Song 35: Phish, “The Divided Sky” (1989)

PHISH-junta

While listening to the hilarious (and surprisingly insightful) comedy podcast “Analyze Phish” recently, I remembered something: I used to love Phish. I wasn’t a taper, and I didn’t follow them from show to show, but I had all their CDs, diligently collecting them in succession. What I’d forgotten before listening to the podcast is that, despite their deserved reputation as being aimless and having some of the worst lyrics in the history of terrible lyrics, Phish made some genuinely great music.

“The Divided Sky” isn’t my favorite Phish song, but I remember listening to this one over and over, especially focusing on the section that starts at 4:25, that gorgeous guitar solo. I was just learning guitar at the time, and this was one of the songs that made me want to learn more. I didn’t want to play like Trey Anastasio–that seemed like it would be really time-consuming, both in preparation and execution–but I wanted to have that kind of tone, the really pretty kind that Anastasio, Jerry Garcia and Duane Allman used to have. It didn’t happen, but I still admire those guys.

The best Phish album is Billy Breathes, which, yes, has the same terrible lyrics as the rest of their songs, but consists of short, concise songs that let their musicianship and songwriting skills shine. They’re an imperfect band, to be sure, but I think they deserve a second look. Forget the patchouli and the good vibes; just listen to that guitar sound.

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