By nearly any criteria except, perhaps, record sales and radio play, Phish is the Grand Canyon of American bands—so big and bold and forever that we risk taking it for granted. Likewise, anyone who considers Phish merely a delivery system for endless jams is missing the forest for the trees. As Phish glides into its fourth decade together, including a four-year separation, let's take a backward ramble down the number line containing nearly 350 songs the band—Trey Anastasio (guitar), Jon Fishman (drums), Mike Gordon (bass), and Page McConnell (keyboards)—has released on 12 studio albums and a couple of dozen live packages, from 1989's Junta to this summer's Fuego. For sanity's sake, I've omitted songs from their Halloween album-covers projects. But everything else was fair game for this supremely subjective and thoroughly unscientific ranking concentrating on songs rather than jams. Anastasio and longtime friend Tom Marshall, who was kind enough to comment on a heaping handful of tunes in this creative cornucopia, wrote most of those songs. The composers of the band's many covers are noted where appropriate. Here we go...
Phish will try anything once, and not always simply for a cheap laugh. Some of their best music, impromptu jams and such, has emerged surreptitiously (see The Victor Disc) and sometimes legitimately, e.g. The Siket Disc, which contains interesting one-shots like the Eno-esque "Quadrophonic Toppling" (No. 305) and the frightening "Happy Whip and Dung Song" (303). Phish isn't above mocking the Proclaimers or Chumbawamba, or getting their bro on with rap covers, nor are they dismissive of Marley, Dylan, and Berry chestnuts their parents may have played. Experimental neotraditionalists to the end, they always tend to do the right thing at the right time—even if that means playing the most horrible song in the world.
333. "Happy Birthday to You" (Patty & Mildred Hill)
332. "Auld Lang Syne" (Robert Burns)
331. "Star Spangled Banner" (Francis Scott Key)
330. "Spread It 'Round"
329. "Night Nurse" (Gregory Isaacs/Sylvester Weise)
328. "I'm Gonne Be (500 Miles)" (Craig & Charlie Reid)
327. "Tubthumping" (Chumbawamba)
326. "Sleep Again"
325. "Rock and Roll Part 2" (Gary Glitter/Mike Leander)
324. "Union Federal"
323. "Killing in the Name" (Rage Against the Machine)
322. "Amazing Grace" (John Newton)
321. "Wipe Out" (Surfaris)
320. "California Love" (Tupac Shakur)
319. "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" (Will Smith et al.)
318. "Susie Q" (Dale Hawkins)
317. "I Know a Little" (Steve Gaines)
316. "Quinn the Eskimo" (Mighty Quinn) (Bob Dylan)
315. "Sabotage" (Beastie Boys)
314. "Highway to Hell" (Bon Scott/Angus Young/Malcolm Young)
313. "Corinna" (Taj Mahal/Jesse Ed Davis)
312. "Johnny B. Goode" (Chuck Berry)
311. "Back at the Chicken Shack" (Jimmy Smith)
310. "Low Rider" (War)
309. "Buffalo Bill"
308. "Walk Away" (Joe Walsh)
307. "Fish Bass"
306. "Soul Shakedown Party" (Marley)
305. "Quadrophonic Toppling"
304. "End of Session"
303. "The Happy Whip and Dung Song"
301. "La Grange" (Gibbons/Beard/Hill)
300. "Jesus Just Left Chicago" (Billy Gibbons/Frank Beard/Dusty Hill)
299. "Touch Me" (Robby Krieger)
298. "Cannonball" (Kim Deal)
Are we into the throw-aways realm of throwaways? Not exactly. Phish is also about scale, as it were. The bros may come for the epic "Disease" (23) "Chalk Dust" (22), and "Tweezer" (58) jams, but it's often the miniatures that ice the cake. "Title Track" (291) was one of several brief jam edits on the wonderful Siket Disc; "And So to Bed" (277) and "Aftermath" (278) told fragments of longer tragedy on The White Tape; and on Rift, "Lengthwise" (274) was Fishman's brief, desultory prelude to the bittersweet closure of "Silent in the Morning" (105). Songs like "Liquid Time" (275) and "Time Turns Elastic" (19) reflect a temporal fluidity that can make minutes appear like hours and vice versa. And indeed, Phish's 7.5-hour second set during their 1999 New Year's Eve show in Florida's Big Cypress Natural Preserve (which included a time-appropriate "After Midnight" (290)) was an extremely rare example of a band that literally did "Rock and Roll All Nite" (297).
