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History of "Mike's Song," Revisited

Posted 4 months ago by Icculus - 33 comments Link: http://phi.sh/b/53a85426

There's been some chatter online recently about "the second jam in Mike's Song," because in the radio interview that Fish conducted in Maine last week on June 20, 2014 (see JamBase article), a caller asked Fish why the band was no longer playing the second jam in "Mike's Song."

Fish was rightfully confused by the question, in part because the caller said the second jam hadn't been played since ~1998 (incorrect), but also because he didn't articulate to Fish what he meant by "the second jam in Mike's Song" in terms that Fish understood. But, in a similar vein, last year, Andrew Hitz (a professional tubist, Mockingbird Foundation Board member, and Working Group member of this site), had a chance to ask Trey about the "second jam in Mike's Song," around the time when Drew played tuba with Trey and the National Symphony Orchestra on May 22, 2013, and even Trey seemed baffled by the question, possibly since they've been playing "Mike's" a particular way, with one jam segment, since 1.0. (Listen to Drew discuss this experience with Trey and the NSO, here.) So, what do fans mean when they refer to the "second jam" in "Mike's Song"?

Well, you may already know, but if you don't or aren't sure, you can read the song history on this site. But here's a different version:

After "Mike's" more or less became the song you know it to be today, Trey and Mike used to play the first section or segment of the opening jam of "Mike's" on trampolines, while fog poured forth over the stage, and Chris created ominous and wild lightscapes. It was a pretty cool effect, especially in a small room. This section of the song became known among some fans as the "tramps segment" or "tramps jam," and even after Trey and Mike ceased to jump on tramps during this "segment," the name stuck, in no small part because the fog sometimes appeared during the segment and/or the jam took on a dizzyingly-dark and dissonant character. (The last time I recall seeing Trey and Mike on tramps during "Mike's" was 7/2/94, though I was emailed in the mid-1990s by people claiming to have seen them on tramps in "Mike's" after that date...so I am not sure when the last time was that Trey and Mike were on tramps during "Mike's" -- do you know? -- but it would be entertaining to see the tramps return.)

After the (tramps) jam section of "Mike's" occurs in the typical version, the improv continues, of course. It was and still is usually led by Trey, soloing melodically on his custom Languedoc guitar. This opening jam segment often ended, and still ends, with a few composed measures of notes and chords that would either (a) conclude with a set of descending chords, a chromatic walkdown, that sounds like part of Rush's "La Villa Strangiato" (watch and listen at both 6:36 and 6:47 at that link), as all of the recent versions of "Mike's" have done; or, (b) conclude with a key (F) modulation and the first note of what came to begin "Simple" in some versions, but, in other versions, instead of playing and jamming on "Simple," the band would begin :::drum roll::: A SECOND JAM. Allow me to explain with help from PhishTracks (but FTR, I am 100% certain that PhishTracks song-in-progress times/timings change slightly when I go back to them, even close-in-time when I re-check them out, and so please consider the following timings with a two or three second error factor):

For example, open up 5/28/89 Ian's Farm in another browser:

3:03 Jam segment begins (no tramps in '89)
4:18 Trey teases the old HBO movie theme
4:54 Trey teases something I should know but am forgetting
5:37 Jam segment closing chords begin
5:58 Second jam begins (but not with note that eventually started "Simple")
6:48 Jam segment closing chords (again)
7:07 Chromatic walkdown begins (descending chords a la "La Villa Strangiato")
7:12 Final closing chords
7:33 Mike's Song ends, Hydrogen begins. (Total time is 7:33 or so.)

Similarly, open up 11/19/92's "Mike's" in another browser:

3:09 Tramps Jam begins
5:54 Tramps segment closing chords begin
6:11 Second jam begins (with note that eventually started "Simple")
9:00 Tramps jam segment closing chords (again)
9:17 Chromatic walkdown begins (descending chords a la "La Villa Strangiato")
9:22 Final closing chords
9:42 Mike's Song ends. (Total time is 9:42 or so.)

So 5/28/89 and 11/19/92 both have two jam segments, but 11/19/92's second jam segment opened up with the same note that eventually started "Simple" in many versions of "Mike's Groove," unlike 5/28/89's second jam segment.

And now, compare those two-jam-segment versions with the following:

7/24/1988 Nectar's:

2:13 Jam segment begins
7:05 Page plays the chromatic walkdown
7:09 Final closing chords
7:28 ends.

3/12/89 Nectar's:

2:27 Jam Segment begins (approximate time given tape cut)
5:40 Jam segment closing chords begin
6:19 Chromatic walkdown (Trey only)
6:25 Final closing chords
6:46 ends, Hydrogen begins.

