Easy To Slip
Music/Lyrics: Lowell George, Fred Martin
Original Artist: Little Feat
Original Album: Sailin' Shoes (1972)
Historian: Phil Nazzaro (pnazzaro)
Last Update: 2013-09-13
Desolation. Loneliness. As human beings, we're always going for the gold. Prone to emotional side trips and forever victims of love. Love affects us so strongly that we act like fools. Yet love is so fragile that everything needs to be perfect, especially in those first stages. When the relationship hasn't yet formed that calloused outer derma hardened by years of shared experience; and we don't fully trust the other person to the greatest extent of our being.
Then there are certain things that no matter how deep the love is, there's just no forgiving even a single slip up.
And it's so easy to slip.
The first person narrator sits alone in 1972. We can imagine his meager apartment is covered by umpteen layers of finally-white paint accumulated by the various owners through the years. It's been laid on so thick, so heavy; so many times that it's softening the detail of the ornamental crown moldings of the room in which he sits. It’s like he's constantly looking at it with squinted eyes.
He dwells on his recent indiscretions. It's too late to turn back. She's moved on. He needs to also. He's hoping he can dull the memory of his past, much the same way the layers of paint dull the once sharp lines of the room crowding in around him and preventing his thoughts from drifting away into the ether to be forgotten. But only time and new experiences can make a person move on, time that is proportionate to the intensity of the love. After all, as we age and move through the phases, long-shelved memories of certain experiences such as childhood can seem like a fuzzy dream from our subconscious. So he needs to stop dwelling on it. He needs to redecorate his life over and over. To add new layers that round the edges a bit and cover up the previous ones. Layers thick enough to wonder if the relationship really did exist together at all. But he keeps thinking about his lost love, and the events that led to her leaving. He keeps going to back to it and beating himself up.
Lost in thought so long, the smoke he's been holding jolts him back to reality as it burns down to his fingers. And, in one of the great lines in Rock and Roll, he lights another cigarette, and tries to remember to forget.
But it's so easy to slip. Slip back into the paralysis of regret.
Other than a second attempt at "Willin'" in as many albums (it was important to get that one right), "Easy to Slip" is an oasis of sober realism in an otherwise offbeat set of songs that can be as cartoonish as Neon Park's cover painting on Little Feat's 1972 second album, Sailin' Shoes.
The idea for “Easy to Slip” was provided to Lowell George by his frequent collaborator Martin Kibbee (credited as his pen name Fred Martin). George added the music, including the soaring, Southern California guitar break that acts as a moment of euphoric hope for the narrator before winding back into the last refrain only to find we have slipped again. This is a successful artistic vehicle that illustrates through music how as human beings, moments of clarity and direction about our missteps are often only the realization that we are creatures of uncontrollable habit and emotion. They only lead full circle back into the inevitable regret. It's a perfect double entendre. It’s hard to imagine such a doomed view of the human psyche was meant as a conscious effort at a hit for a band that was mere inches from being dropped from their record label (it didn't chart, but bought Feat another chance).
Little Feat – ”Easy to Slip”
Being a part of Mike's solo sets since its debut in Portland, Maine on 11/26/10 through 2011, one can be fairly sure the bassist's well known love for Little Feat had as much of an effect on the song appearing in the Phish canon as did the need for a song title beginning with an “E”. "Easy To Slip" closed the first set of the "MOST SHOWS SPELL SOMETHING” gag performed at Dick's on 8/30/13. It appeared as a near perfect version containing a fairly rote interpretation of George's original guitar break (albeit with a little less swing) and a second, meandering instrumental section more attuned to what we're used to from Phish. All this occurred in a compact six minutes.
Mike Gordon, ”Easy to Slip” – 3/25/11, Falls Church, VA
Let's hope that band continues to visit this piece much the same way out narrator revisits his past. But in the meantime, if you need another taste you can check out Bob Weir's dramatic rendition that first appeared on the 1978 Heaven Help the Fool album (which reportedly led to Lowell producing Shakedown Street for the Dead later in the year) and remained a staple of his sets throughout the years' different projects.
Phish, ”Easy to Slip” – 8/30/13, Commerce City, CO