Today’s Making the Case will focus on the masterful song “Roggae.” Roggae’s first appearance, few know, was on June 29, 1998, at a rehearsal in Copenhage, Denmark. I know because I was lucky enough to be there. One day before the European tour truly started, those of us that came by early were treated to Phish’s rehearsal. The soundcheck included a half-hour-plus instrumental version of Roggae. So, yes, perhaps there is some bias, but nonetheless, I’m including Roggae in my “Making the Case” column.
Roggae is named, we are told, because it is a fusion of Rock and Reggae. While you must strain to hear either rock or reggae, most people confirm that it seems an apt-enough title. What makes Roggae special, though, is not just that it fuses two genres. Roggae is a showcase for all four members as musicians, and one that any music afficionado can appreciate.
Having put their vocal talents on display before, Phish squeeze in one verse in which all four members get a chance to sing. Only a handful of originals feature all four members on vocals, and this one gives each person the spotlight, often literally, rather than harmony en-masse.
Further, Roggae is a slow song, which many a musician knows, is the most accessible form of music. I certainly don’t mean to insinuate that Phish’s intent was to reach a larger audience, in fact, I’d argue the antithesis, but I believe Roggae to be a song with mass appeal. It’s got a very nice structure than non-Phishheads can appreciate.
On top of this, Roggae is built for jamming. While it rarely is stretched to its limits, the ending coda is well suited to be extended as long as the band is having fun. A slow and easy line leaves an easy hook for any of the boys to hop on and have some fun.
Roggae’s placement on The Story of the Ghost, though it probably shouldn’t be, is also a factor in its greatness. “Sammiched” in between the uppy “Water in the Sky” and the slow “Wading in the Velvet Sea” establish Roggae as a transition song, either slowing it down, or getting ready to speed it up.
I believe Roggae, aside from being a generally good song, is one of Phish’s best compositions.