297. "Rock and Roll All Nite" (Paul Stanley/Gene Simmons)
296. "She Thinks I Still Care" (Dicke Lee & Steve Duffy)
295. "Crossroads" (Robert Johnson)
294. "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" (Elvin Bishop)
291. "Title Track"
290. "After Midnight" (JJ Cale)
289. "Black-Eyed Katy"
288. "Keyboard Army"
287. "Shine" (Ed Roland)
286. "Albuquerque" (Neil Young)
285. "No Dogs Allowed"
284. "Sparks" (Pete Townshend)
283. "Access Me"
281. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (Jagger/Richards)
280. "Emotional Rescue" (Jagger/Richards)
279. "Dog Gone Dog"
277. "And So to Bed"
276. "Only a Dream"
275. "Liquid Time"
Phish has probably attracted few ears strictly on the basis of its collective jazz chops. Nonetheless, the group's ability to solo nimbly over complicated chord changes suggests a debt to the bebop tradition epitomized by Charlie Parker. McConnell tunes such as "Magilla" (253) and "Cars Trucks Buses" (178) swing pretty well for a rock band, although the group's debt to and love for electric Miles-inspired improvisation is evident in nearly every extended improvisation (and studio improv nugs like "My Left Toe" (270)) they lay down, in that alternative history of rock where Hendrix really did record with Miles. And does a rock band still need to play the blues in the twenty-first century, if only occasionally? Sure, why not?
273. "Mexican Cousin"
272. "Show of Life"
271. "Camel Walk"
270. "My Left Toe"
269. "Back on the Train"
267. "Cry Baby Cry" (Lennon-McCartney)
266. "Bold as Love" (Hendrix)
265. "Izabella" (Hendrix)
264. "Fire" (Jimi Hendrix)
263. "Weekapaug Groove"
261. "The Great Gig in the Sky" (Richard Wright/Clare Torry)
260. "Funky Bitch" (Son Seals)
259. "Sleeping Monkey"
258. "Satin Doll" (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn)
257. "Donna Lee" (Parker)
256. "Moose the Mooche" (Charlie Parker)
255. "Manteca" (Gil Fuller, Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo)
254. "Maiden Voyage" (Herbie Hancock)
252. "Mellow Mood" (Bob Marley)
251. "Have Mercy" (Lloyd Ferguson/Fitzroy Simpson/Donald Shaw)
250. "Trench Town Rock" (Bob Marley)
249. "Olivia's Pool"
Inspired by sheet music discovered in Page McConnell's family home, Phish apprenticed themselves to the keyboardist's landlord, a judge at barbershop-harmony competitions, who taught the band four-part a cappella arrangements. Performed unironically and without amplification (prior to their arena era), songs like "Hello! Ma Baby" (231) and "Sweet Adeline" (233) tapped into a style that originated when African-American men socialized together in barbershops. Tunes like "Dave's Energy Guide" (227) (originally "Memo to Fripp") and the "Vibration of Life" (228) (a guitar looping at 420 beats per minute), meanwhile, screamed futurissimo just as loudly as these timeless vocals deliver their quaint historical charm. Lou Reed would have approved.
248. "Big Black Furry Creature from Mars"
247. "Cool It Down" (Lou Reed)
246. "Sweet Jane" (Lou Reed)
245. "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" (Lou Reed)
242. "Gotta Jibboo"
241. "My Soul" (Clifton Chenier)
240. "Dogs Stole Things"
239. "Mountains in the Mist"
238. "Big Ball Jam"
237. "Time Loves a Hero" (Paul Barrière/Kenny Gradney/Bill Payne)
236. "Over the Rainbow" (Harold Arlen/E. Y. Harburg)
235. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" (Yerushalayim Shel Zahav) (Naomi Shemer)
234. "Avenu Malkenu" (Traditional)
233. "Sweet Adeline" (Harry Armstrong/Richard H. Gerard)
232. "Carolina in the Morning" (Gus Kahn/Walter Donaldson)
231. "Hello! Ma Baby" (Joseph E. Howard/Ida Emerson)
230. "Character Zero"
228. "Vibration of Life"
227. "Dave's Energy Guide"
226. "Sea and Sand"
224. "The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony"
John Bonham's primal thunder informs the sound of Jon Fishman (who went on to develop his own singularly chameleonic style). Argent's "Hold Your Head Up" (206) has introduced the band namesake's irregular center-stage vocal and vacuum-cleaner solos since 1987 because the other bandmembers knew how much he hated the tune. The dress-wearing drummer has used the spotlight to deliver wrong and strong scary-oke takes on Syd Barrett, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Neil Diamond, and, most recently, Phish (a dismissive version of noted fan-unfavorite "Jennifer Dances"). Comedy? Yes. Relief? You decide.
