Vocals: Trey (lead), Fish, Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Charles Franz; Mockingbird Staff
Last Update: 2015-06-02
While the lyrics of “Julius” – “Danger! I’ve been told to expect it” – are based on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Tom Marshall has admitted that the chorus is nonsensical. It was made up at the last minute on the way into a recording session simply to have something to sing, and has no relation to the play. The upbeat tempo and exultant chorus certainly belie the dark and foreboding tone of the play, and “Julius” has become a favorite of many fans. It is one of the few Phish tunes where many fans consider the album version to be as good as it is live.
The Hoist version features the backing vocals of The Rickey Grundy Chorale (with Rose Stone & Jean McClain) and the Tower of Power Horns. The now out-of-print Tracking video contains footage of this recording session. In The Phish Book, Tom relates the story of how members of The Rickey Grundy Chorale at first refused to sing "Julius" until they understood what was meant by the "'Cause if you lay it on a brother when he's sleeping / Wake up in the morning you'll be gone" lyric; apparently "they didn't mean anything" other than to work with the swinging nature of the song's ending, and all was well in the end.
“Julius” debuted on 4/4/94 at Burlington’s Flynn Theatre in the first show of the year, with the six-piece Giant Country Horns providing backup, and went on to appear frequently in the rotation throughout that year. It also was released as a single, and Phish performed the song on 7/13/95 on The Late Show with David Letterman, accompanied by a four-piece horn section, which included Dave “The Truth” Grippo on alto saxophone and two members of the Blues Brothers Band.
While there are fans who say that there are no bad versions of “Julius,” one of the best performances came at the 12/31/96 New Year’s gig in Boston. Amid thousands of balloons, Phish was joined on stage by the Boston Community Choir for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Band and choir then belted out a joyous “Julius” to end the set amid wild cheers from the assembled revelers.
"Julius" – 12/31/96, Boston, MA
“Julius” has often served as either a rousing set opener or closer and as an encore, and while its frequency has diminished in recent years, it has been a set list staple since its debut. Other notable versions include 12/3/94 (with the Cosmic Country Horns); 12/6/96 Las Vegas; 8/3/97 The Gorge (missing this version is considered a felony in seventeen states and the District of Gamehendge); 8/16/97 (The Great Went, with an a cappella, finger-snapping intro); 12/5/97 (almost 20 minutes and unfinished); 11/28/98 Worcester; or for a more modern version try the first-set closing offering from 12/31/09 Miami, or the encore from 10/31/10 Atlantic City with Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion and Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Ian Hendrickson, Michael Leonhart and Eric Biondo on horns. Finally, don’t miss the version offered by Merl Saunders and His Funky Friends on Mockingbird’s Sharin’ in the Groove CD.
"Julius" – 10/31/10, Atlantic City, NJ