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The Lizards

The Lizards has not been seen in 1 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2017-09-02.
It was played at 17.55% of live shows.
It has been performed live 311 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio

Vocals: Trey

Debut: 1988-01-27

Historian: Mockingbird Staff

"The Lizards" is the linchpin of the Gamehendge saga. Nearly every disparate element of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday was made to cohere into a single, multifaceted narrative in “Lizards.” When Trey finally began to write and re-work songs into a storytelling cycle in 1987, he already had four narrative elements waiting to be used – Tom Marshall’s poem “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters,” Tom and Aaron Woolf’s joke song “Wilson, Can You Still Have Fun?” and Trey’s and Jeff Holdsworth’s own compositions for Phish, “AC/DC Bag” and “Possum,” respectively.



For his senior study at Goddard College, Trey constructed a musical that would cover diverse compositional ground over its continuous narrative. Sensing the potential of these four elements for an epic tale, Trey began to work on the story, extrapolating characters, ideas, and situations from the existing lyrics, trying to fit them into a cohesive storyline. The first fruit reaped from this harvest was “The Lizards.” 



Watch The Lizards on YouTube "The Lizards" – 6/23/89, Boston, MA



“The Lizards” contains a lengthy narrative that describes Colonel Forbin’s entrance into the land of Gamehendge and his encounter with Rutherford the Brave, a knight errant. Rutherford explains the sad history of the Lizards and their subjugation by the evil King Wilson, who keeps them in check by preventing them from gaining access to the Helping Friendly Book, the sacred tome of Icculus, their god. In a state of overzealous fervor while engaging the Colonel’s promise to help, Rutherford jumps into a river and sinks, forgetting that he was encased in metal armor. As the story goes, Tela and the Unit-Monster show up just in time to save Rutherford from the watery peril, and Colonel Forbin is thus introduced to the land and inhabitants of Gamehendge.



“The Lizards’” lyrics are very wordy, but their purpose is twofold: to draw the listener into the story with provocative imagery and word choices, and to lay the framework for the events that take place in later songs. Trey wanted to choose this song’s first lines carefully, and ultimately took a cue from “The Chamber of 32 Doors,” a track on the 1974 Genesis magnum opus, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. That song’s first lyric, “At the top of the stairs, there’s hundreds of people,” encouraged Trey to come up with an opening line (“Passing through the corridor...”) that grabbed listeners’ attention with the mysterious implication that it was merely part of a larger, as yet unknown story. This lyrical style set the direction for much of the musical’s storytelling, which often leaves the histories and questions about the various characters and their actions to the whims of the listener. “The Lizards” – though still complex in structure – was also Trey’s attempt to write a song that could be appreciated for its challenging musicality and have a fun, danceable nature.



Watch The Lizards on YouTube "The Lizards" – 8/17/96, Plattsburgh, NY from The Clifford Ball DVD



In Trey’s original conception of the song, the verbose lyrics are sung over a musical construction influenced by a diversity of styles. Trey took the Irish guitar convention of a drone string and built the song’s primary chord progression around it. The chorus section of the song was based on a calypso beat, and Trey wrote it one day while Fish repeatedly practiced such a beat in the next room. Finally, the extended coda was originally written for the children’s musical Gus the Christmas Dog, a project on which Trey worked with his mother in the mid-’80s. The song “If I Were a Dog” was reworked to fit onto the end of “The Lizards,” and serves as a soundtrack for Rutherford’s rescue. As the narration gets more dramatic, the music moves from sweet lullaby to grandiose, heroic opera. Trey envisioned this portion of the song to swell in instrumentation with each verse, culminating in the addition of a choir of vocals. The song then finishes on a re-visit of the chord progression of the chorus.



Watch The Lizards on YouTube "The Lizards" – 7/30/14, Portsmouth, VA. Video by LazyLightning55a.