7/12/96 Milkweg, Amsterdam:

2:36 Jam segment begins
{no closing chords at all}

9/12/2000 Great Woods:

2:41 Jam segment begins
6:45 Jam segment closing chords begin
7:03 Note that starts second jam
{extremely brief jam into "Hydrogen," so no real "second jam"}
{and no chromatic walkdown and final closing chords}

9/20/2000 Riverbend (SIIICK version, by the way):

2:37 Jam segment begins
9:35 Jam segment closing chords begin
9:53 "Simple" begins

9/25/00 Bonner Springs:

2:47 Jam segment begins
7:46 Jam segment closing chords begin
8:04 Note that starts second jam
{brief jam into "Hydrogen," so no real "second jam"}
{and no chromatic walkdown and final closing chords}

9/30/00 Thomas & Mack, Vegas (very strong version!):

2:44 Jam segment begins
8:26 Jam segment closing chords begin
8:45 "Simple" begins

10/7/2000 Shoreline:

2:41 Jam segment begins
9:03 Jam segment closing chords begin
9:21 Note that starts second jam
{extremely brief jam into "Hydrogen," so no real "second jam"}
{and no chromatic walkdown and final closing chords}


6/17/04 KeySpan Park, Brooklyn, NY:

2:52 Jam segment begins
8:25 Chromatic walkdown begins
8:29 Final closing chords
8:51 Total time. {there were no jam segment closing chords}

And, of course, the most recent "Mike's", 12/30/2013 MSG:

2:45 Jam begins
6:15 Jam segment closing chords begin
6:52 Chromatic walkdown begins
6:56 Final closing chords
7:39 "Mike's Song" ends with sustain before DTAD.


In other words, 7/24/88 and 6/17/04 basically have the same structure as each other, as do 3/12/89 and 12/30/13. Phish has thus been playing "Mike's Song" in the last decade largely the same way it was commonly played in its first five years as a song, but not as it was most often played in "1.0" during the 1990s.

Of course, many versions of "Mike's" don't follow the above structures. "Mike's" is so improvisational that it's had multiple jam segments and single jam segments, and sometimes there haven't even been "closing chords" for the song at all. See, e.g., the magnificent 12/31/97 version, when, at 9:18, Page sustains the chord that typically begins the "Mike's Song" closing chords and chromatic walkdown, but the jam continues, and continues in a gorgeous manner, and there are no closing chords at its end; it's just one jam segment. And two-jam-segment versions of "Mike's Song" from the 1990s that you should hear, if you haven't already, include: 12/30/93, 6/22/94 (three jam segments??), 12/1/95, 12/7/95, 12/31/95, 11/6/96 (!!!), 11/13/97, and 12/31/98.

And here are two odd versions from 1989, when the structure of "Mike's Song" was still in transition:

2/7/89 at The Front in Burlington (only one jam segment):

2:23 Jam segment begins
6:59 Page starts jam segment closing chords while Trey wails away
7:05 Page plays chromatic walkdown while Trey keeps wailing away
7:17 Final closing chords
7:38 "Mike's Song" ends, "Hydrogen" begins. (Total time is 7:38 or so.)

3/24/89 Paradise (recording fwiw is from my first live (mixed) Phish tape):

2:28 Jam segment begins
5:04 Jam segment closing chords begin
5:23 Second jam begins (but not with the note that starts "Simple")
(the second jam lasts only like 20 seconds!)
5:43 Jam segment closing chords again
6:21 Chromatic walkdown begins but it's Trey only
6:27 Final closing chords
6:48 "Mike's Song" ends.

Some of the greatest versions of "Mike's Song" also only have ONE jam segment, like 2/7/89, noted above, which is a very fierce early version. It is therefore False that a two-jam-segment "Mike's" is necessarily better than a one-jam-segment "Mike's." See, e.g., the must-hear one-jam-segment 12/16/95, 7/22/97, 12/2/97, 12/31/97, and 12/30/99 versions. And, frankly, I couldn't care less if they ever play another two-jam-segment "Mike's," because what I crave is simply any version, with any structure, that competes musically with the finest in Phish history.

The last time Phish peformed a two-jam-segment "Mike's Song" of consequence, I believe, was at Polaris Amphitheater on 7/14/2000. (Correct me in the Comments if you believe I'm wrong and that there's one in 2.0. As noted above, 9/12, 9/25 and 10/7/00 had brief, arguably inconsequential, "second jams" that segued into "Hydrogen," and so I'm not counting them. And while the 1/4/2003 "Mike's" has no closing chords but does feature the "note" that ordinarily begins a second jam, the second jam is just a long, mellow segue into "Mountains in the Mist.")

