Down By the River

Originally Performed ByPhish
Music/LyricsAbrahams, Anastasio
VocalsTrey
HistorianDavid Steinberg (zzyzx)
Last Update2021-03-06

History

Moroccan-born Guy Forget began playing pro tennis in 1982, making a name for himself that many enthusiasts of the game won’t soon... Oh, skip it.

There has been considerable misinformation about this “song” over the years. First, its “lyrics” (what there is of them) were coined by Dave Abrahams and Trey, not Tom. Second, Tom wrote a few lyrics that became confused with “Guy Forget,” because Trey spoke them during a jam that sprung out of “Piper” on 10/1/00 (“...Will I dance on grave?”) before Trey and Fish began singing the “Guy Forget” lyrics over the same jam, as discussed below.

In any event, the songwriting duo of Trey Anastasio and Dave Abrahams may be more familiar to you than you realize. For example, Mike Gordon’s “Catapult” was actually dreamed up by them. But Trey and Dave came up with “Guy Forget,” an amusing “song-pun” on one of the most memorable names in sports history, out of an especially fruitful songwriting night at the Rhombus with Tom, Daubs, and Pete (an evening, also known as Tom’s bachelor party, during which the songs “Pyromaniac” and “Girlfriend Named Bubba” were also composed). 

“Guy Forget” cryptically dots a few 1993 soundcheck setlists: 2/22/93, 2/23/93 and 3/17/93. It also appears quickly in the “You Enjoy Myself” vocal jam on 12/28/92. However, for many years the only “official” version of “Guy Forget” to yet grace the stage occurred in Phoenix on 10/1/00, sung over a post-”Piper” jam, before flowing into “When the Circus Comes.” This version was popular enough that it appeared as bonus footage on the Live in Vegas DVD. But this version also created confusion, because while the “Guy Forget” lyric was easy to make out (and repeated), there were words sung before it overtop the same “Piper” jam that were difficult to make out, and fans assumed they were lyrics that were part of “Guy Forget.” They were not. 

In 2003, Tom Marshall was posting to the Phantasy Tour message boards and was asked what the worst lyric he ever wrote was. Apparently Tom wrote a poem (“a dreadful thing that was never meant to see the light of day”) that Trey absolutely loved. They were immediately put into a song much to the ire of Fishman. Jon ranted about how bad the lyrics were to the point where this became a running joke. Trey would constantly pretend to put these lyrics into a song just to annoy Fish. While Tom was willing to admit that the final line of the song (“Or will I dance on grave?”) appeared in “Mock Song,” it took some work to finally have him admit to the entire lyric. The “official” all-time worst lyric penned by Tom Marshall turned out to be:

Basking in the silence

Soaking up the violence

Will the good lord save?

Or will I dance on grave?

These are not “Guy Forget” lyrics, mind you; they are basically those of an unnamed, unwritten “song” (we’re calling “Will I Dance” with Tom’s permission) that appears to have only been put to music by Trey as a joke during the soundcheck of 5/3/93. But pull out your copy of Live in Vegas and listen around the 11-minute mark of the “Piper.” The first two lines of “Will I Dance” are transposed, but those are clearly the lyrics. And check out the looks that Trey gives Fishman after every line. Phish might not be as silly as they used to be, but they can still get away with referencing inside jokes in front of thousands of people with none of us being the wiser. And if you just love those “Will I Dance” lyrics, they also can be found in the 4/25/93I Didn’t Know,” where Trey says that Jon would ask the “eternal musical question,” of, “a) Will the good lord save? and b) Will I dance on grave?” That’s asking quite a bit out of a washboard solo, but Fishman tries his best.

Now back to “Guy Forget.” He was never quite forgotten. He reemerged in the town some call Chuckville on 10/16/10, once again in a vocal jam. That was just a tease though. It took the magic of Commerce City (9/4/11) for our memories to be completely jogged. As a “Ghost” jam raged, Fishman started singing the sacred name. This led to a complete singing of the lyric over the jam. It’s a very energetic arrangement, too, that eventually winds back into “Ghost,” in which a secret is revealed: “And now you all know / who the ghost really is / the ghost is / Guy Forget.”

The 10/1/00 and 9/4/11 “full” versions of “Guy Forget” have one odd thing in common: they were both performed in the Mountain Time Zone. This makes “Guy Forget” the only Phish “song” played more than once that is exclusive to the Mountain Time Zone. Apparently, Forget likes to train at altitude.

A Tribute to Guy Forget

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