223. "Halfway to the Moon"
222. "Windy City"
219. "In a Misty Glade"
218. "I Been Around"
217. "Axilla, Part 2"
215. "Kill Devil Falls"
214. "All of These Dreams"
213. "Suzy Greenberg"
212. "Suspicious Minds" (Mark James)
211. "Purple Rain" (Prince)
210. "Cracklin' Rosie" (Neil Diamond)
209. "Sexual Healing" (Marvin Gaye)
208. "Love You" (Barrett)
207. "Terrapin" (Syd Barrett)
206. "Hold Your Head Up" (Rod Argent/Chris White)
205. "Anything But Me"
204. "The Name Is Slick"
203. "Saw It Again" — A horrible sense of recognition characterizes this punk-rocking studio escapee. "Something horrifying had happened to me during the first night of a songwriting session with Trey," says Marshall, who described his fateful and "totally true" encounter with a girl in a shopping cart in a remarkable Lovecraftian story titled "The Beater" (available online somewhere).
202. "The Inlaw Josie Wales"
201. "Friday" — "It's a dude talking to a chick," explains Marshall of this crash-and-burn bummer.
200. "How Many More Times" (Page/Jones/Bonham)
199. "Good Times Bad Times" (Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones/John Bonham)
In 1994, Phish began the serious bluegrass study that would lead to the acoustic sweetness of Billy Breathes and shows involving a mini-set of acoustic tunes performed on a miniature stage. "Reverend" Jeff Mosier of Col. Bruce Hampton's Aquarium Rescue Unit served as their bluegrass mentor during bus rides between shows, and their repertoire began to include a healthy handful of faithfully performed standards like the Dillards' "The Old Home Place" (206), Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" (191), the Osborne Brothers' "Rocky Top" (194), and Norman Blake's "Ginseng Sullivan" (188). Like their barbershop-harmony tutorial (see above), the project honed the group's harmonies (see "Grind" (184)) and reflected a sincere appreciation of real Americana.
198. "My Long Journey Home" (Monroe)
197. "Pig in a Pen" (Traditional)
196. "Paul and Silas" (Traditional)
195. "Daniel Saw the Stone" (Traditional)
194. "Rocky Top" (Boudleaux & Felice Bryant)
193. "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome" (Bill Monroe)
192. "The Old Home Place" (Dean Webb/Mitch Jayne)
191. "Uncle Pen" (Bill Monroe)
190. "Nellie Kane" (Tim O'Brien)
189. "Beauty of My Dreams" (Del McCoury)
188. "Ginseng Sullivan" (Norman Blake)
187. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (George Harrison)
186. "Sing Monica"
183. "Devotion to a Dream" — "That's all I have to say about divorce," says Marshall, who wrote the song around 1998 for his band Amfibian. "It withered on the vine but I always liked the lyrics. Trey finally grabbed it from my pile years later and we changed it immensely. It's about the divorce Trey and I never got."
181. "Twenty Years Later" — "Not one of my favorite lyrics," says Marshall. "I wasn't happy that one made it onto Joy, in a certain way. The seven red lights refers to a horrible night in Baltimore when I full-speeded through maybe three red lights in order to freak out myself and a passenger, which was a horrible, horrible thing to do, obviously. I've also been out in kayaks in very cold water when I shouldn't have been, and I've been lost in the woods without any way of starting a fire. The real story is the rebirth of Trey and me as a songwriting team, but I don't think it captured that very well."
180. "Destiny Unbound"
178. "Cars Trucks Buses"
177. "Shrine" — "I worship the ground Jon Fishman walks on because of his lyrics to 'Gumbo,'" says Marshall while explaining this odd ditty about a homicidal stalker. "His favorite lyric of mine is 'Setting Sail,' which he calls the ultimate sour-grapes song. His most-hated lyrics of mine are a snippet Trey tried to turn into a song at one point: 'Basking in the silence/ Soaking up the violence/ Will the good lord save?/ Or will I dance on grave?' Fishman found it horrendous. So of course Trey and I pretend to be working that into a song any time we're together and Jon shows up."
176. "Ha Ha Ha"
Beginning with "Makisupa Policeman" (152), Anastasio and Marshall have been writing together since eighth grade. With so much history, it's easy to forget how relatively raw and experimental Phish's earliest music was — as heard on their 1989 debut, Junta, and the 1986 demos collection nicknamed The White Tape (titled Phish when it was released on CD in 1998). Gordon's first recordings were particularly unorthodox. His guitar wants to kill your mama in "Fuck Your Face" (155), he offers a backhanded tribute to his artist mother in "Minkin" (282), and he delivers one of the most hummably strange car songs ever with "Contact" (172). Gordon still functions as unorthodox antithesis to Anastasio's dedication to craft, quality, and mass appeal evident in ravers (e.g. "46 Days" (158)) and seductive guitar showcases ("Ocelot" (166)).