If you're interested in timings for the structure of 7/14/2000, here you go:

2:50 Jam segment begins
8:59 Jam segment closing chords begin
9:17 Second jam segment begins
{no further closing chords at all}
16:35 Jam dissolves and is over. "Mike's Song" (unfinished) ends.

Comments

LongislandPhan Reply
LongislandPhan Very nice articulation and distinction between different Mike's Songs that do and don't feature the second jam segment. One of my favorite examples of this, and probably my favorite Mike's Song is from 12/31/1995, hopefully the boys bring it back this summer!


Score: 2
_emil Reply
Very interesting and well-thought-out journey through the history of Mike's Song, thanks for putting this together. For what it's worth, the "closing chords" are D -> E -> F#m7

The Clifford Ball Mike's > Simple is one of my favorite pairings of these two songs that were seemingly made for one another. While the straight drop into Simple is undoubtedly amazing, in this version the second jam is the main event of the jam, and it flows perfectly into Simple.

Listen: https://soundcloud.com/user219708867/mikes-song-simple-1996-08-16
Score: 6
solargarlic78 Reply
If I remember correctly, 11/15/96 II - the "M" set - featured trampolines on Mike's Song. There is no note of this on phishnet, but I was there and have a faint memory.
Score: 2
Choda Reply
Choda 11/4/94 had smoke and tramps. My 1st show and a big reason I got hooked. Tramps and smoke were gone by 95.
Score: 0
SlavePhan Reply
SlavePhan The smoke returned at Cypress. They probably released 20 cans of smoke for that one.



Score: 4
solargarlic78 Reply
I was right about 11/15/96!


Score: 12
Sprachtor Reply
Sprachtor @Choda said:
11/4/94 had smoke and tramps. My 1st show and a big reason I got hooked. Tramps and smoke were gone by 95.
Smoke and tramps huh?
Score: 3
ColForbin Phish.net Staff Reply
ColForbin Here is a message (supposedly) directly from Fishman about the second jam:

So, after looking at all this I am realizing that the second jam everyone is talking about IS what I thought it was and now I remember how that happened:

That used to always be "I am Hydrogen." In the beginning of Mikes Song "hydrogen" was a regular part of the song. It was the only next section after the big first jam. What happened was, and I do vaguely recollect this, there was a conversation one night where Trey wanted to free that area up to do other things and not necessarily HAVE to play another composed piece of music right at this point where we had just so heavily been improvising, and which eventually led to a third more or less arranged section being Weekapaug Groove. He wanted to continue with the opportunity to improvise. The big chord that happens there took it to another key and it had the potential to get even deeper and darker, or lighter and sunnier I suppose if that was how we were feeling. The point is, we never really established WHAT we would do there, just that we wouldn't necessarily always play "Hydrogen".

Over time that became a spot where Simple fit nicely, and also a place where we could segue into virtually anything, or allow it to continue as an extension of the first jam, before coming back around to Weekapaug.

Overall, I think this balanced out the Arranged/Improvised ratio of the overall song and prevented it from remaining 3-4 worked out pieces with a little improv in the middle.

The reason I was confused is because I had never thought of the "second jam" as being such. I always thought of it as one big ass jam with a little oasis of power chords in the middle where you kind of got your bearings for a second before heading right back out into the wilderness. It never seemed like a beginning or end of anything because the way it was conceived was with a "let's keep going there" attitude.

I can definitely see from the listeners perspective though how those chords define a jam1/jam2 type of borderline.


This is taken from an update to the post at: http://www.jambase.com/Articles/121999/Audio-Jon-Fishman-Talks-Phish-With-Radio-Free-Rockland
Score: 23
DollarBill Reply
DollarBill Nice write up on Mike's jams... I could go on for days about this and the tendencies that the band has had through the years, and whether or not they were communicating well with each other that day.

I'm sure we're not all musicians on this site, but I am, and I really hope we can continue to talk about these questions in terms of the actual music chart associated with the song.

So to continue emil's point...

Mike's groove = F#m A B
closing chords = D E F#m (at least twice)
chromatic fall = F#m down 12 half steps to F#m
final chords, or coda = F#m A E (8 times)
end on E chord for begining of Hydrogen

In modern times the "closing chords" are now played 4 times total instead of having a "second jam" over the Mike's groove chords and then two more sets of "closing chords"...

