Also Known As: Lucy Had A Lumpy Head
Vocals: Trey (lead), all (backing)
Historian: Jeremy D. Goodwin
Last Update: 2014-01-16
It is difficult to imagine any other Phish song accumulating as much hype and lore in so short a time as has “Carini.” Indeed, it seems logically impossible for a beloved song to be “broken out” (played again after a long absence) less than a year after its initial debut. Yet this is a part of this curious song’s improbable history.
“Carini” is marked by an irresistible, head-banging heavy metal intro and spiced with surreal lyrics, which are reminiscent of the Beatles (“You told me of a secret place / I saw it when I met you / the walrus on your face”). It was the best amid a smattering of half-baked new songs (“Walfredo,” “Rock A William”) that was introduced during the band’s first extended headlining Europe tour in early 1997.
This was a special song from the outset. Its auspicious debut came in Amsterdam on 2/17/97, when it emerged as a raw, intense (but unfinished) nugget in the midst of a raging, mid-set jam that stands as one of that tour’s high points. In Italy a week later, as show time drew nearer, fans were surprised by the pre-recorded sound of Phish playing over the speakers. It was in fact that strange new friend “Carini,” and the band took the stage and played along as the recording was gradually turned down. By the time the song appeared a few days later, during a much-loved show in Stuttgart, it had already matured noticeably, featuring a percussion jam at the end (that would later be dropped). This curious new ditty was used again as a show opener two nights later in Berlin; it appeared again to open the second set in Hamburg on 3/1, whipping the audience into a quick frenzy on a night that would later be immortalized on the live album Slip Stitch and Pass.
Almost as soon as tapes from this landmark tour started circulating stateside, word started spreading among fans about that strange new song, called... “Lucy with a Lumpy Head”? “Carini Had a Lumpy Head”? “Song for Carini”? No one seemed to know exactly what the song was called, much less have any insight into the enigmatic lyrics. They include an ominous warning (“everyone was screaming when they saw the lump!”) and a backhanded compliment that the legions of fans on college campuses no doubt had some fun with: “The thesis that you’re writing is a load of shit / But I’m glad you finally finished it.” The existence of a drum tech named Pete Carini seemed to be either a clue or a red herring.
That summer the story started circulating that some of the lyrics actually referred to an altercation Pete Carini had been involved in while the band was overseas, and that he didn’t approve of his barroom exploits being sung about on stage. In a 2000 online interview, Trey claims (jokingly?) that the song is a response to a night in which someone splashed liquid acid on Pete Carini’s face, subsequently causing him to turn into “a rock star.” As it turns out, the song was actually inspired by an incident on that Europe tour in which a college-aged female fan was enjoying an up-front view of Page before being told to move, because she was interfering with monitor man Pete Schall’s sight lines. Her angry refusal apparently included a threat to call her influential parents (“He went across the street and he called his dad / now you’ll never get that raise you thought you had”). Note also that the song refers to “the rail,” the very front of the stage. One fan on tour that month later described to the author how exciting it was to see this strange altercation turn into a new song within a week.
The overwhelming majority of fans hadn’t yet had a chance to see “Carini” in person, but there was a slate of performances scheduled between June and August. Would this new composition continue to be used as a high profile set opener? Would it serve as a second set jam vehicle, as it had in Amsterdam?
As Phish headed back to Europe in the summer of ‘97, hometown fans looked forward to the upcoming U.S. tour while checking the new setlists sent via phone lines from such exotic sounding locations as La Laiterie, Piazza Risorgimento, and the Glastonbury Festival. As unfamiliar as these places were, the load of new song titles (“Water in the Sky”? “Fooled By Images”?) were equally inscrutable. “Carini,” however, seemed to have been misplaced somewhere amidst the flurry of activity. Perhaps it had been held behind by customs in Hamburg, the site of its last appearance?
The second leg of summer tour opened in Virginia Beach that was rife with these new compositions. But as the now-classic tour wound on, the anticipated United States debut of “Carini” continued to elude fans. Amid the largest slew of new songs in years, “Carini” had apparently been left out. By the tour-closing festival, The Great Went, the sad news had spread among fans on tour: Mike had been telling fans backstage: “Carini” was “no longer a Phish song."