174. "Two Versions of Me"
173. "Lawn Boy"
172. "Winterqueen" — Written at the same time as the Trey Anastasio Band vehicle "Frost" during what Marshall recalls as "a really great day in Trey's studio, situated way up in the air. One queen is looking down and wants to be lower, while the other feels the opposite in a sort of grass-is-greener situation."
170. "The Line"
169. "Can't Come Back"
167. "Party Time"
165. "If I Could"
164. "Dinner and a Movie"
163. "Pebbles and Marbles"
162. "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone" (Jim Capaldi)
161. "Riker's Mailbox" (Buffalo Bill)
160. "Letter to Jimmy Page"
159. "He Ent to the Bog"
158. "46 Days"
157. "Let Me Lie"
155. "Fuck Your Face"
153. "Alumni Blues"
152. "Makisupa Policeman"
151. "If I Told You"
150. "Frankie Sez"
Just as Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, Little Feat, and other first-generation improvising rockers found inspiration in American roots music, Phish were heavily influenced by bluegrass while writing and recording their second and third albums, Lawn Boy (1990) and A Picture of Nectar (1991). The Easterners mixed that fast-picking, emotionally direct sound with their own askew point of view in tracks like "Poor Heart" (132), "Scent of a Mule" (136), "My Sweet One" (138) and "Runaway Jim" (59). They looked back even further, to '30s country blues, in their galloping take on Josh White and Sam Gary's "Timber (Jerry)" (148). And Mike Gordon was fortunate enough to discover a song he might have written himself in his straightforward cover of Austin songwriter Butch Hancock's Zen-country classic (as performed by Jimmy Dale Gilmore), "My Mind's Got a Mind of Its Own" (131).
149. "A Day in the Life" (Lennon/McCartney)
148. "Timber" (Jerry) (Josh White/Sam Gary)
147. "Buried Alive"
146. "Wading in the Velvet Sea"
145. "Vultures" — "Like 'Walls of the Cave,'" Marshall says, "Trey played piano and I played recording engineer when we wrote this. Since neither of us was skilled enough to play it, we cobbled together the arpeggiated intro one note and chord at a time. I borrowed the 'Paulatek reminds me of the Bible' line from H. P. Lovecraft."
142. "Flat Fee"
139. "Dog Faced Boy"
138. "My Sweet One"
136. "Scent of a Mule"
135. "The Sloth"
133. "Axilla" (Part II)
132. "Poor Heart"
131. "My Mind's Got a Mind of Its Own" (Butch Hancock)
130. "Sugar Shack"
129. "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley" (Allen Toussaint)
128. "All Things Reconsidered"
126. "Splinters of Hail"
Phish is a verb, an ever-evolving entity whose first truly dramatic sea change occurred in 1993 with the release of the semi-conceptual Rift, about a nightmarish relationship. Their fourth studio album contained "Fast Enough for You" (114), "Horn" (125), and "Silent in the Morning" (105), the first of dozens of ballads that would redefine Anastasio and Marshall as "serious" songwriters. "Phish fans are used to inane lyrics," Marshall told me recently, which made the downright beauty and poetry of these heartfelt songs — along with the likes of "Joy" (110), "Billy Breathes" (113), "Gone" (116), and many more — a challenge for studlyer fans who perhaps prefer the dark funk of "Meat" (111) the grungy pleasure of "Maggie's Revenge" (106), or the psych-thrash improvisations of "Carini" (118).
124. "Frankenstein" (Edgar Winter)
123. "Secret Smile"
122. "Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan"
121. "Seven Below"
120. "Prince Caspian"
119. "Loving Cup" (Jagger/Richards)
117. "I Am Hydrogen"
115. "Round Room"
114. "Fast Enough for You"
113. "Billy Breathes"
112. "Tomorrow's Song"
110. "Joy" - This song "started out as an anthem to our daughters," says Marshall, "the embodiment of joy. But Trey was losing his sister to cancer at the same time, and that weighed heavily on our minds. So the first two verses are about our daughters, while the second two became about Kristy."
109. "Water in the Sky"
108. "Boogie On Reggae Woman" (Stevie Wonder)
106. "Maggie's Revenge"
105. "Silent in the Morning"
104. "The Horse"
103. "I Didn't Know (Wright)"
102. "Scents and Subtle Sounds"
101. "Swept Away"
100. "Train Song"
Acoustic Pink Floyd meets Little Shop of Horrors in this Gordon concoction that "might hurt just a little bit."
