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The Story of the Ghost (revised jam chart) - Phish.net
Saturday 02/28/2015 by Dog_Faced_Boy

THE STORY OF THE GHOST (REVISED JAM CHART)

Since the jam chart team has just published a revised chart for Ghost, we thought it would be informative, and perhaps even interesting (for some) to learn more about the process of updating a major jam chart. Ghost is a cherished, fan-favorite jamming song. Going in to this process, we knew that the results would be closely scrutinized, debated, and that we would draw the ire of those who disagree with some of our decisions, like which versions to highlight.

Why did we even feel the need to tinker with the Ghost jam chart? First, the former Ghost chart was assembled in a hurried and somewhat haphazard manner, part of a much larger effort to introduce a new and improved jam chart format that occurred in December 2013. Second, a quick glance at the (now) former chart gave us reason to believe that the chart was overlooking important versions, and underrepresenting particular years. Consider these statistics: the former chart had thirteen versions from 1997 and two from 1999. Likewise, 2003 and 2004 were represented by five total versions, and we inherently knew that the 2.0 era is particularly strong from a jamming perspective. So we set out to do a comprehensive review of all 133 live performances of Ghost, seeking to ensure that a revised chart did not overlook any strong improvisational versions, and that the final chart would reflect the entire performance history of Ghost, covering the high water marks across all years and eras. The team consisted of Marty Acaster (@Doctor_Smarty), Pete Skewes-Coxe (@ucpete), Andrew Stavely (@Westbrook) and me. Below is a description of the processes we employed:

Preparation - Before starting, we wanted to establish whether there is a typical and formulaic pattern to the jam found in most versions of Ghost. After some healthy and heated debate, we concluded that yes, many versions of Ghost share a similar structure. In the typical version, the jam begins with some funky, rocking or exploratory grooving. Then there is a shift, a "release" or "opening" of the jam to a more upbeat, blissful sentiment. I use these self-coined descriptive terms with caution; I am not a musician, and I am certain that musicians, students of music theory and others could provide a more appropriate and accurate term for the shift in mood that seems to happen in most Ghost jams. In addition, while the typical Ghost does follow this basic pattern, the band uses a variety of tecniques to achieve it. Sometimes, the play remains in minor mode throughout, despite this shift to a more upbeat feel. Other times, for example in the version from 12/31/10, there is a clear shift to major mode, which accentuates the blissful nature of the latter part of the jam.

Once we established (at least amongst ourselves) that there is a fundamental pattern to most Ghost jams, we set out to review the 133 versions of Ghost with two goals in mind: 1) to identify the strong, objectively different versions of Ghost which deviate from this normal structure; and 2) to identify the subjectively better versions of Ghost which conform to the typical jamming pattern. The review process was divided into four sequences of review and decision making. These included:

Round 1 - we divided the 133 versions of Ghost evenly among the four of us, and assigned each person a mix of versions from different periods and years. The logic behind assigning each person a mix of versions was two-fold: 1) it would be unfair to everyone else if one person was assigned all of 1997; and 2) when considering a chart encompassing the performance history of a song, it's helpful to listen to versions from different periods, taking note of changes in the style and focus of the jamming. The principal instruction for Round 1 was simply to identify the absolute, must-be-on-chart, no-brainer type versions, like 11/17/97, 5/22/00, and 11/28/09. In addition, each member was also asked to rate his other versions a "no" - not for chart, or a "maybe." For maybe versions, people were asked to assign a weighting of high, medium or low.

Round 2 - of the versions that were voted "yes" or must-be-on-chart in Round 1 (33), we reviewed and cut this list to the 18 versions we felt were indisputable chart material - those mentioned above and others like 7/2/98 and 9/12/99. The remaining 15 yes versions from Round 1 were combined with the 14 highly rated maybe versions to make up the pool for Round 2. To further ensure that we did not miss any quality versions with chart potential, we elevated four versions to Round 2 that we felt had possibly been overlooked or underrated in Round 1. Finally, each participant got to pick one version, a personal favorite or one he thought should get another listen, and add it to the Round 2 pool. It turns out that this last measure was a good one. Several versions that made the final chart arrived there after receiving a rating of less than a high maybe in Round 1, including 12/11/99 and 12/31/09. In all, the pool of versions to review in Round 2 totaled 37.

In Round 2, every version was assigned to two new listeners who had not heard this version in the first round. Versions which received two affirmative yes votes in Round 2 were elevated to the final jam chart. Versions which received one or more maybe votes in Round 2 were pushed to Round 3. In other words, in order to make the jam chart in Round 2, a version needed to be rated a yes or high maybe in Round 1, and then receive unanimous yes votes from the new listeners in Round 2. At the end of Round 2, the jam chart had increased from 18 after Round 1 to 40 total versions. 22 of the 37 Round 2 versions were approved for the jam chart, while the remaining 15 were pushed out to the next cycle of review.

