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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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4 (Not) Dead Phish

Extract

(Not) Dead Phish

In The Phish Book (1998), authored collectively by Richard Gehr and Phish band members, who speak in both their individual and their collective voices, the collective voice observes that Phish had covered several Dead songs in its first years on the road, but it dropped them “to avoid the onus of being pigeonholed as yet another Dead cover band” (Gehr & Phish, p. 16). One thing this indicates is that even when the Grateful Dead were still performing on the road, they were being “covered” by bands who sought to perform the Dead, to be a reasonable facsimile of an original. These Dead cover bands are very much part of local and regional Deadhead cultural gatherings. The other thing that this passage reveals is that Phish felt the need to not cover many Dead songs, in order to establish their own identity and their own material. The collective voice of Phish represents the Dead as “enmeshed in the working-class politics and emotions of another era entirely.” The Dead were “products of the West Coast’s beat/hippie scene,” while Phish “came of age on the East Coast during the postpunk eighties” (ibid.). This rhetorical distancing from the Dead continues as Trey remarks that he went to his first Dead show with a neighbor, “and I didn’t even pay ←115 | 116→attention,” “didn’t get it,” that it was “boring.” Then he took some blotter acid and suddenly “I got it” (ibid.). This rhetorical distancing is also something the...

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