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Jive II


Source of Lyrics: Goose the Band

Song Bio

The 11th and final track on "Moon Cabin."

While speaking to Phish lyricist Tom Marshall about this song on Tom's podcast Under the Scales, Rick mentioned that its lyrical content was in large part inspired by a sense of discontent he and his friends experienced in their upper-middle class Connecticut upbringing.

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Song Interpretation

Interpreted By: Wingsa Milelong

… it’s those simple ones that follow us to our graves …
… if I could peel the husk, I wouldn’t lead such long, long days …
… just a little bit goes a long, long way …

These lines … even taken individually … are some of the most hauntingly cautionary and memorable among Rick’s “earlier” lyrics. Who hasn’t had those phrases swirl around their mind as an earworm as they go about daily life?

Before diving into the lyrics, however, a bit of context might help: 
Jive II was 1st performed March 14, 2015, at Jimmy’s Seaside Tavern in Stamford, CT. While not among Rick’s earliest lyrics, it was written and first performed during Goose’s formative years and early, regionally-targeted tours with Rick, Trevor, Ben, & earlier members of Goose prior to Peter joining.

Jive II 
was selected to close Moon Cabin, so its lyrics can, and perhaps should, be taken within that larger first packaged work’s context. The overall tenor and content of the album’s lyrics are the observations & thoughts of a young person coming-of-age recently … with often fun, but always incisive lyrics. Each song contributes to the overall themes of searching, seeking, self-examination & revelation, along with equally unflinching observations of human behavior & society … and thoughts on how to live sanely within that milieu.

In Jive I’s upbeat, celebratory rejection of anything (or anyone) stale, limiting, or restricting (e.g., a status quo whose time has passed), we’ve already been warned, “… don’t waste your days on the endless race, you know it’s not too late to leave it all behind ….” Then, following Rosewood Heart’s wonderfully rejuvenating, hopeful message of awakening, …
… Jive II begins with the alarmed, almost contemptuous (nervously angry?) first person observations of a young, school- or college-aged narrator viewing the lives of those older in their community (& perhaps not very much older at all):
saw their days
bitten away by grinding teeth
we laughed, like hell we laughed
The biting & grinding here are lives of family, friends, & acquaintances being physically, methodically worn/torn away and devoured. By what or whom, we don’t know yet … but all the young narrator and their peers can do at this point is laugh, albeit tinged with nervous mocking dread … and perhaps a knowing sadness. It might also help to reference, “… sneaking around while the steel teeth grind,” from Factory Fiction… as it seems Rick is referencing imagery from a similar place.

then it fell
dude rang his bell
he said “the games up
these rules are mine
and boy if you are wise
you’ll come to play along
boy you’ll come and get yourself in line”
he said
“boy you’ll come and get yourself in line”

Our narrator comes of age, and the symbolic gavel falls or jackboot stomps (or similar). It’s now his & his friends’ turn to follow in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before; to work for, obey, and dutifully follow the rules of … the “dude”(!), who represents those in human societies who run what have become systems of soul-sucking control and dream-squelching oppression. The “dude” expects unquestioning acquiescence from our Hero (and us), and his demands stand in direct, stark contrast and opposition to what seems to be Goose’s ultimate message to its listeners (provided at the end of the Hungersite video): Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
With these lyrics, Rick is drawing a clear distinction. His vision of what life can (& should) be is diametrically opposite the dude’s … and the system’s.
The narrator then speaks directly to himself and his listeners, asking 3 questions about his experience of LIFE itself (the “it” in these questions):
was I wrong to think it epic?
was I naïve to think it grand?
was I wrong to think it magic?

