a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics

Amidst the Peals of Laughter

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Marshall

Vocals: Trey

Debut: 2013-10-31

Historian: Tom Marshall

Last Update: 2013-11-12

by Tom Marshall

What is a drone?

It's the bee in the hive that does the “work” – the worker-bee. What is the hive? It's society. It's where we co-exist.

I always felt like a drone. In college – I'm finally away from my hometown (drone-town) and high school and what do I get? More drone activity on campus: happy faces chatting and following pheromone-marked trails from class to class, carrying books. What's in those books? Drone lessons. How to be a drone! They were written 50 years ago these books. We're not breaking new ground here. Cafeteria lines of drones eating drone food. Can't this wait 'til I'm old, can't I live while I'm young? But that's a different song, “Chalk Dust Torture” – a drone protest song about school. (Ok, that one's about other stuff too.)

“Amidst the Peals of Laughter” is about me, living the drone life, but hearing laughter from non-drones.

”Amidst the Peals of Laughter” – 10/31/13, Atlantic City, NJ

Why did Jack and Jill go up a hill? To fetch a pail of water. "Fetch." They weren't on a sightseeing walk – someone told them to go GET that water. This isn't a nursery rhyme… this is a 300 year-old drone protest poem. They fell down. People laughed at them. They failed at their drone task. They dropped their tray in the cafeteria.

In this society, we're forced to spend most of our waking hours at “work.” Why? Because that's what drones do. We're given “tasks” by non-drones… some of whom may laugh at us when we do them.

Enough about drones, Tom – we get it! Right? Ok… I'll stop. 

In fact, Trey said the same thing. In the last line of the last verse I wrote "the drones have awakened, the day has begun" – Trey said the "drone" reference was too much… too obvious… we GET it, Tom. We substituted "world" for "drones" – I'll still sing drones though. It's drones.

Unfortunately, I don't have any answers. Can we just skip school and have fun instead of education? Of course not… although some people do. Can we just never get a job and never go to work? Of course not… although some people resist the pressure.

Olivia Arias was asked in an interview about all the women who pursued her husband George Harrison throughout his life. She said it's tough, but she had the secret to a long marriage: don't get divorced! It's that simple.

She's right. Just don't. She was pressured but fought the pressure.

My solution to the droning of America is to wake up and leave the drone existence in favor of something else. Wake up – like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty… the ultimate drone transformation.

I was laid-off from the insurance industry in 2005. I never went back to a 9-to-5. I'm not a drone anymore and it's AMAZING. It's tough – I still work, for myself and for others – but with no cubicle-honeycomb cages in sight it's worth it. It took me too long to wake up, and if the decision wasn't made for me, I might not have been brave enough to do it on my own. Looking back though I feel unhappy about those 20 years. I feel it was time wasted. Being patted on the back for doing a good job: good drone. Being laughed at by those who broke free somehow.

That's what this song is about.

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Jackaroe Reply
Who else out there would like to hear Tom's perspective on all songs that he has written? (both of my hands are in the air)

Score: 20
LINDERAMA65 I loved this tune on 10/31...It has a flavor of a celtic folk tune. i have listened to this many times since and although catchy it definitely evoked a sadness in me that the song was about crushing creativity and spirit and being forced to become something unwanted. i like seeing this article because it solidified what I was also began speaking to me as i read hater comments about the Halloween shows and made me think of a group of wook birds trying to hammer nails int he coffin of fun. i loved the halloween show, I love this tune, and i love Phish for unexpected twists, musical exploration, creativity and keeping it drone free.
Score: 7
Just_Ivy Reply
Just_Ivy Thanks, Tom!
Score: 5
BillZilla67 Reply
BillZilla67 Great song and I agree with the sentiment to a degree. The world needs "drones" as you call them. Not for you? Fine. But the world can't be ALL free spirits. We need folks to man the wall and the machinery too. The more we shit on those people (drones) doing those jobs and re-enforcing the idea that what they do is meaningless drudgery and they are "lesser" for doping so, then the less satisfaction they will have for a job well done. Ever wonder why people are so angry? What was it Tyler Durden said about how we all can't grow up to be rock stars?
Score: 4
fertilizer Reply
Wow, thanks for the explanation. There seems to be an inherent contradiction in our culture. We use our freedom to imprison ourselves. I see, and have experienced, the subtle emptiness that comes from waking up a prisoner to our choices. Get the job, make the money, consume, and conform. Breaking out of the “drone world,” pre-existing and possibly pre-destined by the circumstances we’re born into, is a scary step in a culture that preaches conformity and comfort. I didn’t have the courage to take the first step. Fortunately, it was forced upon me. I’m on the verge of taking several more.
I feel blessed that the Phish community, which you are an integral part of, encourages us to take the first step, or the next. Love the song. Thanks for everything you do!
Score: 4
steelcon58 Reply
Ha, the drone life is what sustains non-drone life. I go in and out of drone and non-drone lives. It keeps me balanced.
Score: 3
myphishlife Reply
Tom, your "drone years" somehow sparked some of the best music lyrics ever written. Still glad for your escape.
Score: 3
lexmcglock Reply
lexmcglock I love this song, but this seems like such a negative worldview. Not all folks are artistically creative. I have loads of fun and reap intrinsic rewards performing what Tom may consider "drone work".
Score: 3
bertoletdown Staff Reply
bertoletdown Awesome. Just awesome.
Score: 2
johnnyd Staff Reply
johnnyd I had a moment in the arena that reminds me of how I felt when I first heard 20 Years Later on 6/5/2009. What I could peel out of the lyrics instantly spoke directly to me, powerfully enough that I knew/know they and the now-confirmed sentiment will be with me as long as I'm a conscious being.

