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Army of One

Army of One has not been seen in 33 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2023-07-26.
It was played at 1.35% of live shows.
It has been performed live 27 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: McConnell

Vocals: Page

Debut: 2003-07-12

Historian: David Steinberg (zzyzx)

When Page started up Vida Blue in 2001, he was taking on new challenges. Not only was he exploring the role of bandleader, but for the first time in his professional career, he was responsible for the new songs. Page had written instrumentals before but lyrics were something new. Despite being an early endeavor, "Army of One" is surprisingly strong.  

Watch Army of One on YouTube "Army of One" – 3/8/09, Hampton, VA

“Army of One” is perhaps Phish’s bleakest original. Most of Phish’s depressing songs (e.g. “Frankie Says,” “Brian and Robert”) are written from the point of view of an observer who pities the protagonist but tries to show that there’s more to life than the world that they’re seeing. Even the suicide interpretation of “Dirt” leaves a survivor to shout the name of the dead – an act that can be seen as much as celebrating the life as mourning the death. While there is an observer in “Army of One,” his role is the opposite of the ones that Tom Marshall tends to write. Rather than trying to cast perspective on the dark moments of the protagonist’s life, he goes after the few moments of light:

Sit in a circle

Facing the sun

Soak it in while you can

Winter is on

This worldview is represented even in the title. At the time this song was written, the slogan “An Army of One” was used by the US Army to get recruits. The idea that they were going for was one of self-reliance. Yes, you are part of a team, but you must depend mainly on your own resources to survive.

Here that term is used to mock an inability to form any connections with other people. This isn’t friendly empathy with depression. It’s a sneering attack on someone stumbling around alone in the cold, looking for answers to explain why his life has become a failure. It’s a far cry from the giddy happiness of singing, “FLUUUUUUUFF-HEEEEEEEEEEEAD!

Watch Army of One on YouTube "Army of One" – 8/22/15, Watkins Glen, NY. Video by LazyLightning55a.

It’s somewhat surprising that most performances of this song occurred in venues where it’s difficult to remember this sort of depression. The debut took place in the stunning beauty that is The Gorge Amphitheatre (7/12/03). It was then shelved for the rest of the summer before making an appearance during the second day of all the joy that is a Phish festival (IT, 8/3/03). A stunning version was offered during the acoustic set at Festival 8 (11/1/09); the above-quoted verse took on new meaning as we all were indeed sitting, soaking in the sun, and regretting our return trips to colder climates. Maybe the goal was to try to represent a dichotomy of some sort, to make the joyous moments seem even brighter by being thrown into sharp relief, but the result of the placement is that this song doesn’t get much respect. This isn’t a summer song. Listen to it in February when the bleakness of the sky matches that of your emotions.

Other 3.0 versions of note include the excitement of the return run at Hampton (3/8/09), the rescheduled Toronto gig (7/22/13), another festival appearance at Magnaball (8/22/15), and a performance on the beach in Mexico (1/17/16). 

Albums: Undermind


© Who Is She? Music, Inc. (BMI)

Northern dilemma
Call of the cold
The arms of the arctic
Begin to unfold

Sit in a circle facing the sun
Get what you can now
Winter is on

Truth on condition
Never dig deep
Solemn reminders as groundwaters seep
Into foundations, centers of joy
To weaken and crumble
Search and destroy

Light up the city
Hiding so strange
You'd better take cover
It's love at close range

Oh solo mission
Cover of dark
Army of one now, don't let down your guard

Sit in a circle facing the sun
Soak it in while you can
Winter is on
I got no answer but you've got no call
Just can't compete with the weight of it all

Silent treatment
Stone in the rain
Bright, shining doorway
Try to remain

Northern dilemma
Call of the cold
The arms of the arctic begin to unfold

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