Round 3 - every one of the 15 versions that made up the Round 3 pool had received at least one maybe vote in a previous round. In many cases, these Round 3 versions had received two or even three maybe votes. Looking through this list, as a group, we decided that none of these versions was as strong or as clear-cut in definitively belonging on the chart as the ones that had moved up in Round 2. So we came up with a process for picking the final jam chart versions from this group of 15 “fence straddlers.” Of the 15, we picked 5 versions, bringing the total revised chart to 46 versions, or 45 jamming versions plus the debut (we always include the debut version in major charts). By coincidence and not by intention, 46 versions is precisely the same number of versions as appeared on the former chart.

Highlighted Versions - finally, we went through several mechanisms to determine which versions should be highlighted. Initially, everyone was instructed to vote for 12 versions. After compiling the votes, there were nine versions which had received unanimous support (4 votes). After those nine however, the results became more unclear. There were a couple of versions where the voting split down the middle - two people voted for version X and did not vote for version Y. The other two voted for version Y but did not vote for version X. One person suggested we do a vote in which each rank our choices for highlighting, from first to last. By assigning a successively lower numerical value to every placement vote below first place, we hoped to determine if this method would better indicate a consensus on which versions to highlight. In truth, this second process to pick highlighted versions helped to clarify some things, only to confuse others. We went through several additional iterations of voting for highlighted versions. When we finally concluded the highlighting process, everyone was very comfortable not only with the versions we selected, but also felt we did not leave any deserving versions unhighlighted.

The Revised Jam Chart for Ghost - as a group, we feel strongly that this revised chart is better and more fully representative of Ghost's prominent improvisational history than its predecessor was. Nearly 40% of the versions on this chart are new. In general, there are more versions from 1999 and the 2.0 era than before, and slightly fewer versions from 1997 and the 3.0 era. In addition, there are 11 completely new versions, ones which have never appeared on any previous version of a Ghost chart. A great example of these completely new versions is the Ghost from 7/30/99. A 22 minute improvisational behemoth, this particular version may have escaped general attention because back in the days of "tape trading," few copies of the recording from this Niigata, Japan show circulated. Also making a showing for the first time are two excellent versions from July, 2003. And there are several strong versions from the 3.0 era that have not previously appeared on any Ghost jam chart. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion about the content of the new chart. But for the four most directly involved in assembling this chart, we feel satisfied that the final product is more comprehensive than its predecessor was.

A final note: We fully expect to draw criticism from some circles about versions that were included or not included on the chart, and chart versions that were highlighted or not highlighted. Criticism is welcome and an expected result of an effort like this one, especially for a song as near and dear to many as Ghost. Having said that, we strongly encourage you to take some time, and listen to every version of Ghost on the revised chart, as we have. If you do, you may discover some fantastic versions you haven't heard before. And you may come to better understand the rationale behind some of our decisions, even if you disagree with these selections. Regardless, Ghost is rightfully celebrated as one of the premier Phish jamming songs, and we sincerly hope the new chart helps you to more easily navigate and enjoy the many great versions that exist.

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Comments

, comment by L1verK1ck
L1verK1ck '97 Star Lake 😕
, comment by L1verK1ck
L1verK1ck What I ment to say was great job. Just missing '97 Star Lake
, comment by sstevee00
sstevee00 Great work guys! I'm beyond thrilled that excellent versions such as 7/30/99, 8/7/98, and 6/15/00 get the treatment they deserve. However, I will be busy mourning the loss of my favorite Ghost of 2014: 7/12/14. I would figure that this lovely version would survive the chopping block, but, alas, it was not meant to be. She died way too young lads...
, comment by Knox_Harrington
Knox_Harrington Seriously, thank you for putting things like this together. You just inspired me to make my first long overdue donation to Mockingbird. I should really donate more to npr too. Thank you!
, comment by ContemplatingJazz
ContemplatingJazz Wow. I knew that these were taken seriously, but I didn't realize how meticulously vetted every one of these lists is. Awesome. I know I speak for more than just myself when I say that this service is much appreciated. Keep it up!
, comment by nichobert
nichobert One weird thing about a Ghost deep dive is realizing that maybe it never quite achieved top tier jamming status. Lot of awesome versions that aren't really that far removed from your average-spectacular 1st set 3.0 Gin type jams.
, comment by metawhy
metawhy "Disjointed whale hunting cruise pays off with a massive wad of rich blubber and luxurious ambergris as the voyage concludes."

