Vocals: Page (lead), Mike, Trey, Fish (backing)
Historian: Grant Calof
Unconfirmed rumors surrounding a spring tour (mini tour, small club dates, etc) circulate every year, but in 1998 those rumors proved thankfully true. “The Island Tour,” as it was appropriately dubbed (Long Island and Rhode Island were the only venues), came as briefly as it went, but it drenched the east coast with a handful of new tunes, and thus a handful of new arguments over their correct titles. Debates over the burgeoning threat of the new world order or the possibility of invasion by sentient beings from another plane of existence take a distant back seat to a roomful of passionate fans deconstructing the name of a new Phish tune from sparsely gathered lyrics after its debut. That girl in the Gamehendge Ranger shirt said that song was “Relax,” but the kid with every backstage pass around her neck says it’s called “Roggae”…
“Frankie Says” was first misidentified en masse as “Roggae” thanks in part to a confusing conversation between Tom Marshall and two fans. Somewhere in the haze after the Rhode Island show on 4/4/98, the aformentioned fans asked Tom the name of the new “Page” song. Tom wasn’t in attendance at that particular show, so the fans described the song as best they could and he did his best to be helpful – but he apparently thought the fans were referring to “Roggae” (pronounced “rouge” at the time, btw) versus “Frankie Says.” From that conversation forward, people assumed they had absolute confirmation and the ‘sacred’ word was spread: “The Page song last night was called ‘Roggae!’” It wasn’t until Story of the Ghost was released that the dispute for all the correct song names was finally laid to rest.
As to the origin of the song’s title, the answer to the question depends entirely on whom ye ask. To some, the title is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the infamous 1980’s synth-pop act, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. While others simply see it as a way to avoid having a song with the same name as the song by the aforementioned eighties synth-pop act (“Relax”)… (Stop denying it – You know the song).
Lyrically, “Frankie Says” weaves a haunting tapestry that delves further into the darker realms of the psyche than most Phish songs. The lyrics philosophically toy with notions of the self and the cyclical nature of life, and paints time as an eternally flowing river – where consciousness is the only guide as the melody’s mysterious tendrils stretch out from infinity to pull you into the abyss.
The first studio version of “Frankie Says” appeared on a tape commonly known as the “Ghost Outtakes” or “Bearsville sessions” that circulated around the community before Story of the Ghost was released. But the first time it appeared on stage, at least partially, was in the middle of the atmospheric post “Timber (Ho!)” / pre “Simple” jam on 11/16/97 in Denver. As the band ascends out of “Timber (Ho!),” Trey plays the first few notes of “Frankie Says” while Mike subtly drops in and Page’s hands trace the simple melody (the man in the dress, all the while, keeping the beat). They play the first few notes of “Frankie Says” all the way through the moments preceding the first refrain, then effortlessly glide their way into “Simple.” If you don’t have it, make a point of getting it, for the jam as well as to check out a little bit of the fat ‘97 funk.
“Frankie Says” was played thirteen times in 1998 (check out the dreamy version from 8/16/98 or when it filled the space between “Mike’s Song” and “Weekapaug Groove” on 10/31/98), but only twice in 1999 (try 10/7/99). And while the song appears predominantly as a first set tune, it surfaced twice during the 2000 summer tour, both occurring amidst the second sets in Atlanta (6/24/00) and Ohio (7/14/00). A favorite for late night listening in a darkened room, there’s nonetheless little variation to the manner or length regardless of where or when the song is played… That is until “Frankie Says” made its return to the Phish repertoire in 2003. Absent from the 2002-03 New Year’s run, “Frankie Says” was ushered back into circulation in the ‘City of Sin’ on 2/15/03. The song was played sporadically throughout the rest of 2003 (2/25/03, 7/8/03, 11/28/03), but it wasn’t until 12/28/03 that they finally unlocked the trap-door beneath “Frankie Says” and let the grooving masses freefall for over eleven minutes, the longest and most exploratory version that’s been sent across the rainbow bridge from Valhalla – aka Phish. And after a six-year hiatus, "Frankie Says" thankfully crept it's way back into the second set at the Fabulous Fox Theater on 6/16/09. Was it a one-off or could it be a sign that the song is back in rotation... we'll just have to wait and see what "Frankie Says."
"Frankie Says" 12/28/03 Miami, FL
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