Also Known As: Oblivious Fool
Vocals: Trey (lead), All (backing)
Albums: Live Phish 11
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
The history of “Olivia’s Pool” and its ultimate transformation into “Shafty” follows familiar Phish themes: fundamental changes in musical structure and name, devilish irony between lyrics and music, plus a healthy dose of prankster gag. A short, upbeat number in the classic 50’s rock-n-roll tradition of Jerry Lee Lewis or Chuck Berry, the happy-go-lucky musical exterior of “Olivia’s Pool” provides an interesting backdrop for the tale of someone not quite on the same page as the rest of us, someone who is, in fact, an oblivious fool. The narrator tells a story of naiveté – “You say ‘so what? I’m doing just fine,’ the irony is that it’s all in your mind” – while the bright, cheery, carefree tone of the music represents the gloss-over. “Olivia’s Pool” presents a juxtaposition in the style of Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime,” where dire warnings that “this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco” go unheeded by the tune’s thick dance groove.
Then there is the title, “Olivia’s Pool.” While the name of the song was commonly and logically thought to be “Oblivious Fool” based on the lyrics, the band never asserted as much officially (though Trey could be heard in the more intimate settings of the summer ’97 Europe tour calling the tune, in fact, “Oblivious Fool”). This may on the surface appear to be simplistic play on words, or simply some inside joke. However, the title and lyrics seem to have roots in British literature. Milton’s Paradise Lost tells a story (in part) of angels being cast down into Hell after stirring a revolt in Heaven. In particular, the title plays on the line: “Th' associates and copartners of our loss Lye thus astonisht on th' oblivious pool.” While it may indeed be “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n” – would you even know? Whether steeped in mythology or in our own everyday lives, do we inject in our own personal Hell the unreality that “its all good” as a survival mechanism, for “the irony is that its all in your mind?” Sometimes I ponder…
After a run-through on 6/6/97 at the private rehearsal and party known as “Bradstock,” the public debut of “Olivia’s Pool” took place on 6/13/97 in the cozy confines of the S.F.X. Centre in Dublin, Ireland. Performances of “Olivia’s Pool” are straightforward and vary little; a representative version can be found on Live Phish 11, 11/17/97. Unlike many of the new tunes unveiled in Dublin that stuck in the repertoire, “Olivia’s Pool” had a relatively short shelf-life: it made only six total appearances in ‘97 before yielding to its new form, what we now know as “Shafty,” on 4/5/98. That first “Shafty” closely approximates the version on Story of the Ghost and represents a significant departure from “Olivia’s Pool,” with the lyrics the only commonality between the two songs.
See also: “Shafty”