god this writing is great! this reminds me of the guy who used to post Ghost reviews back in the day - always so creative!
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 @nichobert said:
One weird thing about a Ghost deep dive is realizing that maybe it never quite achieved top tier jamming status. Lot of awesome versions that aren't really that far removed from your average-spectacular 1st set 3.0 Gin type jams.
Well, sure, but there's lots of Tweezers like that (even in the mid-90s!) and lots of Diseases that run 10 minutes with no Type II (the 3/1/97 one leaps to mind) and so on and so forth. I personally feel like Ghost has a very high hit rate of truly classic jams to number of times played, even in 2014 (there's still 2 or 3 post-2009 Ghosts that I think should have the green treatment back), which should firmly wedge it in top tier status. If I had a Big Jam Vehicle Mt. Rushmore for across-era greatness, it'd be Tweezer, Disease, Ghost, and probably (here's a crazy thought) Twist.
, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy Fantastic work- job well done and a fascinating look at the methodology. I have three versions queued up to listen to next week that I don't remember anything about or even if I've listened before.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @metawhy said:
"Disjointed whale hunting cruise pays off with a massive wad of rich blubber and luxurious ambergris as the voyage concludes."

god this writing is great! this reminds me of the guy who used to post Ghost reviews back in the day - always so creative!
Same guy. National Treasure.
, comment by whrdina
whrdina If we took this much care picking our leaders, we'd have a better country. Great job!
, comment by ProfPhan
ProfPhan Nice job, but I have four issues with this chart.

-- Not really understanding how 6/26/04 (a very simple, one dimensional version) gets the yellow text and 2/26/03 (a unique jam that has several movements and tells a one-a-kind story) doesn't???

-- 12/31/10 is one of the most euphoric pieces of music I've ever heard and I got about 10,000 people to back me up on this. Yellow, anyone????

-- 6/4/09 needs to be on here for its narrative elements, I'm sure whoever was in charge of this one glanced over it

-- So Johnny-Come-Lately to put 12/31/14 on here in yellow. SOOOOO predictable and honestly, this jam is average at best, take it off
, comment by ucpete
ucpete @ProfPhan said:
Nice job, but I have four issues with this chart.

-- Not really understanding how 6/26/04 (a very simple, one dimensional version) gets the yellow text and 2/26/03 (a unique jam that has several movements and tells a one-a-kind story) doesn't???

-- 12/31/10 is one of the most euphoric pieces of music I've ever heard and I got about 10,000 people to back me up on this. Yellow, anyone????

-- 6/4/09 needs to be on here for its narrative elements, I'm sure whoever was in charge of this one glanced over it

-- So Johnny-Come-Lately to put 12/31/14 on here in yellow. SOOOOO predictable and honestly, this jam is average at best, take it off
Some quick replies:

1) We sought to highlight versions across various eras and years, and Alpine '04 is clearly the cream of the '04 crop (not that there were too many to choose from). We also felt that with the quick jump into double-time, and the dark, dripping '04 sound contrasted against what I hear as a full-blown euphoric, debaucherous dance party, made this one a real winner.

2) We recognize that 12/31/10 is high on many people's lists, and we aren't denying the feel good nature of the modulation to a major mode halfway through the jam. But it's a one-dimensional jam, and as far as the structure goes, relatively straightforward for Ghost. More in 4).

3) We liked both 6/4/09 and 6/9/09 -- both were 'maybe' after the first round. In the end I believe we thought that 6/4/09 was straightforward until the last few minutes, while 6/9/09 deviated a bit more throughout. I could see us revisiting these two in particular, as this one ended up being a bit of coin toss in my estimation. I most certainly did not glance over it -- I listened to it three times. Here are my notes if you're curious:

"Surprised the second time around with this version. Most of it's really straightforward, but it gets way out there for the last five minutes. Maybe CW [chart worthy] after all."

4) You're telling me you predicted that they would play a similar but more hose-driven version of 12/31/10, then come back as if they were going to end the song, only to jam on the outro (passing again through the octave work from Trey that spawned the modulation in the first place!) and bring it back to the heights of the jam again?! If anything, I think you're only undermining your argument for highlighting 12/31/10. After the 9 minute mark (in 12/31/14), Trey plays like I honestly didn't think he could play anymore -- absolutely devastating (in the best way possible) work from him from 9:15 - 10:15. Strap on some headphones, forget how we all felt about 12/31/10 right after it happened, and carefully revisit 12/31/10 and 12/31/14 back-to-back and I think you'll agree. (We were unanimous in un-highlighting 2010 and highlighting 2014).
, comment by LawnMemo
LawnMemo Really enjoyed the read and thank you to all those involved. Some of my personal thoughts...

1.) I never understood how much acclaim Limestone and Island Tour Ghost get. Neither does much for me, they just don't do that much for me.

2.) Major props for highlighting Christiana 07-02-98 and not Prague. Christiana is such a beast.

3.) 7/20/99 Toronto needs to be on the list. When I did my project, it received universal acclaim. Its the father to Radio City http://lawnmemo.com/the-daily-ghost-50/

4.) Props for Coventry. Intro is horrible, jam is great.