In its live incarnation, “The Lizards” is almost identical to its 4-track progenitor, with the exception of the coda’s narration, which is not performed. It has never varied much from this structure, though a number of versions are decidedly more spirited than others and take place in must-hear shows: 4/5/90, 4/16/92, 3/22/93, 5/27/94, 12/31/9512/8/99, 6/15/00 and 8/3/03. Two other versions of “The Lizards” are notable for Trey’s botching of the lyrics: 2/7/91 and 7/3/95; in both cases the song was aborted. Be sure to check out 11/25/92, where Trey stopped the song twice, but persevered and ultimately finished it.



“The Lizards” was a ubiquitous anchor in the Phish repertoire from its 1988 debut through 1996, dropping off to a more steady pace only in the late 90s. Since 2003 – excepting the shortened 2004 campaign when it did not appear – ”The Lizards” has been more of a rare once-a-tour or so treat. Notable versions since Phish’s 2009 return to the stage include a late set gem during the excellent 9/2/12 Dick’s gig; as part of the JEMP truck set on 12/31/13 MSG; and several notable encores: 8/7/10 Greek Theatre (paired with “First Tube”); 7/30/14 at the friendly confines of nTelos Pavilion in Portsmouth, VA; and 1/2/16 MSG.



Watch The Lizards on YouTube "The Lizards" – 1/2/16, New York, NY. Video by LazyLightning55a.


Albums: At the Roxy, Live Phish 02, Live Phish 09, Live Phish 12, Live Phish 20, New Year's Eve 1995 - Live at Madison Square Garden, Colorado '88, The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday, Coral Sky, IT, The Clifford Ball

Lyrics:

(Anastasio)
© Who Is She? Music, Inc (BMI)

Passing through the corridor I came upon an aging knight
Who leaned against the wall in gnarly armor
He was on his way to see the king

Wilson
Wilson
Wilson

He led me through the streets of Prussia talking
As he tried to crush a bug that scurried underneath his boot heel
He said there was a place where we should go

So he lead me through the forest to the edge of a lagoon by which
We wandered 'til we reached a bubbly spring
The knight grew very quiet as we stood there
He lifted up his visor and he turned to me and he began to sing

He said I come from the land of darkness
I said I come from the land of doom
He said I come from the land of Gamehendge
From the land of the big baboon
But I'm never never going back there
And I couldn't if I tried
'Cause I come from the land of Lizards
And the Lizards they have died
And the Lizards they have died
And the Lizards they have died
And the Lizards they have...

He told me that the Lizards were a race of people practically extinct
From doing things smart people don't do
He said that he was once a Lizard, too
His name was Rutherford the Brave and he was on a quest to save
The people from the fate that lay before them
Their clumsy end was perilously near

The Lizards would be saved, he said, if they could be enlightened
By the writings of the Helping Friendly Book
In all of Prussia only one existed
And Wilson had declared that any person who possessed it was a crook

He said I come from the land of darkness
I said I come from the land of doom
He said I come from the land of Gamehendge
From the land of the big baboon
But I'm never never going back there
And I couldn't if I tried
'Cause I come from the land of Lizards
And the Lizards they have died
And the Lizards they have died
And the Lizards they have died
And the Lizards they have…

The Helping Friendly Book, it seemed, possessed the ancient secrets
Of eternal joy and never-ending splendor
The trick was to surrender to the flow

We walked along beneath the moon
He lead us through the bush 'til soon
We saw before our eyes a raging river
He said that we could swim it if we tried

And saying this the knight dove in forgetting that his suit of arms
Would surely weigh him down and so he sunk
And as his body disappeared before me
I bowed my head in silence and remembered all thoughts that he had thunk

He said I come from the land of darkness
I said I come from the land of doom
He said I come from the land of Gamehendge
From the land of the big baboon
But I'm never never going back there
And I couldn't if I tried
'Cause I come from the land of Lizards
And the Lizards they have woah whoa whoa!

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