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Quadrophonic Toppling

Quadrophonic Toppling has not been seen in 98 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2022-05-27.
It was played at 0.1% of live shows.
It has been performed live 2 time(s).

Music: Gordon/Fishman

Debut: 1999-12-31

Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty), Charlie Dirksen (Icculus)

The studio version of “Quadrophonic Toppling” on The Siket Disc contains an audio sample of Mike repeating the phrase “Quadrophonic Toppling,” and a brief yodeling-portion of “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” from the 12/6/96 Vegas gig, over extraordinarily simple, repeated, guitar, bass, and drum lines, and a few sustained organ chords. While this “song” was undoubtedly improvised (not composed in the typical sense), it has a clear, and repeated, melody line and music but was nevertheless improvisationally created. And though it is unclear which band member is playing which instrument, given the simplicity of the lines, it’s plausible that in this “Quadrophonic Toppling” track, Fish was on bass (a nod to the prior “Fish Bass” track on The Siket Disc that appears to largely contain effects but contains some bass notes), Page was on guitar, Mike was on organ, and Trey was on drums. But we don’t know.

What we do know is that the 12/31/99 Big Cypress “version” of “Quadrophonic Toppling” did not constitute a performance or debut of The Siket Disc’s version of “Quadrophonic Toppling” (i.e., the definitive version of this “song”): on 12/31/99, it was simply Mike “playing” (and repeating over the course of several minutes) the audio sample of him saying “Quadrophonic Toppling” from The Siket Disc version. No music of the Disc’s “QT” song/track was performed on 12/31/99. For decades, Phish.Net’s setlists file listed “Quadrophonic Toppling” in the 12/31/99 setlist as if it had been performed, yet the song/track from The Siket Disc was unquestionably not performed on 12/31/99, and so this setlist-notation of “QT” was, at least arguably, in error (albeit in good faith). Controversy ensued when "Quadrophonic Toppling" was removed from the Cypress setlist in 2022, but it was returned to the setlist in August 2023.

The “Quadrophonic Toppling” repeated-audio-sample from Mike on 12/31/99 occurred in the midst of an almost 14-minute improvisation that segued-out of a legendary version of the song “Sand,” which Phish performed about a third of the way through their midnight-to-sunrise set at Big Cypress. Toward the end of “Sand,” the band needed to attend to some personal affairs, and as Trey was tasked with carrying the load, he began a “Digital Delay Loop Jam” (“DDLJ”). About four minutes into that jam, Mike returned to the stage and, using what looks like either an early version of the Blackberry or a recording device of some kind, played into his vocal microphone either an audio sample of him saying “Quadrophonic Toppling” or THE audio sample of him saying "Quadrophonic Toppling" from the studio track of The Siket Disc. Mike then re-played this sample periodically into his mic for several minutes over improv by Trey and Page. Mike’s use of this sample is the only musical element of The Siket Disc’s version of “QT” that appears amidst the “DDLJ” on 12/31/99. There is no yodeling, and the music of The Siket Disc’s version of “QT” was not performed at Cypress. The “DDLJ” eventually terminated after Fish returned to the stage, and the band began an extended, down-tempo introduction to “Slave to the Traffic Light.” 

To date, The Siket Disc bellwether version of the song/track “Quadrophonic Toppling” has not been performed live on stage. And let's face it, it likely never will, because "it" was improvisational. That said, in 2022, Phish moved closer to performing "Quadrophonic Toppling" and, at least arguably, did in fact perform it, which is why it is noted in the setlist (as it is noted in the Cypress setlist). During an extended “Axilla (Part II)” improvisation mid-first-set on 4/22/22 at faux-NYEMSG, the huffing of the armpit went “Type II” and toppled into a somatosensory “What’s The Use?”-infused jam. In the midst of the swirling improvisational abyss, a yodel arose, and the sacred words, “Quadrophonic Toppling” emanated from Mike's mouth a few times. The jam then eventually resolved to a final sniff of the oxter. To be sure, there occurred yodeling by Mike and then a few vocal quotes of “Quadrophonic Toppling”, but this was "performed" over what is clearly "Axilla's" outro jam (coda) and not pure improv (as with The Siket Disc and Cypress versions), and obviously the audio sample was not "played" and none of the music of The Siket Disc version of the song is played either. For this reason, the 4/22/22 setlist merely notes that "Quadrophonic Toppling" was quoted by Mike in "Axilla." And because "Quadrophonic Toppling" is a spoken-word poem or ode or song (if you can call it a "song") that has always been "performed" over improvisation (similar to "Kung" and "Catapult" and "Guy Forget"), it seems appropriate to only note it in a setlist proper as having been performed when it occurs over pure improvisation----as it did on 5/27/22 during the summer tour opener in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Following a slow “Llama” set two opener on 5/27/22, “Soul Planet” plunged deep within the ocean of love. Things got weird. Is my spaceship too near shore? A vague “Gotta Jibboo” vibe emerged from a swirl of vocal samples and dolphin chuckles. Trey (not Mike!) then began singing the “Quadrophonic Toppling” lyric (can it even be called a “lyric”?), AND THERE IS EVEN YODELING, also by Trey. And more yodeling, and repeated undecipherable vocal samples, and more dolphin giggles. As at MSG on 4/22/22, neither the audio sample within nor any of the music of The Siket Disc version of the song were performed. But unlike MSG, and like Cypress, this 5/27/22 performance of "Quadrophonic Toppling" occurred over pure improvisation. It did not occur during an obvious "Soul Planet" jam or jam of any other song by Phish. Similar to "Kung" or "Catapult" or "Guy Forget," and similar to its performance at Cypress, this 5/27/22 "Quadrophonic Toppling" occurred over improvisation and cannot be said to have been simply quoted over another Phish song (as it was at 4/22/22 MSG).

Ultimately, “Quadrophonic Toppling” appears to be an homage of sorts to the landmark first live application of quadraphonic sound: the 5/12/67 Games for May at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Billed as a “Space age relaxation for the climax of spring ---- electronic composition, colour and image projection, girls, and The Pink Floyd,” it sounds like our kind of “Party Time!” That is, if you are going to spend your time on stage in an admiral suit, chopping wood, and spraying bubbles on the furniture, you really should just play “Bike” and push the show into “Interstellar Overdrive.” 

[youtube][/youtube]“Quadrophonic Toppling” begins at approximately 3:57 of this video – 12/31/99, Big Cypress, FL

Albums: The Siket Disc

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