Thoughts On Summer Of ’89

Trey in Telluride

Guest Writer: Ken Brotherhood

The summer of 2010 gave way to a very different style of Phish song called Summer Of ’89. It’s not particularly complex, has no improv and is always nearly ten minutes. Many fans label it as a waste and usually use that time as a beer or bathroom break. Me, on the other hand, would like to see this song live since I have missed each time it has been played.

Let’s start out by saying that Summer Of ’89 is a passion-filled song revolving around a concept that few Phish songs do…love. Sure, many songs brush the topic of love, but this song is about real love. Songs evolve, songs change…some transgress (unfortunately)…but this new Phish song is important to Trey. I base this on the very fact that the song keeps changing. Subtly, sure, but changes are changes.

The changes I speak of are the lyrics themselves and not so much the melody. The very first time this song was played on June 18th at the Comcast Theater, the song concludes with the words “I closed my eyes, you touch my hand…you smile, and I’m there.” Quickly now, I’ll take you only two months later to the beautiful mountains of Telluride where they played this song for the third time, only this time the line “you smile” was omitted. Before you go off and say that Trey could have flubbed the lyrics, I will point out that, since its debut, the Summer Of ’89 never contained those lyrics again. It’s a lot like Backwards Down the Number Line, where the lyrics “Take my hand”, which were not sung in its debut, were added after “leave the presents all inside.” It was a conscious decision, probably because they made the end of the song sound cluttered.

Then, just over two months later on October 12th in Broomfield, we hear more changes to the song. This time, they were bigger changes. Instead of the usual “We were driving blind, no clue where we’d arrive,” we have brand new lyrics conjured up by Trey. “The kids we were had gone, but a new love came alive” is what Trey sang instead, and it shows that this song is more important to Trey than some may think. Sure, it might just be Trey perfecting a song he wrote to his wife, or if could also mean that this could be on a new Phish album in the future.

The song is a beautiful reminder of how Trey writes his songs; sometimes obscure, but always emotionally driven. Personally, I love the song and feel it would be a great song to put on a future album. Because of the fact that this song has been changed at least twice, Trey could very well be working out the kinks so they can record this song…or, as I pointed out before, it could merely be Trey trying to make a song sound right to him. To continually change the song signifies bigger intentions for it.

Think about it, since Phish came back in 2009, the songs Trey has written are centered around his emotions. Happiness, gratefulness…love. Trey writes about everything in his life, which makes him the great song writer he is. Whether it be his struggle with drugs or the untimely death of his sister, he takes his emotions to music…and it is nothing short of beautiful. Although this song is obvious in its intent and quite simple, it clearly breaks the boundaries of being prosaic, and, more importantly, it doesn’t hide the song’s message. Although it lacks the profound symbolism often found in Phish songs (Walls of The Cave comes to mind), it leaves me to believe that this is how Trey wanted it. Simple, beautiful…and real.