The Mango Song
Historian: Mark Toscano, lumpblockclod
Last Update: 2014-10-04
Picture war-torn Vietnam during the ‘60s and ‘70s. A local woman has given birth to a child – the child of an American soldier. The soldier is leaving, and a group of village women are desperately trying to get him to take the baby along. He insists on leaving alone, and the women, in a possibly insane, overzealous attempt to force the baby on him, throw it towards him. A mine goes off and the baby, though he lives, is left with severely mangled hands and feet. Despite his handicap, the boy excels intellectually as his life progresses. Ultimately the story has an optimistic angle: his hands and feet are mangled, but he’s going to be a genius anyway.
This was the opening scene of a film that Trey’s friend Aaron Woolfe had envisioned, about a boy who loses his extremities yet goes on to become a great genius. Trey hitched upon a select sentence in Aaron’s verbal description to him (“His hands and feet are mangled”) and transformed it ever so slightly into the delightfully nonsensical chorus of what would eventually become “The Mango Song.”
The verses of the song – “a day in the life of a waiter / addict with delusions of grandeur” – are rumored to be based in part on Trey’s experiences working in a restaurant where much of the waiting staff regularly indulged in heavy narcotics. Written entirely by Trey, “Mango’s” lyrics represent some of Phish’s most bizarre, surreal songwriting.
The music is hard to pin down in the broadest sense. In an interview around the time of the release of A Picture of Nectar, even Mike singled out “Mango” as perhaps the only song on the album that couldn’t be pigeonholed into a specific genre.
“Mango” has never been as ubiquitous a song as “Stash,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” or “Tweezer,” its prolific brethren on Nectar. In fact, on setlists during the mid-'90s, “Mango” became a relative rarity before making a comeback in ’99 and 2000. Always a fun tune, some standout versions include 12/1/95, 7/28/98, 12/16/99 and 5/22/00. A few versions in 2000 even pushed the jamming limits, introducing some unexpected improvisation to a normally tightly shut song. Check out 6/30/00 (with great segue into “Twist”) and 9/17/00 (fifteen minute version out of “Dog Log” and into “Free”).
“Mango” continued to thrive post-hiatus, with excellent versions on 7/18/03 and 8/2/03 (IT). During Phish 3.0 "Mango" remains a relatively rare treat. Fan favorites include the 8/8/09 Gorge opener (the first time Mango has opened a show since 2/9/91), the 8/13/10 Deer Creek version that smoothly segued out of an equally delicious "Meatstick" doused with "Dave's Energy" sauce and the "Steamed Mango" served at Merriweather Post on 7/26/14.
”The Mango Song” 7/18/14 Chicago, IL