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A History of Progressive Music and Youth Culture

Phishing in America

Series:

Dennis Carlson

Edited By Shirley R. Steinberg

The late Dennis Carlson uses the alternative nature of the Burlington, Vermont-bred band, Phish, and the larger impact of rock n’ roll to look at youth and revolutionary music culture. A History of Progressive Music and Youth Culture is designed for those who work with or teach young people to understand the nature and origin of musical commitment and devotion. For academics, the book traces a cultural study of rock which is unlike any other discussion of music or musicology published.

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1 Bebop Beginnings

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Bebop Beginnings

Phish drummer Jon Fishman has remarked that the band’s song Simple is probably his “favorite song in our entire repertoire” (160). Bass player Mike Gordon refers to Simple as an “anthemic” song for the band because it attempts to sum up what Phish is all about. Simple is about getting back to basics, remembering who you are. In Phish’s case, Simple provides a simple answer, and like all simple answers, they don’t tell the whole story. But simple answers can be a place to begin. The song is in fact among Phish’s simplest compositions. Simple proclaims that “we are a bebop band,” with cymbals and saxophones in the band. It hardly matters that Phish does not have saxophones or cymbals in the band. It resurrects some of the spirit of bebop. Originally crafted by Mike Gordon in 1994, the song with its riff of simple, repeated phrases with changing chords and harmonies provides a perfect vehicle for improvisation and jamming. No two performances of Simple have ever been the same but the riff provides a unifying structure that can be returned to again and again, to maximize improvisation without getting lost in ←11 | 12→chaos. By making Simple a prominent and recurring song in their repertoire, Phish directs its loyal fans back to an earlier generation of music and youth culture with the suggestion that “we” (the Phish community) are all inheritors of a bebop legacy, that the education of a Phish fan needs to include...

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