Spread It 'Round
Vocals: Trey (lead), Fish, Mike & Page (backing)
Historian: Jeremy D. Goodwin
Of the new songs debuted in 2003, this perhaps received the harshest and most consistent criticism upon its first appearance. What do fans find so distasteful, the lyrics or the music? Well, take your pick. The lyrics seem to be an uncharacteristically overt call for peace and love, and even contain some lines that stray close to the Grateful Dead’s late-period Bob Weir centerpiece, “Throwing Stones”: “Together we are all alone,” Trey sings, “united on a spinning stone.” The first lines state the thesis clearly: “If you feel your love may quit/ you only need a tiny bit/ of two things I can help you see:/ togetherness and unity.” Although it seems this sentiment should play well among the dreadlock/wool sweater set, it’s a bit tough to swallow in this millennial Age of Irony. Perhaps fans would accept the song easier if they felt the clarion call to share the love was referencing the “free” variety. As the lyric stands, however, it does indeed seem like a suitable anthem for the “Be Good Family” generation. Tom Marshall admitted that it was “scary” for him to actually write so explicitly about “love” for the first time in a song lyric.
After its one verse, the song takes a dramatic left turn as all four band members proceed to sing the mantra “Spread it ‘round, spread it ‘round and ‘round and ‘round” over and over and over (...) again for eight minutes, along with repetitive music that reminds of “Sparkle.” In fact, the phrase “spread it ‘round” is sung well over one hundred and fifty times during the song’s 7/15/03 debut. This portion of the song was mercifully shortened when “Spread It ‘Round” appeared for a second time, at IT. Without this never-ending drone, the song makes a much easier impression on the ears. “Spread It ‘Round” was written last among its batch of new songs, and appeared last on the Trey/Tom demo tape Men From Nantucket. Although it has only been played twice, it appeared both times near the end of truly monumental sets: the famous Utah second set (including the Phish debut of “Mr. Completely”), and the sublime third set of 8/2/03. This may indicate that the band views the song as something of a special treat, and will attempt to get the point across at high profile moments in the future.
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