Backwards Down The Number Line

When all is said and done, through of all the majesty of Phish’s music and live shows, one uniting factor that all of us have experienced is the deep friendships made through the wacky neon roller coaster ride of Phish tour. Kind of parallel to life, regardless of all the madness that goes on around us, friends keep us grounded, friends inspire us, and friends support us. That is the essence of Tom Marshall’s newest publicly played song. Written for Trey last September, in a long standing tradition of Tom and Trey writing songs for each other’s birthdays, and debuted at Rothbury, we got our first glance of what will most likely be a new Phish song, “Backwards Down the Number Line.”

“You were 8 and I was 9
Do you know what happened then?
Do you know why we’re still friends?
Laughing all these many years
We pushed through hardships tasted tears”

The song is lyrically poignant, citing the twisting path that life often takes us down. Tom and Trey are two people who would be friends no matter what the circumstances. We all have friends like this, and the definitive reality of the song is something everyone can relate to and makes the song something meaningful. This more mature lyrical approach typified the post-hiatus works of Round Room and Undermind, and it is these type of lyrics that we can expect from forthcoming Tom and Trey compositions. Tom says that he has “the old Trey back” and that in the last few months, they have written about fifteen songs. “We’re extremely productive and got the drive again.” That’s about the best news any of us has read in a while. Yet, somehow I don’t think they are writing about furry thugs and cans of corrosive anymore. In their return, expect more songs that reflect the here and now. Not necessarily anymore boymangodshit. But hey, we’ll see.

“You decide what it contains
How long it goes what this remains
The only rule is it begins
Happy happy o my friend”

When they do come back, Phish will most likely play a host of new songs, especially if we believe Mike’s Rolling Stone interview discussing the band’s contact with Steve Lillywhite regarding hypothetical plans of a new album. To be honest, new songs are more than welcome. While this may not be the overwhelming opinion, I was disappointed we never got to hear most of Undermind in a live setting. We’ve all heard a million Bowies, YEMs, and Diseases, and I’m sure we’ll hear many more, but we only got to hear one legit “The Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” two versions of “Nothing, “no “Undermind.” You get the picture– everything had to be cut short. In one interpretation of the above verse, Phish will determine what their return contains, how long it goes and what music remains. It will most definitely begin, and goal of it all is happiness. Happiness for the band, all of us, and the community. Expect changes. Embrace change. Change is bringing all of us back to the source; bringing us backwards down the number line. Change is bringing the light back. The only rule is it begins.

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Backwards Down the Number Line mp3

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8 Responses to “Backwards Down The Number Line”

  1. themanatee Says:

    I agree with your comment about a likely different approach to songwriting both on the forthcoming album as well as Round Room and Undermind. As far as “embracing change” goes, change is certainly reflected in post hiatus Phish. Even in songs with traditionally Phish-y structure – multiple segements – (Walls, Pebbles and Marbles) – Trey and Tom appear to be writing … differently. The technical prowess of early Phish is less prominent (some say this goes as far back as Hoist I suppose) but now we are seeing differing lyrical style as well – somewhat stripped down of the herky jerky humor and more relational and reflective in its focus. I personally love it as it is music that moves with me throughout my life. I don’t experience Phish the same way I did was I was 19 and discovered them. I still have the enthusiasm for the music but it is processed and experienced differently with regard to events, changes, and growth in my own life. This is why I liked Undermind and to a somewhat lesser degree Round Room so much. Anything But Me, Thunderhead, Friday, All of these Dreams, Walls of the Cave, Song I Heard, Two Versions, The Connection, etc…) all sound reflective in their music and their sound to me. Of course this is music by 40 year olds in stead of 8 or 20 year olds. I feel this music different than old Phish. Good thing I am different.

  2. carla326 Says:

    “say more, by playing less…”


  3. Alex B Says:

    Undermind is the best tune on the album I think and one that could take a lot of directions. Almost like That’s the Way I Feel which Trey didn’t play for a long time and then tore it apart with the slow grooves.
    Great writing my man! You’re getting me psyched for phish to return. Not that I need much help but your points about embracing the new stuff is so important to their “recovery”.
    Rock on my man!

  4. steve o Says:

    Phish has always been a journey of self discovery. I have had life changing epiphanies at shows and been brought to tears. Backwards down the number puts into words a look back into that journey. the most important relationships and feelings have evolved going backwards down the number line.

  5. camman Says:

    i still think this is the best sing Trey has written sing the “Shine” Album from 2005

  6. Robbie Shell Says:

    Great little site ! thanks for this ! (Wish’d they’d played “DIRT”)

    Robbie Shell

  7. Robbie Shell Says:

    “theresa” (thee acoustic demo of “Athena”) wails now………..

    Pete Townshend.

    Brilliant,………like these last 3 shows.


  8. Furblanket Rat Says:


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