Thus, the “Carini” story ended: a very promising new song that had been yanked from the rotation before we really had a chance to enjoy it. Rabid fans continued to request it, but there was no sign of Lucy or her lumpy head anywhere during a long fall tour that saw such rarities and debuts as “Emotional Rescue,” “Them Changes, and “Boogie On Reggae Woman.”
That is, until one of the most storied New Year’s Run performances ever. On 12/30/97, Phish decided to celebrate the new year a day early by launching such fireworks as a “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” opener, the second-ever fully jammed “AC/DC Bag,” an epic “Harpua” (encompassing Trey’s childhood in New Jersey, Lost in Space, and an udder ball), a Tom Marshall-led performance of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” and well-appreciated versions of “Izabella” and “Harry Hood.” When Phish took the stage for the encore, fans were already satiated. Then the mighty, clanging riff of “Carini” roared out through Madison Square Garden, and those who were in the know exploded with glee. An enthusiastic Trey went on to call Pete Carini himself out onto the stage to accept the adulation of the multitudes, as the band sang the chorus over and over. Thus the bizarre new song had been debuted, won fans, disappeared “forever,” and then been resurrected, all in the course of eleven months.
It was not immediately clear whether the MSG breakout was going to be only a one-time gift to fans, but the band was soon to give in again to their apparent compulsion about playing “Carini” during superb shows. On the second night of the mind-bending Island Tour, an overexcited fan ran onstage during “Loving Cup.” Although the identity of the security personnel who chased the man offstage is still unknown, the band seized the chance during “Run Like an Antelope” to riff vocally upon the theme, “Carini’s gonna get you!” This remarkably successful sequence includes Fishman offering the advice, “You can run onto the stage, but just don’t let Carini get you.” When the band returned for the encore, they came armed with the timely version of “Carini” that seemed inevitable. Once again, the main man with respect to Fishman’s drums was called onstage to receive vociferous applause from the happy fans.
And thus “Carini” returned to the rotation. It appeared periodically throughout summer and fall tours in 1998; not so frequently as to become routine, but more often than you would care to count on your hands. This time it was complete with a raging, extended guitar solo at the end. In this incarnation, it was most often played in the midst of a first set, as a fiery but relatively predictable treat.
There were no Amsterdam-style heroics in this song again until the first night of the 1998 New Year’s Run, when the band celebrated their return to Madison Square Garden by opening a second set with “Carini” for the first time since Hamburg. This seemed a clear allusion to the MSG breakout of the dormant song a year before, and notably, the 12/28/98 rendition is one of the few exploratory versions played in the United States to date (see also 9/14/00). This extended psychedelic delight featured the kind of electro-space sounding collage jamming that mark much of the exciting improvisation of 1999, stretching out for over fifteen minutes before segueing into “Wolfman’s Brother." Some summer ‘99 versions of the song include alternate lyrics referencing an incident involving a naked man at a show (“I saw Carini with that naked dude / I couldn't eat my food”).
Post-hiatus, "Carini" continued to be a band and fan favorite, making fairly regular appearances including at the "Final Show" at Coventry. When Phish returned to the stage in 2009, Pete Carini was no longer working for the band. Accordingly, many fans wondered if "Carini" would be played in its namesake's absence. Luckily "Carini" would be played again, making its triumphant return on 8/11/09 at Toyota Park. The song would become more of a rarity, however, and has been played infrequently since.
For those college students out there who would like some music to blare at 7 a.m. while finishing a paper (whether it be “a load of shit” or not), check out the following versions of “Carini”: 2/17/97, 2/26/97, 12/30/97, 11/27/98, 12/28/98, 7/13/99 (“Reba” > “Carini”), 2/14/03 (heavy and sluggish version which segues out of “Walls”), and 7/2/10 (setting the table for the "Fuck Your Face" bustout).
You must be logged in to leave a comment!
Some summer ‘99 versions of the song include alternate lyrics referencing an incident involving a naked man at a show (“I saw Carini with that naked dude / I couldn't eat my food”).The incident in question is from the 11/6/98 Prince Caspian