The Squirming Coil
Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall
Vocals: Trey (lead), Page, Mike (backing)
Albums: Lawn Boy, A Live One, New Year's Eve 1995 - Live at Madison Square Garden, At the Roxy, Live Phish 04, Live Phish 07, Live Phish 13, Live Phish 19, The String Quartet Tribute to Phish, The Clifford Ball, Amsterdam
Historian: Ellis Godard (lemuria)
At base, "The Squirming Coil” is a fabulously energetic and cerebral pièce de résistance – not an epic of “Fluffhead” or “You Enjoy Myself” proportions – but a stolid landmark of an earlier era in Anastasio compositions. It is frequently followed by something energetic (“Tweezer,” “Golgi,” “Llama,” or “Antelope”), and has rarely opened a show (though see 6/5/90 or 6/16/97). But the compositional mastery is not the song’s forte, despite predictable placement (late in the show) and consistency (as versions rarely if ever vary).
"The Squirming Cool" – 10/31/94, Glens Falls, NY
The strong point of “Squirming Coil” is beyond the composition. In early versions it simply ends with a short outro by Page. But that ending evolved slowly, and in the closing minutes are sometimes two, sometimes five or more of pure Page-y goodness, as Trey, then Fish, then Mike slow and fade from the music, leaving Page to glide gently around scales, keys, signatures, riffs, and more on his own. The first signs were on 4/12/91, ending a crazy three-part encore, but it would be in several more encores (e.g. 10/10/91, 10/18/91) before the Icarusian meltdowns began to take form (7/16/92, 8/17/92), becoming full-blown show-enders in the following years (e.g. 4/17/93, 5/10/94, and 11/19/94). By the next summer, “Split Open and Melt” was also coming into a new area and Red Rocks (6/9/95), for example, saw both tunes in an invigorated state. The effect is sometimes magical (witness 7/16/92 or 3/18/93), sometimes perfunctory. But the meandering, variable ending has been so expansive that Page’s noodling during soundchecks are sometimes labeled as “Coil” teases.
Although this ending section wanders widely and sometimes wildly, it does so almost always with Page on his own, sometimes with other band members leaving the stage one at a time as they drop out of the song. As such, the song usually stands alone even though it contains some of the most expansive soloing in the Phish repertoire. Nonetheless, some versions have developed into something else rather than petering out, including 9/28/90 into “Lizards,” 12/28/90 into “Tweezer,” 4/27/91 into “Wipe Out,” 10/3/91 into “Tweezer,” 8/20/92 into “Bowie,” 5/8/93 into an extended bluesy jam and ultimately “Big Ball Jam,” 2/17/97 into “Disease,” and 12/30/98 into “Slave,” the most unusual of these transitions being 10/3/91 (with a Dixieland transition) and 12/30/98 (“Piper” tease and an atypical jam).
Other notable versions include 10/4/91 with a “Linus and Lucy” tease; 5/17/92 with a birthday dedication to Page; 5/17/94 interrupted by Trey with a cake for Page; 10/31/94 at nearly 3 a.m. after that marathon show; 10/8/99 with a “Bug” tease from Mike; 12/29/03 finishing a double-encore comparatively rare for the era, and during the insta-classic 10/30/10 gig in Atlantic City.
"The Squirming Cool" – 10/30/10, Atlantic City, NJ