98. "McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters"
Marshall, who has referred to the Gamehendge song cycle as Phish's "Jesus Christ Superstar," named many of its main characters in this art-rocking minisuite.
97. "Heavy Things"
The feeling of being a human target informs this otherwise elegant adventure story.
96. "Peaches En Regalia"
A stately acknowledgment of the band's debt to the musically sophisticated, unashamedly satiric, and guitar-god genius of Frank Zappa.
95. "Army of One"
Page McConnell's Vida Blue side project produced this deceptively innocuous yet harrowing take on a relationship in crisis.
94. "AC/DC Bag"
Both the song's chords and Gamehendge's foremost executioner are referenced in the title of this Talking Heads-influenced show fluffer from Anastasio's Goddard days.
93. "Slave to the Traffic Light"
Another classic from the condo basement, "Slave" provides prog-rocking foreplay to an orgasmic peak.
92. "Mr. Completely"
Phish has only played this escapee from Trey's solo group once, expanding his minimal lyric about dreams and streams into a 45-minute saga with multiple deviations.
91. "Ya Mar" (Cyril Ferguson)
Phish's most Phish-like cover was written by Bahamas songwriter Cyril Ferguson, recorded by the Mustangs, and features an extended Page solo over its quasi-calypso rhythm.
90. "Crosseyed and Painless"
The keeper from Phish's 1996 Halloween cover of Talking Heads' Remain in Light fits perfectly into the band's own mini-repertoire of funky polyrhythmica.
Meditative Anastasio solos return this mellow karmic head scratcher from Farmhouse back to the void from whence it sprang.
"We can stage a runaway golf cart marathon!" proclaims Trey in this early, ritualistic, and Fishman-written chant once required for entry to Gamehendge.
"Tunnels and channels and chasms and rifts" and various other persistent Phish themes run through this gracefully flowing Undermind mirage.
No band has gotten quite as much out of frustrated communication as Phish, who deliver the malaise with grace and beauty in this bare-bones acoustic jewel from Billy Breathes.
Although Phish in general, and Anastasio in particular, have steadily dialed back their tomfoolery over the years, the nearly rejected title track from their most recent album marks a refreshing return to stoopidity.
Modern art, marriage, and urinary catheterization combine in this corn-poppingly anxious track from A Picture of Nectar.
Not to be confused with the similar-sounding "Olivia's Pool" (249), this short, dark, existential groove from Ghost offers cautionary advice to oblivious fools. "The studio version blows me away," notes Tom Marshall.
82. "Crowd Control"
The closest Phish ever got to a political manifesto, unintentionally or not, arrived during the bleakest moments of the Bush administration and provided a perfect soundtrack for an Occupy video.
81. "Roses Are Free" (Ween)
Brothers from another mother? This Chocolate and Cheese Ween tune fits like a glove.
Fear of marriage inspired this increasingly anxious slice of electric bluegrass from Rift.
Nobody does foolish desperation better than Phish, especially in this subverted sword-and-sorcery pastiche featuring angry mobs, septic maidens, and a picture of a Burlington bar owner.
A march into madness with adolescent-nihilist lyrics ("I don't care if the world explodes"), chaotic breakdowns, and a reassuring Garcia riff lifted from "Tennessee Jed."
77. "The Squirming Coil"
An early intricate vehicle — with absurdist lyrics evoking Satan on a beach, mythological royalty, and little Jimmy leaving for camp — for an extended McConnell piano solo.
76. "Backwards Down the Number Line"
Marshall mailed these lyrics to Anastasio during the latter's isolation in Saratoga Springs. His friend responded almost immediately with a completed song built around a bewitching hook. "The thing we did best and did forever, songwriting, reignited our friendship," wrote Marshall of its creation.
75. "Rock & Roll"
This jammed-out blast of Lou Reed 'tude entered Phish's regular rotation after the group covered the Velvet Underground's Loaded during a 1998 Vegas Halloween show.
Criss-crossing rhythms track a precipitous descent in this harmonically sophisticated through-composed number from Junta.
Each band member steps up for a little lyrical self-reflection on this heady shuffle before going about their artistic business of "provoking dreams that don't exist."
72. "The Mango Song"
This unclassifiable Picture of Nectar track sets impressionistic lyrics about a junkie waiter to Caribbean-flavored rhythms.
71. "Birds of a Feather"
Urgent Talking Heads-influenced afrorock drives Marshall's vividly ambivalent mid-'90s take on the Phish scene.
