Speak to Me
Original Artist: Pink Floyd
Original Album: Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
Albums: Paper Wheels
Historian: Mark Toscano
Many fans of Pink Floyd underestimate drummer Nick Mason’s contributions to the band. This is largely because even most Floyd fans don’t realize that it was Mason who ultimately shaped the formation and overall thematic structure of Dark Side of the Moon, weaving his sound collages of people discussing madness in and out of songs over the course of the classic album. He is the sole author of “Speak to Me,” having asked dozens of friends and strangers provocative questions and using the taped responses to create samplings for the then-unborn disc.
Phish have used this overtly recognizable bit of Pink Floyd twice, once as a trick and once as a treat. The trick came on 10/31/94, at the start of the second set. No one at the show knew which album the band was going to play, and an intro of “Speak to Me” convinced everyone it was to be DSOTM. Not so – as the building collage of speech and screaming was about to let loose into “Breathe,” the sound bite stopped, breaking into the famous Ed Sullivan Beatles intro instead.
Fans were given a treat four years later, though, on 11/2/98, when Phish gave a surprise performance of Dark Side in Utah, starting it up with this essential opening track from the album. In both cases it should be clear that the song was never actually performed by Phish; the actual track was used, taken directly from the album, as it would be a bit difficult to reproduce such a weird sonic mishmash live.