|Originally Performed By||Phish|
|Vocals||Trey (lead), All (backing)|
|Historian||Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)|
"Olivia's Pool" featured a mindless, carefree, upbeat musical backdrop that seems to assume the character of the ‘oblivious fool’; the musical tone and vocal delivery of “Shafty” fundamentally transforms the spirit of the song. Sung in a hushed, ominous and deliberate tone framed by Mike Gordon’s slinky bass lines, “Shafty” draws on a vibe reminiscent of ‘50s Beat poetry. “Shafty” transforms the mocking scorn of “Olivia’s Pool” into an earnest warning so as to caution, “don’t become this oblivious fool.” Realize the Hell that may surround you, don’t fool yourself into thinking it may be Heaven, because the deception is ultimately empty and self-defeating.
Building on the irony of its predecessor, “Olivia’s Pool,” “Shafty” adds additional layers of word play into the equation. An oblivious fool would certainly seemed to have “gotten the shaft,” one who would be greeted with scorn, satire and downright harsh treatment. A “terrible thing about hell,” to be sure. It also wouldn’t be especially out of character for the authors to have in mind other meanings of a “Shaft(y),” perhaps as in the trunk of a tree, something suggestive of a shaft, an upright member, or, possibly in Fish’s case, a small architectural column [See 10/31/94 et al].
Debuted during the “Island Tour” on 4/5/98 in Providence, many setlists of that show were re-written two or three times: “Oblivious Fool, to a slow funky beat” to “Olivia’s Pool” and then to “Shafty” (who’s on first?). “Shafty” made the cut among several dozen tunes for inclusion on Story of the Ghost. That enthusiasm didn’t translate to the live stage making only two other pre-hiatus appearances: 7/2/98 Copenhagen and 7/7/00 Star Lake (sandwiched in the middle of a first set “Maze”).
“Shafty” spent almost all of the first year off the hiatus in mothballs, until a surprise revival of the tune on 12/30/03 in Miami. Emerging from a beach-appropriate “Sand,” and bridging a bright, fluid and intelligent segue into “NICU,” this slightly more up-beat “Shafty” helped anchor a spectacular first set.
Seemingly forgotten, almost nine years and 159 shows later “Shafty” returned to the fold during an otherwise formulaic set aimed at the significantly broader and larger audience afforded by Bonnaroo, on 6/10/12. Emerging from a unique “Carini” jam, in short order “Shafty” was grooving along into a proto-jam that had listeners in rapt attention. Unfortunately the groove was abruptly cut short after four minutes, yielding to “Rock and Roll.” Perhaps a glimpse of things to come, or maybe a one-time detour... we’ll see.
For a loose, alternative take on “Shafty,” be sure to visit the circulating soundcheck of 8/8/98 that includes “Maze” lyrics.
"Shafty" – The Story of the Ghost