the summer of 97, and once in the fall, “Oblivious Fool” also seemed to be coming in to its own. However, after the final version in Denver, the song was taken apart, and reassembled as the dark funk number “Shafty”. While it lasted, “Oblivious Fool” was a good-time song. However, “Shafty” has provided us with numerous dark jams with heavy funk grooves. For a great version of “Shafty” check out the version from the Island tour ’98 (see the video below).
Listen to “Oblivious Fool’s” live debut on 6/13/97 in Dublin, Ireland.
Taste – Fog that Surrounds – Taste that Surrounds – Taste
This song saw perhaps the oddest, most drawn out, yet most rewarding transition. In a less than fluid debut, “Taste” was first introduced at Boise State University Pavilion on 6/7/95. The first versions feature the same lyrical section by Trey as in the current version, however, Jon’s lyrics are absent. The jam is guitar heavy, and does not include the interweaving rhythmic section that would be added later. The original version of “Taste” slowly evolved, and was played frequently in the summer of ’95.
After a short break from touring, Phish returned in Sacramento on 9/27/95 and debuted “Fog that Surrounds”. Trey says to the crowd “You think you know this song, some of you, but you don’t” before launching into the new version of the song. “Fog” is a bare-bones version of “Taste”, however, this time Trey’s lyrics are absent and Jon’s are present. The debut version features a disjointed attempt by Jon to run through his first real singing gig.
Not long after, the song made another transition to “Taste that Surrounds” which is Trey’s “Taste” section mixed with Jon’s “Fog” section. This version of the song was debuted on 10/24/95 in Madison, WI. After going through a fairly rough patch with Jon’s solo singing, the debut of the combined version was highly successful.
This success was short-lived, as a few weeks later the song changed again. Layering Trey’s and Jon’s lyrics over each other, the song returned to a discombobulated mess. In these versions (11/12/95 for example), the effect of Jon’s subtle singing voice and Trey’s powerful lyrics become lost in the mix.
The final version of the song appeared in the summer of ’96 as “Taste”. After working on Billy Breathes with producer Steve Lillywhite, the band altered the song to become the fan favorite version that exists today. Replacing the layered vocals with separate parts featuring Trey’s lyrics and parts of Jon’s, the song finally reached its full effect. The guitar solo at the end was slightly altered to become a full band jam leading up to Trey’s explosive modal excursion. For a great version of “Taste” check out the version from Walnut Creek 7/22/97.
Listen to this very early version (the 4th ever) of “Taste” from 6/15/96 Lakewood Amphitheatre, Atlanta, GA.
Phish is one of the few bands that is willing to introduce an unfinished song to their fans. The energy that is contributed by the fans in a live setting is irreplaceable, and through it the song evolves. When a song takes such a transition, its final product feels like a mutual effort between the band and the fans, making the experience all the more rewarding.
Watch this video of “Shafty” from the island tour, Providence, RI 4/5/98. Note the stark contrast to the original “Oblivious Fool”.