I Am Hydrogen
Historian: lumpblockclod, Mark Toscano
Last Update: 2014-08-05
The story of “I Am Hydrogen” is a love story. Conceived by Tom Marshall and Marc Daubert around 1984-85 on piano and acoustic guitar, they brought their creation over to Trey’s house, where it was recorded. Trey added a harmony to it on his electric guitar, and the “Hydrogen” we have come to know was born. Initially intended for Tom, Marc, and Trey’s band Bivouac, “Hydrogen” ended up in the Phish lineup and made its debut, all alone, on 4/6/85.
For “Hydrogen” the single life was short-lived, however, and it soon found itself paired with the Trey composition "Who Do? We Do!" (which eventually wound up in "Fluffhead") for the next year. The four instances of this pairing that we know of, all occurring in 1987, feature the "Hydrogen" we all know and love followed by a brief jam that resembles the end of "The Curtain With" before seamlessly segueing into "Who Do? We Do!". Check out 8/29/87 for the most fully realized example of this pairing ("Hydrogen With," if you will). While it's unclear whether the versions featuring this transitional jam represent the four most "jammed-out" versions of "Hydrogen" or are instances of an abandoned prologue jam to "Who Do? We Do!", what does seem clear is that the band was less than satisfied with the pairing. If “Hydrogen’s” first marriage (to “Who Do? We Do!”) was one of convenience, “Hydrogen’s” second (polygamous) marriage would be for love. "Hydrogen" would not make another appearance (that we know of) until nearly nine months later, but, when it did, it assumed its now familiar position between “Mike’s Song” and “Weekapaug Groove”. What Icculus joined together (on 7/23/88 – in Vermont, not Utah) no man would put asunder…for six years anyway.
Unfortunately, every marriage hits its rocky patches, and for the “Mike’s Song” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug Groove” union, that rocky patch came in 1994, when a harlot by the name of “Simple” came around. Sure, it started out innocently enough – “Simple” was just a good friend, who would drop by to join the “Mike’s” > “Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug” family for dinner, drinks and the type of wild, type-II improvisation that can destroy worlds. In fact, for a while in the summer of 1994 it looked like things might work out between the four of them. They even sought the blessing of their union from several higher authorities that summer (O.J. on 6/17/94, Icculus on 6/22/94 and a rabbi in Jersey on 7/2/94), but it was not to be. “Simple” and a whole host of other songs largely supplanted poor “Hydrogen” and from July 1994 until July 1997, when “Hydrogen” was performed only nine times. Since summer 1997, however, “Hydrogen” began to work things out with “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug” and the trio became much more prevalent (although, on 10/7/99, “Hydrogen” returned to it’s unattached status for the first time in nearly twelve years). For awhile, it looked like the story would have a happy ending: beginning in the summer of 2003, “Mike's” > “Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug” and continuing through 3/7/09, the trio was exclusive. Soon after, though, trouble began brewing – first “Simple” dropped by on a few occasions (6/2/09, 8/5/09 and 11/24/09), and then on 11/1/09, "Mike's" stepped out on his own for the first time in years. By 2010, just about anything was liable to turn up in the middle of a "Mike's Groove" (check out 7/4/10, 8/6/10 or 10/26/10 for some particularly interesting combinations). When “Hydrogen” is played, it’s generally as part of the classic “Mike’s” > “Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug” trio (but see 12/29/11 with “Chalk Dust” creatively interposed). Alas, “Hydrogen” may soon have to file for divorce on grounds of abandonment, as neither “Mike’s” nor “Weekapaug” have visited “Hydrogen” since 2013. At this point, who knows what the future will hold for these crazy kids.
Musically speaking, “Hydrogen” has not always been played as straight as one may think. Those interested in unusual, interesting, or weird versions of the otherwise sweet instrumental should check out 5/12/91, 5/1/92, 11/28/92, 2/15/93, 3/30/93, 4/29/93, 7/22/97, 11/13/97, 7/1/00, 8/10/10 or 12/29/11.
“Hydrogen” is also known for sporadically inspiring dance-like interplay between Trey and Mike, sometimes taking the form of a “foot ballet,” a dance performed by the guys on their backs with feet in air. Other times, Trey and Mike have taken opposite sides of the stage and walked toward each other with a slow, graceful gait. Though these practices were more or less abandoned after 1996, breakouts of dances – not just songs – can happen at any time.
"I am Hydrogen" 6/17/10 Hartford, CT
Recommended Versions: 1987-04-29, 1987-08-29, 1988-07-23, 1989-10-26, 1990-11-02, 1991-05-12, 1992-05-01, 1992-11-28, 1993-02-20, 1993-03-30, 1993-04-29, 1994-06-17, 1994-07-02, 1997-07-22, 1997-11-13, 1998-11-27, 2000-07-01, 2003-08-03, 2009-07-30