A wailing one-line lyric ("somebody's jumping in the tub with your brother") sparks a gnarly, Middle Eastern-tinged jam.
69. "Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)"
Phish turn up the funk to 11 whenever they play Eumir Deodato's hit 1973 crossover-jazz take on Richard Strauss's Nietzsche tribute.
68. "Sample in a Jar"
This underrated Hoist single sets a drunk evening's fragmented images to power-pop changes, a nuclear hook, and a climactic solo.
The first song in Phish's unprecedented album-preview set on Halloween 2013 became Fuego's closer upon its release. A Pink Floyd vibe infuses a gloriously lighter-than-air call to risk-taking in a transitory world.
66. "Bouncing Around the Room"
A sort of futuristic Afropop released on 1990's Lawn Boy, "Bouncing" weaves together multiple melodies with quintessential Marshall lyrics involving sailors, sirens, etc., coalescing into buoyant melodic bliss in under four minutes.
65. "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing"
Phish channels the sublime in this Undermind sailor's song attached to the sort of floating groove no other band so instinctually evokes.
This polyrhythmic tour de force finds the blind/visionary narrator in midair confusion as the music ascends into a tornado-like ruckus.
63. "Colonel Forbin's Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird"
These linked songs from Trey's unreleased Goddard project describe the Gamehendge protagonist's arduous ascent up a mountain to meet the prophet Icculus, who sends the Famous Mockingbird to steal The Helping Friendly Book from the evil Wilson. Let's hope the 2013 Broadway musical Hands on a Hard Body was Trey's musical-theatrical apprenticeship for a full-on production of this beautifully scored fantasy.
62. "Strange Design"
Keyboardist Page McConnell's most stirring vocal moment comes in this cosmically contemplative winner that strangely didn't make the cut for Billy Breathes.
A rousing, honking, and shouting blast of gospel-tinged glory from Hoist. Who said Phish couldn't swing?
60. "The MOMA Dance"
The title of this Story of the Ghost track (originally the instrumental "Black-Eyed Katy") puns preciously on "the moment ends" while hardcore Phish funk sexes up a sexy sailing scenario involving "a frothy cap" and "steady slap."
59. "Runaway Jim"
Although it never saw a recording studio, this catchy electric-bluegrass ode to a larcenous canine launched one of Phish's longest jams, an inspired hour-long Worcester epic, in 1997.
Phish's most reliably open-ended jam vehicle — their "Dark Star," if you will — originated as a 1989 soundcheck jam. The delights of walk-in refrigeration, into which other songs are frequently inserted, have never been so alluring.
Another slice of polyrhythmic paradise, this "Limb By Limb" cousin from Farmhouse transforms Marshall's tongue-tied thoughts into swirling improvisations.
56. "The Birdwatcher"
Recorded for Undermind but unreleased until the Party Time disk that accompanied Joy's deluxe package, this hilarious barbershop-harmony commentary on girl watching was the final song Phish recorded — separately — prior to breaking up in 2004.
55. "Tweezer Reprise"
Few concert climaxes can match this thrilling coda to Phish's most reliably open-ended jam vehicle.
Embraced by Anastasio during recovery, Eckhart Tolles's self-actualizing classic The Power of Now helped kindle the breakout jam vehicle from Phish's 2009 comeback release, Joy.
53. "Waiting All Night"
The lusciously harmonized first single from Fuego was inspired by a pinball machine repairman's romantic difficulties.
Spun off of an early version of "My Friend, My Friend," this ten-minute, four-section, jig-rhythmed, and through-composed portrait of a malevolent pig fits perfectly on The Story of the Ghost.
51. "Guelah Papyrus"
Nifty instrumental interlude "The Asse Festival" interrupts this Picture of Nectar track combining Anastasio/Marshall's high-school mythology with biological free-association.
Embodying more wisdom from a psychedelic Princeton basement, this rarely performed Gamehendge-related vehicle features Trey testifying enthusiastically ("read the fucking book!") to the wisdom of its titular deity, author of the fictional Helping Friendly Book (known formally as Kneuyarta).
49. "Mike's Song"
Gordon's 1985 paean to paranoia ("Me no are no nice guy") has been a career-long launching pad for many of Phish's most memorable improvisations, and is usually/eventually followed by the steam-releasing "Weekapaug Groove."
One of the quartet's many action-oriented song titles, the gleeful "Glide" goes back to Anastasio and Marshall's 1981 school days and combines folk guitar, three-part harmonies, sinister chords, and uplifting lyrics set to a jiggy rhythm.
