The Story of The Story of the Ghost

tsofg2When Phish went into Bearsville Studios in March of 1997, they knew they were going to record, but they didn’t necessarily know what. In addition to some demos that Tom and Trey had made, they decided to go into the studio to jam, and what would come out would be anyone’s guess.  After five days in Bearsville, NY during March, and five more in September, the band had a large amount of material to work with.  After the March sessions, they selected their favorite segments of improv and began writing songs around them- lots of songs.  Taking this unique approach to songwriting, much like “The Blob” from Billy Breathes, what would eventually emerge over the course of a year was Phish’s seventh studio album, The Story of the Ghost.

Phish largely reversed the process, focusing on what they do best, and based songs off their creative improvisation.  Remember in Summer ’97 when the band came out with an arsenal of new tunes?  These were Anastasio / Marshall songs written just before, and recorded during, these sessions; “Ghost,” “Limb by Limb,” “Piper,” “Dogs Stole Things,” Twist,” “Vultures,” “Velvet Sea”- I could go on.  But the songwriting that resulted from the Bearsville Sessions was one of the most interesting eras of the band’s career.  Songs such as “Birds of a Feather,” “Meat,” “Roggae,” and “Frankie Says,” all resulted directly from the group’s studio improvisation.  Phish returned to Bearsville in September of ’97 for more experimentation.  Then came more songs- “Fikus,” “Shafty,” “Black-Eyed Katy”- and when all was said and done, they had enough material not only for The Story of the Ghost, but also for the all instrumental Siket Disc, released in ’99.  The Siket Disc was made entirely of outtakes from these same sessions.  And there are still songs from these sessions we have never heard.

Bearsville Studios, Bearsville, NY

Bearsville Studios, Bearsville, NY

When Phish took their abundance of material back into the studios in April 1998, they had some deciding to do.  With over forty songs from which to choose, they had to whittle out an album.  Phish had flirted with the “concept album” with Rift and Billy Breathes, and would make a more outright attempt this time around.  Aside from “Guyute,” and the radio-friendly “Birds of a Feather,” all the tracks resembled an apparition of its whole self that we had come to know live.  Snippets of the entire picture faded in and out like ghosts passing in the night.  With two to three minute musical passages, Phish created their most flowing album to date, piecing together a musical collage.

The sound of the album mirrored the band’s looser live sound of the era, led by Gordon’s round, prominent bass grooves.  The clearest examples of this are found on “Ghost,” “Meat,” “Fikus,” “Shafty,” “Roggae,” and “The Moma Dance.”  The musical character of the album was both funky and sparse, creating a spacious rhythmic palette throughout.  “Guyute” was the one song that didn’t really fit in with the album’s vibe, though the fact that they finally recorded the complex composition offset its somewhat awkward placement.

Fall '98 (T.Wickersty)

Fall '98 (T.Wickersty)

At the end of the album, an insane “Moma” groove fades into the mix as the band begins to sing the lyrics right over the liquid funk.  Just as “Ghost” brings the album in, “The Moma Dance” completes its circle, as the band layers the lyrics to “Ghost” over the crack-like groove.  This is the perfect ending to a pretty perfect album; the only thing is, that it is not the ending.  Phish added the two-minute ambient verse “End of Session” to close the album.  This passage must be significant to the band, perhaps marking the literal end of their recording sessions, because it doesn’t necessarily fit.  A beautiful snippet in its own right, its music diverges from anything on the record, and comes after the album’s natural conclusion.  It translates like a “hidden track” that Phish decided to label, and perhaps that is the point.

Trey recently stated in Rolling Stone that he wasn’t convinced Phish had yet made a great album, upping the expectations for their 2009 installment.  Yet, looking back through Phish’s catalog, Rift, Billy Breathes and The Story of the Ghost jump out as valiant attempts.  With each of these albums, the band furthered the conceptual framework of what they were trying to do.  While Rift had an overall story behind it, Billy Breathes took an idea and began translating it to music, painting a certain mood.  However, when Phish dropped The Story of the Ghost in Fall of 1998, they released the most artistically coherent album of their career.


Check out The Phish Archive of reviews and articles about The Story of the Ghost from 1998.



9.30.95 Shoreline, Mountain View, CA < LINK

9.30.95 Shoreline, Mountain View, CA < TORRENT LINK


Shoreline Amphitheatre

This performance at Shoreline marked the fourth show of the band’s massive Fall ’95 slate.  This show marked the beginning of the band vs. audience chess matches which ran throughout the Fall and would eventually end in a 1-1 tie on New Year’s Eve at The Garden.  Highlights include the first set “Reba” and “Antelope,” while the second set brings a hot “Runaway Jim” and a sinister “Mike’s” jam that segues into “Keyboard Cavalry”- not to mention Fish’s first glorious cover of Elvis.  Trey also dedicated “Blue and Lonesome” to Jerry Garcia, in his amphitheatre, only months after he had passed.  (Here is a link with an overlay of “Steal Your Face” on Shoreline as pointed out on yesterday’s picture- pretty cool.)

