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Performances Song History Lyrics

The Horse

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Marshall

Vocals: Trey

Albums: Rift, At the Roxy, Live Phish 02, Live Phish 05, Live Phish 07, Live Phish 13, Live Phish 20

Debut: 1992-03-07

Historian: Craig DeLucia

Last Update: 2012-07-02

Every good concept album needs a conclusion. On Rift, “The Horse” begins that conclusion; it ends with the song’s traditional companion “Silent in the Morning.” “The Horse” is a short, somber tale that the narrator of Rift expresses as he awakens. Outside of a lyrical change included in earlier versions (a reference to a forgotten character named Matilda), most “Horses” are simply a short lead-in to “Silent.” In fact, “The Horse” has only twice not been followed by “Silent.” The first instance occurred on 6/21/94 when the fire alarm went off in the Cincinnati Music Hall after the band had begun the song. They were not afforded the time to move into “Silent” before the house lights came on and the building was evacuated. When the band returned to the stage some twenty minutes later, they humorously launched into “Fire” and never completed their traditional couplet. Eighteen years later on 6/16/12 Trey would quickly abandon "The Horse" after a few sour notes. In this instance, the couplet was completed the next night, when "Silent" smoothly segued out of "Caspian."

One other version stands out as noteworthy. Pick up a copy of the 4/14/93 show from the American Theatre in St. Louis, MO. Phish had just finished playing a monster version of “Stash,” with the “Kung” chant sandwiched inside. During the intro to the ensuing “Horse,” you’ll get to hear a brief reprise of the “Kung” theme, a “Pinball Wizard” tease, and a tease of the composed segment of “Harry Hood.”

So what does this song from Rift have to do with Hoist, and its cover image of a horse being raised in the air? Check out your cover to the Rift album – you’ll notice images that reference the song titles of all the tracks…except for “The Horse.” Phish reconciled this difference on the cover to Hoist by revisiting Amy’s Farm (see 8/3/91) and shooting the album cover photo.

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zarathustraz Reply
Why no "Horse" in 2013?

As we're now in the Chinese Year of the Horse, it’s a good time to reflect on the whereabouts of our trusty steed last year. No, I don’t mean that four-house carriage that gallops us through city to city and delivers us to ever more distant horizons of musical bliss. For Phish, 2013 was a year of bounty, sharing with us heartfelt music, compassion, gratitude, and joy. But among this spoil of riches, there was one conspicuous absence: “The Horse.” Despite the reasonably consistent presence of its “Silent in the Morning” companion in the song rotation, not a single Horse was trotted out during 2013. The last time they “slung the basket off” was on NYE of 2012; but, keeping this old friend in the stable last year couldn’t have been more fitting.

The night of the “Garden Party,” moving into 2013 and their 30th year anniversary, Phish proclaimed that they were “going to please [themselves].” The phans who weren’t happy with who Phish is, as a band (or as those phans would say, “has become”), could leave the party if they wanted to. 2013 was the year of not trying to meet someone else’s expectation, but the year of owning and appreciating your own. For Phish, 2013 was a celebration of Phish. We saw it at Northerly Island during Harpua, when we all learned that only Phish does Posternutbag “the right way”; we saw it on Halloween, when Phish stamped their own name in the lineage of celebrated classic artists; and we saw it during the MSG run, when not a single note (besides Auld Lang Singe) was produced that didn’t have its origin in the creative ensemble standing before us—the same ones who had been standing there for the previous 29 years.

2013 was a year of clear vision and direction. Maybe NYE of 2012 was that turning point, when the guys unburdened their horses and set off in a new direction. One thing’s for sure, they haven’t had to do it again since. Whereas “The Horse” relates one man’s decision to turn away from a relationship torn asunder by a significant rift, there was no turning away last year. As we all know, Phish has broken up with themselves, and us, before. But, there was no moment in 2013 when it seemed time “to set a different course.” The course was set, the path was clear, and Phish followed it through to the end. 2013 was a celebration of the unique relationship between Phish and the phans and the thirty years we’ve spent together. There was no waiting “until [their] dying day to confess what [they] have seen.” They confessed it directly to us in the vast catalogue of songs they’ve authored, in their visits to old haunts, in the set-break video surveying the relics of days gone by, and in the acknowledgement of their humble beginnings at the center of MSG. From that vantage point, I’m sure the course looked incredibly clear, both from whence they came and to thence they go. If Phish never sets a different course again, I won’t be disappointed.
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