Pulpuslacerataphobes may want to avoid Anastasio's Kipling-esque and deceptively merry Junta-era account of a Buddhist weasel's jealous encounter with an aging chimpanzee.
46. "Bathtub Gin"
Epitomizing the carnivalesque magic of Phish's oeuvre, this deliciously woozy 1989 blend of Anastasio's music and friend Susannah Goodman's through-the-looking-glass lyrics leads to some sublimely sloshed improvisations.
45. "Mock Song"
You can read just about anything into this Band-esque Gordon slow groove from Round Room, although lines like "Penny, thistle, cell phone, blow/ Reap what you sow" suggest something less than ironic detachment.
44. "Theme From the Bottom"
Phish rarely sound as weightless, bubbly, and afloat as during this extended aquatic metaphor for power relationships in love and life.
43. "It's Ice"
Marshall's favorite element solidifies and threatens in this remarkable Rift meditation on reality and illusion. The insistent music echoes the endangered skater's plunge into and reemergence from the frozen depths.
42. "When the Circus Comes"
The centerpiece of Los Lobos' 1992 masterpiece Kiko might have been written for Anastasio, who always reveals new shadows—and unintended tour metaphors—in its broken-hearted sentiments.
The "jewel in the crown" from a Cayman Islands writing session, according to Marshall, and one of his few expressions of unambivalent love, this Billy Breathes sleeper is among the best of the pair's many (many) ballads, power and otherwise.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit's acronym stands in for "and I see you" in this perky early-'90s country-and-reggae number with a nifty sing-along chorus.
39. "Run Like an Antelope"
Irrepressible youthful joie de vivre pours out of this strange and steadily building blast of kinetic energy forged by a teenaged Anastasio (with lyrics by Steve Pollak, AKA the Dude of Life) in his father's Princeton-condo basement.
This Round Room highlight movingly condenses many Marshall themes—water, air, caves, clouds, miscommunication, defeat—subsequently redeemed by a serene oceanic jam.
With its "Batman"-theme breaks and its breakneck piano and guitar soloing, Rift's urgent "Maze" is as labyrinthine as its title suggests.
36. "The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday"
The instrumental introduction to Anastasio's eponymous song cycle is a deceptively sweet gateway to an often dark and violent game of thrones.
Concluding with a swirling bliss-out, this Billy Breathes highlight contains a Hitchcockian plot about uxoricide at sea. "When my wife asks me why I write such terrible things about her," Marshall says, "I reply that I write them to exorcise the demons."
34. "The Wedge"
Neil Young's "Pocahantas" inspired the groove behind Marshall's lyrics to this jaunty Rift track portraying marital obligation as a cross-country voyage.
33. "First Tube"
Polyrhythmic Afrorock builds to an explosive peak in this potent instrumental kick starter from Farmhouse.
A long, strange song with a climactic payoff, this side-long multipart ode to a "man with a horrible disease" went through numerous revisions before gelling into the intermittently performed old-school favorite it is today.
31. "The Connection"
Undermind's first single coulda-shoulda been the concise, straightforward, hooky radio hit Phish always deserved.
30. "The Curtain With"
Sharing melodic content with "Rift," this 1987 piece is a mood-setting jewel of composed material and a two-part improvisation suggesting weirdness down the road.
Nearly every component of Phish's mythos can be found on their 1989 debut, Junta. But this darkness-on-the-edge-of-carnival offering about a girl's flight and subsequent drowning suggest a promising creative road Anastasio left unexplored.
This enchanting 1997 Anastasio/Marshall composition celebrates the creative and collaborative power of two with found lyrics ("we have cluster flies, alas"), a sweet Bob Marley reference, and honey-drop soloing.
This rhythmically off-kilter gem from Rift is arguably the best of bassist Mike Gordon's eccentrically down-home songwriting.
The lead track of Phish's seventh studio album, 1998's The Story of the Ghost, is based on a true story, Marshall has said, that usually concludes with languorous space funk and Afro-futuristic experimentalism.
Written by Anastasio during his mid-'80s mentorship with composer Ernie Spires, this deviously difficult work in four parts cooks up a volatile concoction, both lyrically and in a slow-build improvisation.
A rare golden ticket for fans since 1987, "Harpua" is a storytelling doorway to an alternate dimension in which the titular dog and a cat named Poster Nutbag battle it out on a pop-culture landscape.
23. "Down With Disease"
Played frequently and often jammed-out exquisitely, this early-'90s Anastasio/Marshall rager is the best song ever inspired by mononucleosis.
22. "Chalk Dust Torture"
Played frequently and often jammed-out exquisitely, this early-nineties rager is the best school-sucks anthem this side of Alice Cooper.