I: My Friend My Friend, Cars Trucks Buses, White Rabbit Jam*, Reba, Uncle Pen, Horn, Run Like an Antelope, Blue and Lonesome**, Sample in a Jar

II: Runaway Jim, Fog That Surrounds, If I Could, Scent of a Mule, Mike’s Song > Keyboard Cavalry, Weekapaug Groove, Suspicious Minds# > HYHU, Cavern

E: Amazing Grace, Good Times Bad Times

* The Band vs. Audience chess match is introduced.  Page and a tourhead named Pooh played a 3-4 move intro to set up the board during the White Rabbit jam.  #First time played.  **Dedicated to Jerry Garcia.

Tags: ,

136 Responses to “The Story of The Story of the Ghost”

  1. Los Says:

    That being said when are we gonna see marijuana legalized?!?!?!?!?!?!

  2. SOAM Says:

    Pot is the air I breathe and Beer the water I drink -SOAM-PHD, MD,MA-Philosopher, Simpleton, Tunecaller and Boneshaker.

  3. msbjivein Says:

    @SOAM, You must be a Vapor addict. I go to the meeting. “Hello my name is Matt and I’m a Vapor addict.”

  4. SOAM Says:

    Right over my head bro-i’m a borderline old man and lack hipness in regards to the definition of Vapor-feel free to enlighten me

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    Psychedelics are powerful but – with the exception of people with certain mental illnesses – non-addictive. I have been using them for 25 of my 39 years and am more high-functioning now than I have ever been. I wish I had started later; changes in brain chemistry and architecture continue into the early 20’s, and for most 15 year olds the self-persona is not well organized enough to be easily reintegrated after the obliteration of a serious dose. But at least since my early 20s, psychedelic tripping has been the strongest force for positive change in my life, no question.

    To paraphrase the great Hunter S Thompson: I never recommend psychedelics to anyone – but they’ve always worked for me. Even the hyperintense, scary/disintegrating “bad” trips have turned out to be some of the most valuable in the long run.

    I definitely think that for SOME people with substance problems, they need to just be all the way clean to stay clear of the death drugs. But for me it wasn’t that way. At 17 I was freebasing 8-balls of dangerously pure pink peruvian blow every weekend night, and at 18 I quit cold turkey after a friend died (not directly via OD but indirectly via DUI crash). I had a week of moderate cravings and have never been tempted since, but I have never stopped tripping or puffing.

    It’s not that I have this great willpower or anything. I really don’t. Actually I have almost no ability to resist serious temptation. It seems to be a genetic biochemical thing. IT was the same thing with cigs – when I quit I was done, no problem. But I know peeps who have had to quit drinking and puffing to quit cigs b/c catching a buzz is associated with smoking.

    Everyone is different, and is effected by the various drugs in different ways – you just have to let ppl figure it out for themselves

  6. msbjivein Says:

    Ok Old timer, (I mean that in the best possible way)

    A vaporizer (or vapouriser) is a device used to sublimate the active ingredients of plant material, commonly cannabis, tobacco, or any of many other herbs or blends (phyto-inhalation; see also: aromatherapy). Vaporization is an alternative to smoking. Rather than burning the herb, which produces irritating, toxic, and carcinogenic by-products, a vaporizer heats the material in a partial vacuum so that the active compounds contained in the plant boil off into a vapor. No combustion occurs, so no smoke or taste of smoke is evident. The vapor ideally contains virtually zero particulate matter or tar, and significantly lower concentrations of noxious gases such as carbon monoxide. The vapor is then inhaled directly through a hose or pipe for highest activity, or stored for subsequent inhalations in a container such as a bag or jar. With little to no smoke produced, cooler temperatures, and less material required to achieve a given level of effect, the irritating/harmful effects of smoking are greatly reduced or eliminated,[1][2][3][4][5] along with second hand smoke, by using a vaporizer. This makes vaporizers useful in places where there are public bans on smoking and under circumstances in which a more medically justifiable delivery medium is preferred.

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    is it just me or do vaporizers have a weird taste? I have tried several and can’t stand ’em.

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    i agree with Mr. Completely- I find myself saying that a lot!

  9. Mr.Miner Says:

    Vapos are “decent”- IMO, a waste of weed 😉

  10. msbjivein Says:

    @Completely, There are different types. Some suck balls. I never had a bad experience w/ any myself. Everytime I’ve VAPED it’s tasted like eating bud. The best is the “Volcano”. it’s very expensive. I use a Vapor Brothers device. It has a heating element and a tube w/ glass bowl on one end and a mouth piece on the other. You can adjust the temp. by turning dial till it’s dialed in. this kind is a lot cheaper than the Volcano. Works almost as good IMO.

