Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2015-03-03
If you’ve ever spent any great amount of time driving solo, whether it be the seemingly interminable miles between tour stops or the daily grind of the bumper to bumper commute to work, I’m sure you know from where the protagonist in “Lushington” is coming… but where was he going? As the miles and miles of “Lushington” drag on we all have our favorite coping mechanisms and some of them are brutal. For some people it is time spent jamming out to their favorite tunes. The more dangerous motorist may be texting while driving. Other drivers may engage in hands-free telephone conversations that make it appear like they are ranting and raving to imaginary passengers. But this song harkens back to a time before such technology was available. An era when our idle hands were left to be the devil’s playthings. The gory days when our fingers were free to digitally excavate nose fossils, earwax, and dingleberries from the respective openings in our bodies that generate such things. Don’t judge… I mean really… who among us hasn’t flicked a bean or yanked a crank to pass the time in the middle of nowhere? Ah, the Reagan years.
"Lushington" -> "Possum" – 5/20/87 Shelburne, VT
In July 2014, the cult classic “Lushington” beat out the likes of “You Enjoy Myself” and “Tweezer” in a Rolling Stone Reader’s Poll intended to identify the Top 10 Phish songs of all time. Though they recognized rampant ballot box stuffing and the high likelihood that Phish fans were just fucking with them, Rolling Stone surrendered to the flow and declared the song as the people’s champion, despite acknowledging that it hasn’t been played since 1987. Cutting to “The Chase” on the first night of their 2014 running of the Dick’s on 8/29/14, the band returned serve and yanked chain right back. Since most shows spell something, and the first night of Dick’s usually has some kind of setlist gag, the first letter of the first ten songs of the first set spelled out L-U-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N. Rather than then playing “Lushington” as requested, they busted into “Ha Ha Ha,” thereby completing the joke and getting a laugh at our expense. We ask… they deliver.
Digging deeper into the sheer farcicality of the vote, we note that of the eight performances in the song’s history, “Lushington” was played in its entirety (i.e. with lyrics) on only four (10/15/86, 2/21/87, 4/29/87 and 8/29/87). Considering the recording quality of these shows – and the largely inscrutable nature of the sophomoric lyrics about a bored motorist extracting substances from bodily orifices during a long drive – “Lushington” is actually more interesting for what it begat. A tightly composed, instrumental bridge that Trey eventually revivified and inserted into “Fluff’s Travels.” “The Chase,” as it came to be known, is a vital component of “Fluffhead,” appearing in the Junta version and in all live versions since.
The four abbreviated versions (5/11/87, 5/20/87, 8/9/87 and 9/2/87) do not contain lyrics and actually start with "The Chase," veer into a jam based on the "Lushington" chords and, whether coincidentally or not, all segue into "Possum." As a result, some fans have labelled these versions as "The Chase" -> "Lushington." However, it appears that "The Chase" was still a part of "Lushington" at this time, as it would not appear independently until 10/14/87 (over a month after the last known "Lushington").
Taking into consideration that the Dick’s “Lushington” gag went down on the 27th anniversary of the last complete performance of the song, it seems highly likely that the people’s champion will continue to go unplayed for the foreseeable future. But you really don’t ever know what the boys may someday pull out of their asses.