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Mercury

Mercury has not been seen in 1 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2018-11-02.
It was played at 0.9% of live shows.
It has been performed live 16 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Marshall

Debut: 2015-07-22

Historian: Jeremy D. Goodwin

Musically and lyrically, “Mercury” is one of the most ambitious Phish songs debuted since the band returned in 2009—a multi-part composition with prog-rock influences, of the sort that has long become uncommon within the Phish canon. It dates to a songwriting session in Kitty Hawk, NC, near where the Wright brothers briefly escaped gravity. The composition began with the intriguing opening groove, with Trey adding bits and pieces of the music over several weeks. That opening groove winds its way into an instrumental passage framing an enigmatic bridge, followed by a quiet section built around a solo on Marimba Lumina by Fish that marches into a deliciously dark and grooving final part leading – in the song’s debut year – to incrementally larger bits of jamming.



“I have always liked Mercury—the planet, the god, the element—and decided it needed a tribute,” Tom Marshall related in an interview with phish.net. Mercury is lyrically referenced here in many manifestations—a star viewed in the night sky, the planet itself—whose slow rotation and proximity to the sun means that it takes only three Mercury-days to travel twice around the sun—and vermillion, a red pigment made from ground mercuric sulfide. The wings said to be on the feet of the Roman god Mercury are referenced, as is quicksilver (a common word for the element) and, indirectly, mercury poisoning. Though there’s a Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, the one referred to in “Mercury” is the Mayan noblewoman whose remains were discovered inside a hidden sarcophagus in ‘94, covered in vermillion powder.



Watch Mercury on YouTube ”Mercury” — 9/5/15, Commerce City, CO. Video by LazyLightning55a.



The lyrics clearly reflect a lot of background work by both songwriters. “I was very happy when Trey contributed a great deal of the Red Queen/Vermillion/unbreakable net research,” Marshall says. The classical allusions in “Mercury” include a reference to the story (recounted in Homer’s Odyssey) of Vulcan trapping his unfaithful wife, Venus, in bed with Mars in a netting of unbreakable chains. Though not a key player in that story, Mercury is present; the messenger of the gods says of Venus that he’d happily “sleep with her if I could,” even if it meant being tied up in three times as many chains, with all the gods watching. Interestingly, in the song’s final verse the “unbreakable net” that trapped Venus is invoked as a symbol of safety and security. 



“Mercury” was played three times on summer tour ‘15, but did not reappear for the New Year’s or January ’16 Mexico shows. Each of these three performances was slightly tighter, with bits of the composition getting snipped or subtly rearranged along the way. At the 8/4/15 Nashville soundcheck, the band can be heard working diligently on “Mercury.” By the song’s prominent, second-set placement at Dick’s on 9/5/15, the composition preceding its outro jam had been trimmed by almost two minutes, while the jam itself bloomed at Dick’s to four-and-a-half minutes, from the 1:41 of its debut in Bend. 



This darkly intoxicating groove, glimpsed to date in a tantalizingly small sample, fuels many fans’ high hopes for the song. Partisans were disappointed when the song didn’t appear in the 2015-16 New Year’s run, the January 2016 Mexico shows, or summer 2016 tour. A soundcheck appearance before the first show of the Dick’s run in 2016 cued the return of “Mercury,” which was again placed in a prominent, second-set slot that night. And, thankfully, "Mercury" continues to be performed periodically.


Lyrics:

(Anastasio/Marshall)
� Who Is She? Music (BMI)

The days that are met with onlyness
Aid and abet this loneliness
The days that are met with onlyness
Aid and abet this loneliness

Tonight's the night
the wheels are turning
the signal flows
I try to keep the home fires burning
That was my stop
but the subway kept going
nothing to lose
When Mercury's
Showing

(The days that are met with onlyness, aid abet this loneliness)

The moments are mine
If I can just seize the day
But then I forget
what it is I meant to say
I try to hold on
but never too tight
and the hours go by
till Mercury comes out at night

Venus in steel the unbreakable net
Venus in steel the unbreakable net
Staring up at the great machine
that never began and will never end
the silver starlit tapestry
With countless eyes staring back at me
the trail of lilies and violets ends
Trapped in Steel the Unbreakable Net

---

And the rivers run deep
like a quick silver stream
With wings on your feet
your day is longer than your year
Looking the night sky
for a moment, I can see
the rivers run deep
your day is longer than your year
The order in the Chaos
Waits to be perceived
With wings on your feet
your day is longer than your year
The lies they feed to me are as edible as mercury
But the rivers run deep
Your day is longer than your year

(The days that are met with loneliness aid and abet this onlyness)

---

and the Water-star is singing
its silver melody
the rivers run deep
your day is longer than your year
your day is longer than your year

The tomb of the red Queen
is painted in Vermilion painted in Vermilion painted in Vermilion

but the net's unbreakable
so don't worry about falling
the voice that you ignore
might be your future calling
alone we're tossed about
like a bottle in the sea
but together we ascend
and only then escape this gravity

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