Historian: Marco Walsh
For years Jon Fishman has kept a journal, where he writes down his thoughts, ideas, and creative writings. Periodically Fish will share these musings with us fans, either via "Fish's Forum" in the band's newsletters and website, or as lyrics to some of Phish's quirkier songs. "Tube," "Gumbo," and "My Sweet One"... these all have their genesis in Fish's journals. With the release of Undermind in 2004, "Tomorrow's Song" was added to the list.
Structurally "Tomorrow's Song" is similar to Fish's "Lengthwise," in that two lines of lyrics are repeated, almost chant-like, throughout the song. Vocals are sung by the full band, and the studio version has significant effects applied, giving the words a trippy "chorus in space" feel. The instrumentation is very basic – only drums and bass are heard on the album track – but rhythmically the song is quite unusual, as drums, bass and lyrics are each accenting different beats. Breaking it down, this seemingly simple song contains some interesting musical twists.
"Today I sing tomorrow's song.
In this place we learn to wait."
These lyrics come from the journal Fish kept while traveling in Chile a few weeks after Big Cypress. The following backstory comes from a friend who joined him on this trip.
"Five of us were visiting the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. One morning we set off with our guide, Martin, for a long hike to explore some of the lesser known areas of the high desert. From town we were driven out into the desert to the site of the Yerbas Buenas petroglyphs, an ancient site where the indigenous hunters would gather, fashion arrowheads, and leave drawings on the large rocks. We were dropped off here, with a promise from our driver to meet us at 6pm at the end of our hike.
The hike was spectacular, taking us up a small foot trail into the mountains, where we visited several tiny villages. The Atacama Desert is known as the driest place on earth, with some parts having literally never recorded rainfall. So it was quite strange that our visit came after a rare week of rain, causing much of the dry desert to bloom into brilliant colors. But I digress...
As our hike continued, the weather started to get cold and windy, and soon enough it started to rain. As our path continued up a narrowing canyon, a concerned looking Martin urged us all to pick up the pace. Soon enough we reached our final destination: an empty village consisting of 20 small adobe huts... and no sign of our ride home. Martin explained to us that this village was only used one weekend a year for a religious festival, and was otherwise empty. 19 of the huts were locked; thankfully the 20th had an open door. Seeking shelter from the cold we entered, finding nothing but a pile of ratty old llama pelts inside. So we sat down on the pelts and proceeded to wait for our ride.
At this point Martin confided in us that he had been really concerned at the end of the hike when it started to rain. Rain is so uncommon in the Atacama that when it does come, it can bring flash floods, and we had been hiking up a dry gully. Not knowing how badly it was raining upstream, Martin was seriously afraid of losing his whole party to a flood. Thankfully we were safe... now the concern was whether the driver would ever show up with our ride back to town.
And this is where the words to "Tomorrow's Song" were written. Five frozen friends sitting on llama pelts in an abandoned adobe hut high in the Andes, having just skirted a watery grave, wondering if we'd ever make it back home. Indeed, in that place we all learned to wait."
To date, Phish has only played "Tomorrow's Song" live once, coming out of a "Piper" jam on 11/27/09 in Albany, NY. While it's doubtful that this strange little tune will ever find its way into heavy rotation, it seems well-suited to pop up from time to time in the middle of some of Phish's deeper jams.
"Tomorrow's Song" – 11/27/09, Albany, NY