Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall
Vocals: Trey (lead); Fish (backing)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2015-02-28
The summer 1997 Europe tour was the spawning ground of the Phishy funk, which was the mind-eating great white shark that ate the remainder of the 90s. During 1997, “Ghost” epitomized the constantly evolving psychotronic-aquadisco sound of the next millennium that appears to have arrived a few years early (or is it 20 years too late?). The ultrasound of the then unborn “Ghost” can be heard in the segue from “Wolfman’s Brother” to “Jesus Just Left Chicago” on the album Slip, Stitch, and Pass.
At its core, “Ghost” consists of a simple funk groove oddly reminiscent of Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” being played at the same time as the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” To say that the Phish groove of the 90’s (and “Ghost” as its disembodiment) is not firmly rooted in old school ‘70s funk, rap, and disco would be a crime of the mind. This sound has been brought into the ‘90s and beyond via techno-space transporter beams, absorbing renewed vitality along the way.
Spring 1998 found Phish in the studio laying down tracks for The Story of the Ghost. This time in the studio pushed “Ghost” further up (to some, back down) the evolutionary ladder. Where in 1997 “Ghosts” typically started abruptly, materializing out of thin air. The “Ghosts” of summer 1998 – and as performed on Story of the Ghost – have a mesmerizing techno-spacey groove for an intro that is reminiscent of period versions of “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” Where in 1997 the vocals of “Ghost” seemed edgy and disturbed, the singing in the “Ghosts” performed since summer 1998 have been imbued with a cool hipster confidence, a smooth swagger that paves the way for the ethereal and transcendent groove for which it is typically the prelude. The vocals in the album version “Ghost” lie somewhere in between the two end points, slithering frantically or hurrying at a languid pace.
Story of the Ghost as an album is just that, a story of a Ghost. As the first song on the album, “Ghost” introduces us to the main character of the tale. The Story of the Ghost is one of rebirth, hope for the future, and self-extraction from a well of despair. A metaphor perhaps for the musical rebirth of Phish from the seeming improvisational stagnation endemic to the bulk of 1996, to the new frontiers they have explored since. “Ghost” has been a weather vane of sorts for the direction that the winds of change have blown. It has provided a glimpse into the progression of the jam from the “cow funk” of ’97 to the low-viscosity magmatic flows of dense metallic trance-space rock that are presently the nature of the beast.
The first official performance of “Ghost” was in Dublin, Ireland on 6/13/97. “Ghost” was, however, one of several new songs debuted in Europe that had been played before a small crowd a week earlier at the home of Brad Sands. “Ghost” was played frequently during 1997 and varied greatly in duration and style. In The Phish Book Trey referred to the 11/17/97 Denver “Ghost” as his favorite part of his favorite show from the fall tour, a show the band listened to many times, in a way influencing themselves. This “Ghost” was subsequently released on Live Phish 11. In contrast, quite possibly the most controversial “Ghost” of them all, played during the third set of the 1998 Halloween show, was released as Live Phish 16. A rather sparse original four-track recording of “Ghost” was also released by Trey and Tom Marshall on Trampled by Lambs & Pecked by the Dove. Trey also offered an acoustic version of "Ghost" with Mike sitting in on electric bass at the 11/11/05 Utica stop on his fall 2005 tour.
"Ghost" 12/31/10 New York, NY
Every other live performance of “Ghost” to date, spanning the spectrum from the “cow funk” of ’97 through the ethereal space of ‘98, dissolving into the more brooding darkness of ‘99, the eruption of the liquid metallic neon deliriously molten and flowing jams of the new millennium, the thick and creeping ooze of '04, and the revivified spectral phantasm of Phish 3.0 is worth a listen; but the following are guaranteed to send a shiver down the listener’s spine:
7/3/97 Nuremberg, Germany; 7/23/97 Atlanta; 8/13/97 Burgettstown, PA; 11/17/97 Denver; 11/21/97, Hampton; 12/13/97 Albany; 7/2/98 Copenhagen; 7/6/98 Prague; 7/9/98 Barcelona (not a typo or fluff, three of the greatest versions ever did indeed take place in the same week!); 7/19/98 Shoreline; 8/2/98 Deer Creeek; 8/16/98 Lemonwheel; 11/7/98 Champaign, IL; 11/19/98 Winston-Salem; 12/31/98 MSG; 7/4/99 Atlanta; 9/12/99 Portland, OR; 12/30/99 Big Cypress; 5/22/00 Radio City; 2/15/03 Las Vegas; 7/12/03 The Gorge; 8/3/03 IT; 4/17/04 Vegas; 6/26/04 Alpine Valley; 8/12/04 Camden (materializing from a "YEM" vocal jam), 8/15/04 Coventry; 6/9/09 Asheville; 7/30/09 Red Rocks ("Praise You" jam and "Windy City" tease); 8/14/09 Hartford ("Ghost" -> "Psycho Killer" -> "Catapult" -> "Icculus"); 11/28/09 Albany (the instant-classic "Seven Below" -> "Ghost"); 6/27/10 Merriweather (thrilling segue into "Jumpin' Jack Flash" in a "Saw It Again" sandwich); 12/31/10 (The Holy Ghost); 6/17/11 (one-half of the "Rock and Roll" > "Ghost" combo that anchors one of the strongest shows of '11); 9/2/12 Dick’s (stellar “Sand” and “Piper” bookends); 10/31/13 Boardwalk Hall (the Vajazzled Venus); 7/20/14 Northerly (the Swirling Samurai); and 7/26/14 MPP which proudly proclaims the simple fact that “Ghost” ain’t nothing but a good time!
"Ghost" – 7/12/14, New York, NY
Recommended Versions: 1997-06-13, 1997-07-23, 1997-11-17, 1997-11-21, 1997-12-13, 1998-06-30, 1998-07-02, 1998-07-06, 1998-08-16, 1999-07-04, 1999-12-30, 2000-05-22, 2003-02-15, 2003-02-26, 2003-08-03, 2004-06-20, 2004-08-12, 2009-07-30, 2009-08-14, 2009-11-28, 2010-12-31