Music/Lyrics: L. George, E. George, Hayward
Vocals: Mike (lead); Page (backing)
Original Artist: Little Feat
Original Album: The Last Record Album (1975)
Historian: Phil Nazzaro
With its easy 1970’s California feel punctuated by blasting horns and searing slide guitar, Little Feat’s live version of “Mercenary Territory” from Waiting for Columbus certainly conveys the feeling of this tale of tortured romance. Our narrator fairly bares his sole to his mate about how their relationship is ultimately tumultuous. He can’t seem to do anything right; and the arguments are never-ending. Yet, there has to be something right about his other half. Or perhaps it’s just the mileage and the years between them that makes it hard to let go. Because when all comes down to it he sings: “Fool that I am, I’d do it all over again.” The song itself is simply a great example of songwriting that gives you a peek through the window into somebody else’s world, while the feeling conveyed by the music echos the emotions of the lyric in an almost operatic sense.
Phish, ”Mercenary Territory” – 10/31/10, Atlantic City, NJ
Phish’s singular version of the song to date – from Halloween 2010 – emphases the bouncy, more of the good-natured side of the song musically. With Mike’s softer voice sparing us some of the raw pain of Lowell George’s, the lack of piercing slide guitar, like the wail of the testifying man is compensated by Trey’s soaring Languedoc guitar.
Will it make another appearance in a Phish concert? While many other Halloween choices initially done with a horn section have continued to live in the repertoire, this one seems to require the force of the shiny brass. We’ll just have to wait and see...