Although the narrator asks if he’s wrong & naïve, these questions clearly say what life truly is for him: an epic, grand, & magical experience. And that experience stands in absolute contrast to the exploited life of a rule-following, deferent mill (or office) worker who has … for whatever reason … given up on their dreams and become numb to the miraculous nature of their life and its possibilities.
The narrator then asks a final fourth question that’s both a cry of frustration about the seemingly impossible situation, but also … and much more importantly … a challenge to himself and the listener:
are we all just sitting in his hand?
Are we truly fated to do the Dude’s bidding? … sacrificing our lives for his benefit … and to his carefully crafted systems of ensnarement & oppression? Are we simply system fodder? Grist for the dude’s mill?
no, no, no, no
you almost had me fooled
… you almost had me fooled …
The narrator closely follows his four questions with four emphatically repeated ‘no’s ….
The dude is, first and foremost, wrong. Life is epic, grand, and magic. Next, our narrator directly admonishes the Dude (& system): “you almost had me fooled” … with the unspoken implication that he doesn’t believe the Dude, buy his rules, or accept his system.
More widely, I feel Rick’s message here is: don’t allow anyone, yourself included, to deny, negate, or minimize the epic, grand, & magical experience that is your life. Again, it comes back to: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Pursue YOUR potential, YOUR happiness, YOUR passion.
And finally, we come to the song’s last 3 lines which are repeated as a chorus:
… it’s those simple ones that follow us to our graves …
… if I could peel the husk, I wouldn’t lead such long, long days …
… just a little bit goes a long, long way …
Note, too, that Rick alters the first line during one of the chorus repetitions:
… it’s that simple love that follow us to our graves …
Before delving deeper, we should acknowledge Rick’s use (& powerful repetition) of familiar phrases in these lyrics. Something that “follows us to our graves,” is a well-known sentiment, as is the saying, “just a little bit goes a long way.” Here, however, Rick chooses to use & augment these familiar phrases & and their ideas/imagery to provide us with powerfully haunting song- & album-ending messages.
While Rick likely had a specific vision in mind when composing these lines, they can be reasonably interpreted in several different ways (& perhaps should be interpreted in as many ways as there are fans 😉). That said, I offer 2 different “takes” on what these lines might mean specifically. I also know that Rick & Pete discussed the lyrics to Jive II in an interview a few years ago; I’ve been unable to access that podcast, to my deep chagrin, so can only offer these for what they are: a fan and deeply grateful patron’s interpretations of Rick’s hauntingly powerful lyrics.
One possible understanding is that these final lines are a meditation, of sorts, regarding those who DO get in line and follow the system’s rules. These folks first make a seemingly simple, almost innocuous decision to earn a living and acquiesce to the system in their youth; “it’s those simple ones”… perhaps coming from “that simple love” they have for loved ones … and wanting to provide for them. But all too easily/quickly, and without much notice, this develops into a permanent situation they’d never have chosen initially (follow us to our graves) ... if they’d only known(!). The 2nd line in this interpretation regrets the choice, and it dreams of being free (& safe) to peel away the protective, calloused layers grown in response to the system’s grinding, biting, teeth. It’s hard to be creative & free (to be truly YOU) when you are consumed with damage control … it’s the source of much alcoholism, drug abuse, and other forms of numbing out to unending repression & denial (from others, but even worse, ourselves). The 3rd verse in this interpretation becomes a haunting, cautionary warning & lament … as a decision or choice in our young, naïve, distant past can persist a long, long damaging way into our future. Quite a heavy, sobering benediction with which to end Moon Cabin… and from the mind and heart of a young man in his mid-20s. As someone in their 60s looking back, Rick’s level of acute perception is extraordinary, utterly refreshing, and even relieving (healing) in some way. Maybe just speaking naked truth has a power unto itself.
A simultaneously(!) more uplifting interpretation:
… those simple ones that follow us to our graves,” are our basic, core, everyday choices that, taken collectively, form our souls. They are what enable us to get up each day with hope to continue … to live life fully & openly, seeing the beauty & promise of each day & each person. It is an intentional, volitional CHOICE. In Rick’s repetition of the chorus, he changes from, “it’s those simple ones,” seeming to express regrets, to, “it’s that simple love,” referencing connections with people. Humans are social animals—we need connection, community, belonging. We want to help others and be a contributing part of a tribe, essentially. A lifetime of camaraderie, human connection, & contentment with those are their own reward. Nothing else is needed; as Rick’s said to us many times, “…you don’t realize you have all you need…”). If we can look deeply & honestly enough at our core, we’ll understand the most important thing we need, without all the materialistic layers … and we’d realize we don’t have to work so hard to be happy – to be whole. We can just BE. Truth is, it doesn’t take very much to live fully … sufficient shelter, sufficient food, and people we love & who love us. It’s these simple things that make life worth living… and make a person whole.

The “dude” on the other hand, is a hungry ghost (in the Tibetan Buddhist sense), with an unquenchable thirst for affluence & power over others. He has no qualms trampling the lives of countless people to achieve that illusory supremacy. Yet, it’s ironic he’s filling a void hungry for meaning with something entirely meaningless, and the tragedy is exponentially compounded as he negatively impacts the lives of others in the pursuit of that meaningless gilded power. Our narrator sees and understands this, and knows his life (and by invitation, ours) doesn’t need to be a forced march through a soul-sucking wasteland just to merely survive. If we can reject the poisonous mentality the Dude’s system is pushing (and ceaselessly trying to pull us into), then we can live a life that is truly fulfilling, for ourselves and those we love & care about.

Final thoughts: As an old man, these words feel like the response of a highly intelligent, deeply thoughtful & sensitive (even empathic) young mind growing up in “successful” America (in this case, the wealthy suburbs of NYC) … and learning at an early age and on a profound level that all that “success” (and perceived safety) can’t & won’t protect from life’s painful tragedies and losses. Reality bites painfully hard for everyone, and life is much shorter than many care to admit. So, we’re better off stripping away our delusional, neurotic patinas focused on “stuff” and superficialities … and seek to experience life’s grand, epic, MAGIC adventure …as is… each moment a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity never to be seen again. It certainly puts working a 9-5 for The Man into perspective and positions Goose to invite and encourage everyone to go confidently in the direction of their dreams.