Vocals: Trey (lead), Page (backing)
Albums: Paper Wheels
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2015-06-17
According to the song’s co-author, Tom Marshall, in a April 2000 JamBase interview, “Never” is one of his few songs about the space-time continuum. A sparse poem – an apology? – that explores the concept of time, absence, and reconciliation, the other half of the writing duo, Trey Anastasio ultimately remembered to never forget that he forgot this song for awhile.
Alongside “Sleep” and “Driver,” “Never” was one of three acoustic originals debuted on the first night of the 1998 Bridge School benefit. While “Sleep and “Driver” found solid footing in the Phish repertoire, “Never” was both short in length (< 2 min) and shelf-life; it has not been performed live by Phish since this single instance.
The original demo version of “Never” appears on the Anastasio/Marshall album Trampled by Lambs and Pecked by the Dove. An acoustic Phish version appears on the Bearsville Studio Sessions and so was at least on the long list for inclusion on The Story of the Ghost. The Summer 2000 Döniac Schvice included photos from the Farmhouse sessions with a list of songs presumably being considered… but “Never” was still beyond our grasp. While not making the cut for either of those releases, a clip from the Bridge School benefit performance was included in the retrospective video shown at set break of the band’s 20th anniversary concert on 12/2/03.
Forgotten for over seven years, Trey dusted off “Never” twice in 2005, performing the song during the solo, acoustic portions of his 70 Volt Parade gigs on 11/4/05 and 11/8/05, the latter by request. Another nine years would pass before “Never” saw the live stage. On 12/7/14 at the State Theater in Portland, ME – a show featuring heavy doses of new material – Trey Anastasio Band offered this older song a vehicle to flourish in the now, with a completely transformed full electric band arrangement to complement the delicate vocal harmonies.
Never points ahead, and the song’s future on the Phish stage is beyond our grasp. Perhaps “Never” needs an ironic fan sign.