21. "The Lizards"
The key song in Anastasio's Gamehendge cycle is a bittersweet ode to "a race of people practically extinct/ From doing things smart people don't do," and features a magnificent coda imported from Gus the Christmas Dog.
20. "Golgi Apparatus"
The greatest biology-inspired rock song ever written by a bunch of smart-ass (Princeton Day School) eighth-graders. "I saw you/ With a ticket stub in your hand" indeed.
19. "Time Turns Elastic"
Anastasio composed this mature multipart orchestral work (also performed by Phish) during his 2007-08 drug-court stay in Saratoga Springs, New York. Time expands and contracts as the singer imagines immersion in the earth and escape into the mist.
Phish's covers tend toward the faithful. But the band has long been performing this Talking Heads Fear of Music track as a slower, funkier meditation on urban life-style options.
17. "Halley's Comet"
"What is the central theme to this everlasting spoof?" asked fellow Goddard student Richard "Nancy" Wright, who wrote this joyously demented doo-wop/rock hybrid Phish has been playing since 1986.
16. "Brian and Robert"
Eno and Fripp's ambient adventures inspired this melodically undulating, lyrically touching shout-out to the lonely and alienated among us.
15. "Split Open and Melt"
This self-explanatory, complex, and reliable 1989 improv portal is characterized by unusual time signatures following a visit to the "gloom room."
14. "My Friend, My Friend"
Following a light, loping intro, this Rift track descends into darkness when the titular chum picks up the knife (rhymes with wife) and extends flame to fuse.
13. "Wolfman's Brother"
"So with meaningless excitement/ And smooth atonal sound/ It's like a cross between a hurricane/ And a ship that's run aground." Phish never came closer to characterizing their peculiar allure than in these lines from a deeply funky account of Anastasio and Fishman's first encounter.
The driving, dual-personality title track to Phish's fourth studio album reflects the band's growing bluegrass fixation while setting the emotional tone for a collection of communication breakdowns.
11. "David Bowie"
A tightly wound composed section containing all manner of rhythmo-harmonic chutes and ladders uncoils into an improvisation-rich starship in this slice of inspired precocity.
Phish defiantly declared themselves "reinvented, redefined, rearranged, but not refined" over chunky rhythms and funky treated keyboards on the title track to their 2004 pre-breakup album. The lines "Relocated, not retired/ Reprimanded and rewired" made even more sense during their 2009 reunion run at Hampton Coliseum.
9. "Harry Hood"
The frequent show closer that launched a thousand glow sticks (true fact: a glowworm dies for every one of these thrown at a show), "Hood" transforms convolution into euphoria.
8. "Punch You in the Eye"
Anastasio snuck a knotty instrumental interlude and dance — "The Landlady" — into the middle of this high-energy Latin-tinged spinoff of his Goddard College Senior Study, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, AKA Gamehendge.
7. "What's the Use?"
The centerpiece of 2000's improv-heavy Siket Disc consists of 11 dark, deliriously sludgy minutes of looping, klaxonic music somewhere between Robert Fripp on Quaaludes and the Melvins.
6. "You Enjoy Myself"
This multipart stunner from 1985 contains nearly every element of Anastasio's early arsenal: tight, complex compositions; funky jam segments; inscrutable lyrics ("wash uffizi, drive me to Firenze"); a choreographed trampoline routine; and a daredevil a cappella concluding jam.
5. "Walls of the Cave"
A cloud seems to hang over every note of this bipartite threnody for the victims of 9/11, written by Anastasio/Marshall in a glum Newark hotel room. Eventually, though, it evolves into a Zen-like contemplation of silent trees.
Profoundly goofball lyrics ("The solar garlic starts to rot/ Was it for this my life I sought?") tee up the band's jazziest tension-and-release hyperspace explorations.
3. "Limb By Limb"
Inspired by Rio de Janeiro parade drumming, Anastasio composed seemingly impossible polyrhythmic parts for Jon Fishman, who unravels and reconstructs them underneath particularly poignant Marshall lyrics about how love can tear you apart when you're "trampled by lambs and pecked by the dove."
"We've got it simple, 'cause we've got a band." The best song Lennon-McCartney never wrote celebrates Phish's synergistic band/community relationship with processional aplomb and sly surrealism.
1. "The Divided Sky"
Marvelous by any measure, brain-teasingly complex writing (including a palindromic passage) sets the stage for ecstatic release in a composition that originated in both a youthful collaboration with his mother (Gus the Christmas Dog) and Anastasio's adolescent freakouts with New Jersey chums.