Lit O Bit
Music/Lyrics: Richard Clarke, Rita Clarke
Vocals: Mike (lead), Page, Trey (backing)
Original Artist: Rita Clarke and the Naturals
Original Album: Under the Purple Moon (2003)
Historian: Herschel Gelman (herschel)
Out of the many cover songs Phish debuted during their 2010 summer tour – from Joni Mitchell (“Free Man in Paris”) to Rage Against the Machine (“Killing in the Name”) to Neutral Milk Hotel (“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”) – by far the most obscure was “Lit O Bit” by Rita Clarke and the Naturals. The original song has to be approaching “Ya Mar” levels of obscurity, if not exceeding it.
Phish’s only performance of the song to date was fairly faithful to the original. The biggest change from the original studio version is a slight Phish-ification to the structure with the addition of a guitar solo at the end of the song before coming back to the chorus one last time.
The original version was released on the 2003 album, Under the Purple Moon, which was the first album the band released under the name Rita Clarke and the Naturals. This song was actually written several years earlier, when the band called themselves Krewe of Renegades, a name that more strongly emphasized their New Orleans musical roots. For all of the Phish fans who watched the setlist roll in from Great Woods on 6/22/10 and searched the Internet for information on such an unknown song by such an unknown band, with little success, I have to admit to having an unfair advantage: back in 2000 and 2001, when this song was brand new, I was in this band.
Yes, Phish has covered one of my songs, for ridiculously loose definitions of the word “my.” You need to stretch your definitions because it’s not like I helped write the song or anything, although my girlfriend at the time (now my wife), who was also in the band, did. And this was long enough ago that I can’t remember if I played on the studio recording of it or not. Most likely not. But I did play keyboards in the band for a while, and this song was in the setlist for most of our gigs.
Just like with its brother in obscurity, “Ya Mar,” Mike Gordon was the one who found the song and brought it to the rest of the band. An independent public radio station in Vermont, wMud, played “Lit O Bit” at just the right time to catch Mike’s ear, setting in motion the steps that would bring it to the stage as Phish’s opener that night in Massachusetts. Similarly, 17 years earlier, an independent public radio station in Pittsburgh, WYEP, played “The Wedge” at just the right time to catch my ear and introduce me to Phish, setting in motion very different steps that would eventually, many years later, lead me to join Krewe of Renegades. If only I had a legitimate claim to “Lit O Bit” as “my song,” the Pulp Fiction-esque symmetry would be a thing of beauty.