As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I first discovered Phish in October of 1992 when a friend of a friend of mine left a cassette tape in my car which would, in the grand scheme of things forever change not only the way I listened to music, but also the general path in which my life took from that point on. That tape was “Picture of Nectar” by the band Phish. At a time when Grunge was beginning to peak, and gangster Rap was just beginning to really explode on to the airwaves, Picture of Nectar was like nothing I had ever heard before. The music was an amazing blend of Rock, Jazz, and Bluegrass and the lyrics weren’t about love or anger or any of the usual emotions that you find in popular songwriting. In fact often I didn’t know what they were about, but speculating, and wanting to know what they were about, was part of what made this band that much more intriguing.
Phish released the album “Rift” in February of 1993. Of course I was quick to purchase the CD, (which to this day is one of my favorite studio releases by the band) and as I went over the liner notes I noticed that a majority of the songs were written by lead guitarist Trey Anastasio and someone by the name of Tom Marshall. I couldn’t help but wonder, who was this guy? Where does this stuff come from?
23 years later, many of these lyrics have been burned into my brain, and at first, through the power of the interweb and then later after a considerable amount of time spent with Tom, I've gotten the low down on or at least gotten a genuine inkling of where some of these tales come from.
During that time, I came to know Tom not only as one of the most uniquely creative minds that I've ever come across, but also as a genuinely nice guy who is a music fan, an entrepreneur, a husband and a father.
Often those unfamiliar with Phish in depth will hear lyrics from songs like 'Glide' and 'Guyute' and dismiss everything ever written by Tom as silly and childish and not worth their time. The first thing I do in those situations is point them to lyrics for Beatles songs like 'Happiness is a Warm Gun', 'I am the Walrus', 'Dig a Pony', and 'Octopus' Garden'. Then I point them to lyrically amazing Tom compositions like 'Steam' and 'Pebbles and Marbles' for starters.
I think Trey says it best in this clip from 'Bittersweet Motel' below when asked about Tom's lyrics:
I've been meaning to write this blog post for a while now, and as the new year begins and we embark on year number seven of Phish 3.0, now seems like just as good a time as any.
Phish is this amazing musical experience that for many (including myself) is not only a daily soundtrack, but a catalyst for life adventure and social interaction. I've opened my mind to, and have come to truly enjoy so many different types of music simply because of the diversity in music that I've heard Phish explore. It is without a doubt first and foremost about the music and the energy that surrounds that music.
That being said....
With every culture there is a language. When I look around at twitter handles, tee shirts on lot, tattoos, names of Phish fans' pets, and signs inside shows. It's clear to me that Tom wrote a large part of this cultural dictionary.
I was specifically reminded about this in November of 2013 in the final show of the three day Halloween Run in Atlantic City. During the start of the second song of the first set, I first noticed a woman on the side of the stage signing lyrics to the fans in the audience who were hearing impaired. The song was Rift. I happened to be standing next to Tom at the time and I glanced at her for the first time as the lyrics 'And shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite!!' were repeated.
Watching those words being signed, combined with the energy in the room at that point in the song, while standing next to Tom, not only brought his words to life, but gave me a clear realization and joyful reminder of the impact his unique perspective on life has brought to thousands and thousands of people.
So I just wanted to take this moment to say... Thank you Tom Marshall! Thanks for being you! You are appreciated!
I'd also like to obviously share some serious gratitude for Steve 'The Dude of Life' Pollak and the work he has contributed to the world of Phish. Clearly anthems like Slave, Fluffhead, Suzy and Antelope are the stuff that dreams are made of. Thanks Dude!