The best way to find out for yourself, like the OP stated, is to listen... and who doesn't enjoy a good Mike's???
Score: 7
ColForbin Phish.net Staff Reply
ColForbin So, in light of what Fishman says in my previous comment, when you meet a band member, instead of bugging them to play the second jam in Mike's Song, you should just be bugging them to jam Mike's Song. And bugging them to jam Tube while you are there.
Score: 17
marcoesq Reply
Totally forgot about Columbus '00, I always thought the last F# "2nd jam" was Gorge or MSG '98. Columbus kind of has a Hydrogen feel to it but they never go into it. Nice work and good job by the caller, maybe Fish will remind the others. But probably not..
Score: 0
Icculus Phish.net Staff Reply
Icculus Thanks everyone for these great comments! It was recommended to me privately that I consider revising the post or creating a new one describing a few more of the two-jam-segment versions since I only cover a few in the blog post above. But I'm proud of the way the post already punishes the reader into ruing the day he or she ever cared about whether there was only one, or more, jam segments of "Mike's Song," and I think I'd prefer not to make it more painful.

That said, for anyone who cares, here's one of my favorite 20+ minute versions broken down, 11/6/96 Knoxville:

2:48 First jam segment begins
9:55 Closing chords for first jam segment
10:13 Second jam begins (new track in PhishTracks)
{jam segues into "Swept Away" after 13 mins}

Score: 7
marcoesq Reply
you should just be bugging them to jam Mike's Song. And bugging them to jam Tube while you are there.

And Halley's, Gumbo, Bowie, Gin, Wolfman's or virtually every other tune from before.
Score: 4
fluffhead108 Reply
fluffhead108 Great write-up and great bonus from ColForbin's comment. This site is so damn awesome.
Score: 4
Cerias Reply
4:54 Trey teases something I should know but am forgetting

Sounds Zeppelin-ish...perhaps even part of/similar to the jam in Stairway to Heaven right before Plant sings "And as we wind on down the road...". It'll take a few more listens to nail it down though :-) Great post!!
Score: 0
Choda Reply
Choda @Sprachtor said:
@Choda said:
11/4/94 had smoke and tramps. My 1st show and a big reason I got hooked. Tramps and smoke were gone by 95.
Smoke and tramps huh?
All phish shows should have smoke and tramps.
Score: 3
ucpete Reply
ucpete Nice write-up Charlie.

While I fundamentally agree that the quality of Mike's jam matters much more than the number of "segments" in the jam -- especially because the only practical difference between a long, single-segment Mike's jam and a "second jam"-containing Mike's is the brief resolution to the D > E > F#m chords before taking off again -- the appearance of the "second jam" in the improvised portions of the tune typically signal that we've gone way out into Type II space. In fact, many of the better two-jam-segment Mike's modulate again in the second jam, and when we've reached that space, anything can happen. But as you point out (or essentially prove with evidence to support it), there isn't a perfect correlation between the number of jam segments and the awesomeness of the Mike's. I have yet to see a truly awesome Mike's in person (if I weren't such an idiot I would have gone to 9/16/99 as my first show instead of only going to N2 Shoreline '99; though Shoreline N1 '03 had probably the best Mike's I've seen), so I'm hoping that this Fall we get one for the ages.
Score: 3
paulj Reply
paulj @solargarlic78 said:
I was right about 11/15/96!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYN9nrt9EvQ

Let's hear it for faint memories. (I recently saw a video of 11/13/97, of which I had a VIVID memory of something in Weekapaug that--according to the record--didn't actually happen...I presume that I am the only person to whom that has occurred at a Phish show.)
Score: 4
HarborSeal Reply
Great and enjoyable post, as always.

I don't think we'd need the second jam so much if they'd go further with the first jam. There just has not been a very good Mike's Song AT ALL in 3.0. There've been a few nice 'Paugs -- 12/30 had a cool jam, and I'm sure there are others but they're not leaping to mind. But Mike's just hasn't gone ANYWHERE interesting. Some rage more than others, but none really catch my ear.

Hey, I noticed the Jam Charts for Mike's don't go very far. Will that be updated at some point? I LOVE the Charts, and would love to see them brought up to date on Mike's!