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    i learned to roll joints from my dad…love the taste and the feel, and the social groove of passing them around…bong hits are great, pipes ok, chillums are silly, vaporizers taste weird, joints are the best, I bring at least 10 into every show

  12. Billy Breathes Says:

    Viva La Shroom!

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    I don’t like the taste of eating bud so that’s part of it – to me it’s a cross btwn that and a metallic edge – but to each his own, I have many friends who swear by them, and of course for the legit medical cases they are a lifesaver

  14. Los Says:

    Im a huge fan of pot and favor the legalization of it but I tend to believe that it is addictive…

    Addiction is both physical and mental…with pot you’ll see similar physical withdrawal syptoms to nicotine addiction ie. mood swings, irritability and possibly difficulty falling asleep…to me very minimal physical consequences…its the mental addiciton that makes it difficult to stop if one decides to…not taking into considerations the motivations to stop

  15. msbjivein Says:

    @ MinER, They’re are not for the conservative. Even though I have a buddy that swears he conserves more using his. One thing they definately do is help your lungs out. I used to caugh up black shit. Not anymore.(I don’t smoke ciggs either) That’s a step in the right direction.
    Try taking a hit then blowing out through a piece of tissue and compare the difference. It’s a huge difference in color. One’s black the other is yellow.

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    @ Los I really, really think that depends 100% on the person you’re talking about.

    I have seen ppls lives basically wrecked by weed – those who do nothing else ever for decades – a boring and pointless waste of potential.

    But for most ppl it’s addictive in the sense that a lot of fun things are more fun with a buzz. Music and sex especially.

  17. camman Says:

    personally i think “Party Time” would be a hysterical name for the album and hopefully a nod toward the cleaner versio on of Phish that we’ll hopefully see this year… i say this becuase i saw a video Trey going off during a slave from K.C>? back in 1994, and was stunned. My uncle was watching it with me, he was my phish mentor, and i asked is trey jsut that into the music or just on a shit load of drugss? he laughed and said both. I hope the band does stay relatively clean just becuase i wish the best from them as people. 2009 is party time, last year of high school, 1st year of college and the best band in the world is back!!!

  18. Los Says:

    @ Completely

    Agreed…the enhancement or the perception of enhancement is what leads to the mental addiction…

    There is a false belief in many users that in order to enjoy an event, occasion or whatever one needs to be high…Which would lead some to question if the event is enjoyable without?

    You cited Music and sex…two things that are enjoyable without the smoke…how about work or school?

  19. Billy Breathes Says:

    Mr C – you hit it. Different strokes for Different folks, basically.

    Only thing I would add is: Everything in Moderation…for me at least.

    But then again, as Bobby likes to say: Too much of everything is just enough!

    In fact, that should be the name of Phish’s new album: Everything in Moderation. Almost as queer as Party Time.


  20. SOAM Says:

    vaporizing sounds pretty neat but I’ll take a good brownie anyday


  21. msbjivein Says:

    Vape’in sorta gives you a buzz like eating pot. Not quite as intense but gives you that tingley feeling all over.

  22. nonoyolker Says:

    His paws are tingling, he likes it!!! Vapin’s ok every now and again as long as you have the old school box vapo. I used one for a while because my lungs were a wreck from cigs (quit 4 + years now, hooray) and yorbe. Was really glad to be back up and running w/ the old green jeans huffing when my lungs were back though.

    I like donuts, you like donuts, we like donuts!!!

  23. whole tour! Says:

    ganja rice krispy treats rock!

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    @ Los – I used to go to school high and it was a big mistake, I wish I hadn’t. And as for work it depends on the job. I used to wait tables and tend bar high, and jobs like that – but when I was working construction, no way. Not safe. And now that I’m coding for a living it’s a laughable idea, doing this job high is so far beyond impossible you can’t even see impossible from there….

    Now, I have made sure that things that I like when high are still fun when not. sex, music, food – all those things. and most interestingly, I now can have full blown group-mind psychedelic experiences at shows with no buzz at all. Which to me means it’s real.


    Brownies! yes! even better is no-cook fudge made from ganja ghee – so stony!

  25. msbjivein Says:

    Off subject for a sec.
    I’m live in Indy and this past Monday New Belgium Brewing Co. dropped Fat Tire on Indy IN CANS!!!!!(they also have the 22oz bottles but that’s it no 12oz) Apparently we’re the only state that has Fat Tire cans. (dude in LQ told me this) New Belgium did it so we can take them into the 500 next month. We have never had any New Belgium brews here before. So this is a treat.(I like it but don’t love it,drank my share while in Seattle) Anyway I bought a case Monday and those fuckers are going down smooth as shit right now.(like any beer after 4-5 cases it will get old) Has anyone else seen Fat Tire cans???????

Leave a Reply