Also, sister song to Stealing Time? Thematically, at least.

Kind of Awake, but Still A Drone
Score: 1
thehurricane Reply
I love it, it kind of pokes fun at the ridiculousness that is the workplace, I am a special ed teacher and the way that they dump a huge caseload on you and give you inadequate resources and support I think gels with the lyrics to this song, they gave you to fail, they don't even ask. I love it and pump it on the way to work
Score: 1
mgouker Reply
mgouker @Jackaroe said:
Who else out there would like to hear Tom's perspective on all songs that he has written? (both of my hands are in the air)
Tom also has a soundcloud page and makes lots of comments about the writing process:
Score: 1
Nomadicgnu Reply
A drone and a worker bee serve different purposes. The drone is male, hatched from unfertilized eggs, has know stinger and whose sole mission is to fertilize eggs. the worker bees are female and they preform all other activities to ensure the health of the hive.
Score: 1
mgouker Reply
mgouker I guess the only thing I see missing is that actually doing the drone work prevents you from seeing the opportunities that are outside the walls. I always thought that Jack and Jill should climb the hill and sit down and watch the world below them. After all, they already are going to have the water they needed, right?

Nice write-up. The nursery rhyme bit reminds me of Throwing Stones a little.
Score: 1
pabalive Reply
love the tune, my first reaction was - Trey is channeling Bob Dylan! Who would have thunk it!?!
Score: 1
gpain Reply
Or in the words of the great Black Joe Lewis, "they fuckin' me with no grease."
Score: 0
gpain Reply
Or in the words of the great Black Joe Lewis, "they fuckin' me with no grease."
Score: 0
phishhead2110 Reply
phishhead2110 Wow, that was so refreshing and so much fun!! Could we ever be lucky enough to get a regular helping of Tom's song explanations?! That was a wonderful treat. I love how this man works and how simple he keeps it while explaining what is often otherwise a complex set of ideas intertwined in ways that are hard to unravel without relevant insight. Thanks Tom!!
Score: 0
RamblinRosie Reply
RamblinRosie @RamblinRosie said:
The Best thing about being a drone... Awakening to the knowing that I am no longer a drone. And owning the fact that if I never took the stroll and fell down, no matter how far the fall, I'm not sure I'd be having as much fun now :)

Tom, thank you for being so direct with your truth.
Score: 0
RamblinRosie Reply
RamblinRosie The Best thing about being a drone... Awakening to the knowing that I am no longer a drone. And owning the fact that if I never took the stroll and fell down, no matter how far the fall, I'm not sure I'd be having as much fun now :)
Score: 0
LessSaltMoreGravy Reply
You don't have to quit your job to stop being a drone. No, not everyone gets to be a rock star, but in 2006 I decided I was never going to take a job I wasn't 100% thrilled about ever again, and I haven't. Living this way requires sacrifice, and most people I know would rather complain about their job than make it. And that's fine, it's not for everyone. But I too once worked in insurance. It was definitely a catalyst. Had my wingsuit on ever since.

Score: 0
bigflopmoptop Reply
bigflopmoptop what about the freethrow shooter?
Score: 0
Shangho Reply
Shangho Can the working life be "Drone" like?Sure.But the way I look at is the moments outside of that are what really matter.I personally feel that the little things are what makes me happy.The moments where I can sit down and read a book,or get dinner with my wife,or write some music.I think too many people waste away time because they haven't truly mastered the art of appreciating the little things in life.And work makes some of those things possible (if I didn't work I couldn't afford the pedals,amps and guitars that I play,or the books that I read,or the car that gets me to Lantern Hill to watch the beautiful Autumn New England sunsets!)
Score: 0
ThingsOnMyMind Reply
ThingsOnMyMind What were we talkin about here? I'm lost ;)
Score: 0
mblum Reply
If it's true that only a small percentage of artists can make a living at it, I'd be dismayed to learn that royalties on ~100 phish songs wouldn't get me across that threshold.
Score: 0
AlbanyYEM Reply
AlbanyYEM Reminds me of Camus' "The Myth of Sysyphus." Finding and creating meaning amidst the absurdity of life even though we are forever rolling that rock up the hill.
Score: 0
MrPalmer716 Reply
MrPalmer716 I immediately connected with this song...and the simplicity is the beauty in this tune. Not to mention the perfect ending to this song. As Trey played and I listened Bob Dylan popped in my thoughts...lots of emotions were flowing for me. Hope this one sticks around.
Score: 0
Ez_and_not_so_Fast Reply
Ez_and_not_so_Fast Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which when it bites and blows upon my body
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say,
“This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.”
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

-Shakespeare. As You Like It, Act II Scene I.
Score: 0
phoenixphish Reply
phoenixphish Can't wait for kids to leave the nest so that I can be Drone-less...Thanks Tom!
Score: 0
TwiceBitten Reply
TwiceBitten Go get 'em Tom.
Score: 0
typeIIjam Reply
great song Tom! Really love your lyrics.. keep on living the non drone life!
Score: 0
Gratefulphish123 Reply
Gratefulphish123 love it!! i kinda figured this to be the theme but hearing your explanation for it made it that much more comprehensive. now if you'd explain devotion to a dream maybe that song would seem less bunk to me than currently
Score: 0
i could never fit into get into the honeycomb lair even if i am bringing you a drink i am still laughing all the way to the bank and to my home where i can do my fun work that i love.
Score: 0
York_Durden Reply
York_Durden Right there with you, Tom. I left my drone job in 1997 and never looked back.
Score: 0
Doctor_Smarty Staff Reply
Doctor_Smarty I'm just hoping the layoff will come
Score: 0
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