Mind Left Body Jam
Music: Paul Kantner, Jerry Garcia
Original Artist: Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, and David Freiberg
Original Album: Baron von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun (1973)
Historian: Ellis Godard (lemuria)
Last Update: 2011-07-05
Purportedly an intentional tune with an exciting history, “Mind Left Body Jam” is little more than four descending chords. The orthodox history is that Phish is covering a Grateful Dead instrumental derived from the song “Your Mind Has Left Your Body” from the Paul Kantner / Grace Slick album Baron von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun (re-mastered and re-released in 1997).
”Your Mind Has Left Your Body” – Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun
The album, which came during the lapse between Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, was a powerful collaboration of Bay Area icons - including David Freiberg, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Jorma Kaukonen, David Crosby,Jack Casady, Papa John Creach, and the Pointer Sisters. (The album also features a tune called “Fishman,” about “the son of Caliban” who “rules the ocean land,” “holds the ocean in his hands,” and is pursued by the singer, who wants to make love to him “over and over in the sand.”)
Grateful Dead fans have long labelled something the Dead play as "Mind Left Body Jam", and rave about classic performances such as 6/28/74, and 3/24/90 out of “Terrapin Station.” However, Phil Lesh has often insisted that the band never consciously covered or teased the Kantner/Slick song, and never called anything they played “Mind Left Body Jam” (“MLBJ”). The Dead even mocked fans by giving the name “Mud Love Buddy” to a jamming track on Dozin’ at the Knick. Ironically, that mockery seemed to many to institutionalize a suspected connection, even giving it a second name. And due to a widely circulated but mislabeled tape, MLBJ was further confused with the very different “Heaven Help (the Fool) Jam,” full of rockin’ crescendos – and thus, for a time, had a third (and certainly wrong) name.
Phish's improvisational wanderings have similarly included chord progressions for which fans have sought labels, or in which they've attributed intentional allusion. Some of these have at times sounded more like "MLBJ" but been labelled “Dave’s Energy Guide” (or vice versa), despite radical differences: "DEG" (e.g. 4/1/86, 3/23/87, 4/29/87, or 9/8/88) is a bouncing array of interlocking and repeating themes, about as far from "MLBJ’s" four descending chords as you can get. Worse, some have labeled as “MLBJ” delay-loop jams which are not even “DEG,” such as in the “TweezerFest” 5/7/94, before “Bowie” 12/29/94, ending “Mike’s Song” 12/31/95, after “Bouncing” 12/28/96, starting “Bowie” 8/10/97, and during “Scent” 8/17/97, which is possibly the closest to “DEG” during the 1990s.
On eight occasions a progression-like jam strikingly similar to “MLBJ” appears. In three, it's sufficient that Phish.net official lists “MLBJ” in the setlist proper: during the 8/21/93 “Bowie,” the 6/18/94 “Bowie” (likely the strongest of all) and the 11/13/98 "Wolfman's Brother." In five others the appearance is brief enough to constitute only a tease: the 5/13/94 "YEM," the 6/19/95 “Bowie,” the 11/16/95 “Timber,” the 7/31/97 “McGrupp” and the 7/3/11 "Wilson." Other even-less-pronounced but sometimes-cited instances include the 10/29/96 “Mike’s Song” and the 4/2/98 “Twist” jam.
Some fans, of course, find this whole exercise merely amusing, seeing these progressions as no more conscious or intentional than the Dead's "performances" of the "song." Phish has thus included just enough allusion to enhance confusion; doing so is practically their forte.
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2) That said, the 'MLB Jam' has always been wishful thinking by Phish fans who love that kind of connection (but can't actually recognize specific chord progressions). You could point to, say, the 7/2/97 Stash jam as being reminiscent of MLB in some ways despite having a different progression and a different emphasis in terms of chordal *destination*. (YMHLYB lands hard on the VIb/iv after an arc with a more melancholy feel, whereas the joyfully major-key Amsterdam Stash jam tumbles always toward the IV, treating VIb as an occasional transitional chord.)
It's an easy and welcoming sorta progression to play on - plenty of room for bluesy soloing up top or a knottier scalar approach (depending on Trey's whims that night). Easy to see why Phish and the Dead favour(ed) it. But it doesn't *need* to have anything at all to do with the Kantner/Slick song to have all those fine qualities.
And it's easier to say 'Mind Left Body' than to write out the chord progression on your setlist!
1974-05-19 (Portland, Or) --> Between Truckin' and Not Fade Away @ approx 17 minutes after the begining notes of Truckin' (archive.org)
1983-12-30 (San Francisco, CA) --> Between Space -- Truckin'
4 Descending Chords.....