(I'm sure that's a ton of work, so please don't read any impatience into my remark. The real point is that I'm curious about the Mike's charts since I LOVE phish.net's work on the jam charts and I'm eager for more!)
Score: 1
TwiceBitten Reply
TwiceBitten Okay, so now Mike (on reddit), Trey (in person) and Fish (on the radio) have all been prodded about the 2nd jam. Plus we've got this post...I've got a good feeling about Mike's this summer. Wishful thinking?
Score: 6
Icculus Phish.net Staff Reply
Icculus @HarborSeal said:

Hey, I noticed the Jam Charts for Mike's don't go very far. Will that be updated at some point? I LOVE the Charts, and would love to see them brought up to date on Mike's!
Yes, thank you... I've been very dilatory with respect to Mike's Song and Weekapaug Groove. Those charts are not up-to-date (well, you can still view the legacy chart on Googledocs, which is current through June 2012 and covers both Mike's and Weekapaug). I will eventually get to it, I mean them.
Score: 1
Gumbo72203 Reply
What we should also take into consideration is that a lot of times from around 92-96, what sometimes would happen would be this:

Verses
Tramps jam ->
Closing Chords ->
Land on F ->
Continue Jamming ->
Somehow come back to F#min groove ->
Tramps Jam ->
Closing Chords ->
chromatic descent/Ballroom Blitz ending section
Score: 1
erocks Reply
I really enjoy the 11/27/98 show. mikes into hydro. Very dark at times!
Score: 1
davey0110 Reply
"7:39 Mike's Song ends with sustain before DTAD"

Wow, the acronyms are in full effect already.

Surely someone who had to look up what was in the middle of the most recent Mike's jam has nothing of import to say on second jams.

Score: 0
davey0110 Reply
Actually I got somethin to say. Last time phish really jammed out Mike's was in Columbus, Ohio. If we bring back Phish to central Ohio, we will get our second jam.
Score: 0
J_D_G Phish.net Staff Reply
J_D_G @icculus there were tramps during "Mike's" on 6/30/95, something I believe you've noted somewhere in the past. I notice an earlier poster cites a "vague memory" of it happening in 96 but I believe 6/30/95 (that is, the last version of Summer 95 tour) has been considered the last known/noticed version.

My evidence for seeing it on 6/30/95 is just my memory, and the fact it was my first show, and my favorite Phish song, and I made a point at the time of noting that Trey and Mike were on trampolines (I guess it's conceivable they were just jumping up and down a la Divided--it's the jumping I remember) and thinking how cool it was.
Score: 2
Icculus Phish.net Staff Reply
Icculus @davey0110 said:
Actually I got somethin to say. Last time phish really jammed out Mike's was in Columbus, Ohio. If we bring back Phish to central Ohio, we will get our second jam.
Hey do you know a guy named Jeff Drudge? I still owe him tapes of 10/31/94 that I promised to him in the parking lot of Bangor. He was from Ohio iirc. Dreads. Smelled like a wet dog.

@Gumbo72203: Nice user name btw. Yes a number of mid-1990s Mike's have the structure you mention. I note some of them in the song history on the site.

@TwiceBitten: yes, wishful thinking.

@J_D_G: If you look in the comments above, @SolarGarlic78 found a video of trey and mike on tramps for the 11/15/96 Mike's Song. AFAIK that's the last time they were on tramps for Mike's.
Score: 1
fnkymtrs Reply
Wow! I for one am floored by the Rush reference...in a very good way :-) La Villa is an incredible tune. I must read this entire thread when I'm not exhausted and can see straight. This is why I love Phish - musician nerds central, same type of folks that love Rush :-)
Score: 2
ckess22 Reply
ckess22 Great write up. Thanks.
Also, thanks for mentioning 9/30/00...one of my go to mikes. I love that version.
Score: 0
erocks Reply
I will add my favorite mikes would be my first mikes. Which was Alpine 98 first set second song mikes into Esther into paug! I love that show and so glad I was there for it, I've been hooked ever since. I would love to hear this entire show fixed up like the 98 tweezer has been on the Alpine bonus disc from the 2010 DVD CD release. Anyone have connections?
Score: 1
funkbeard Reply
I'd like to mention two versions of Mike's that are memorable for me.

First, with regard to a 2 jam version, 4/16/92 at the Anaconda in Isla Vista, CA. This got me interested in Phish, as the second jam gets symmetrically sideways and awesome.

And second, with regard to a one jam version, check out the opening Mike's Song from Lemonwheel. Seldom mentioned, but this version is absolutely majestic, and achieves a towering peak. That Mike's-> Simple may have been the musical highlight of the entire festival.
Score: 1
FACTSAREUSELESS Reply
Sometimes when I have breakfast I eat my normal two eggs and toast and bacon with my coffee and then put my dishes in the sink.

Sometimes I add bowl of Raisin Bran and an extra coffee to it.

Is this second breakfast?
Score: 0

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