5.) Another must for me is Red Rocks 09, goes all over and the Windy City finish is awesome.

5.) Any reason Randall's didn't make the cut? I thought it was best of this year.

Just some quick thoughts, but in reality great job. You nailed most of the great versions and appreciate the time and energy you put in!
, comment by colors_in_the_void
colors_in_the_void Besides the Star Lake '97, off the top of my head, what about Hampton '13?

Deserves a mention for sure, no highlight, but it should be up there.
, comment by cozzmosis
cozzmosis Where is 10/19/13 (Hampton)?????? It used to be on the old jamming chart, why would it get taken off? That was an INCREDIBLE version! Easily one of the best in many recent years...
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @cozzmosis said:
Where is 10/19/13 (Hampton)?????? It used to be on the old jamming chart, why would it get taken off? That was an INCREDIBLE version! Easily one of the best in many recent years...
The 2nd half of that jam is amazing. The first half of that jam is god awful.
, comment by Dog_Faced_Boy
Dog_Faced_Boy Thanks to everyone who has provided comments and feedback here. In hindsight, I think the Round 1 screening process may have had flaws, and we may have overlooked a few solid versions that did not get moved up to a second or third review.

The team wants the chart to be complete and comprehensive as much as anyone else. Based on the comments, we are reconsidering several versions. After doing so, if we think we made a mistake by overlooking any strong versions, we will correct for that omission and supplement the chart. Thanks again.
, comment by SoularT
SoularT I'm really excited to explore some of the newly-added versions that I haven't heard before, so thanks guys! I do have to disagree with stripping 12/31/10 of its yellow, though. I know it is a pretty typical ghost-jam structure, but it's probably the best and most well-executed "typical" ghost jam I've heard (not the best ghost jam, but the best "typical" ghost jam).
, comment by Ez_and_not_so_Fast
Ez_and_not_so_Fast I ain't afraid of no ghost!

Image
, comment by Midcoaster
Midcoaster The only thing that ever revs my ire is the idiotic 90s slackerism which denied my own self opportunities to see said charted jams.

Image
, comment by coral_sand_below
coral_sand_below I'm sorry, but unhighlighting Prague I really feel is an absolute travesty. Yes, it's "one-dimensional", BUT it's about as amazing of a one dimensional jam as you're going to find from Phish. By this logic, we should un-highlight 12/2/95 Tweezer as well.

Just my 1/50th of a dollar.
, comment by Dog_Faced_Boy
Dog_Faced_Boy We've completed our review prompted by a number of great comments here and in the Forum thread which suggested some great versions which may have been passed over in error. As it turns out, the fault was not in our Round 1 screening, but in the amount of data that we recorded from this round. The members of the team did not overlook any great versions so much as we failed, through insufficient notes and tracking, to make sure that all of these versions moved on to Round 2 where more members would get a chance to hear them.

So in totality, we have added 6 more versions, offset by the removal of 4 which we felt were not as strong as these new additions. These new versions include 3 from 1998, 2 from 1999, and 1 from 2014.

I realized the other day, after listening to my 100th+ version over the past few weeks, why this process is such a challenge: there simply is no magical or obvious formula for what constitutes a great version of Ghost. Whether it's straightforward or very Type II, different knowledgeable Phish fans will often have divergent views on the same version. And there is no obvious reason for these differing opinions. On our team of four, I counted numerous instances where we split 2 vs 2 on the same version. But the 2 vs 2 thing was not predictable in any way - some times, Marty and I went head to head against Andrew and Pete. Other times, Andrew and I felt one way and Pete and Marty the other. And there were several instances where Pete and I were drawn to a version which Marty and Andrew found uninspiring, or worse.

The diversity of opinions generated by the same version of a popular song like Ghost is what makes compiling a chart like this a challenge. Some will say we left great versions off this chart, and they have a very valid argument. To some fans, that missing version really is a great version. Maybe the four of didn't hear it that way, but that's just the opinion of four, and there are plenty of other Ghost fans out there with excellent and well-informed opinions. So in the end, all we could do was come up with the best chart that the four of us could agree to (and that in and of itself was a significant challenge at times!!).

I'd like to thank the people who posted comments to this blog and to the Forum thread with helpful suggestions for versions we initially missed, folks like @sstevee00, @MiguelSanchez, @n00b100, and @LawnMemo, as well as lots of others. I also like to suggest to any serious Ghost fans that you check out @LawnMemo's Daily Ghost blog, which provides detailed, entertaining and thoughtful information on every single performance of Ghost (or almost every version, I think he's still finishing up 2014). The information he provides is far more detailed than our jam charts allow for, so check it out if you haven't seen it before.

Lastly a sincere thank you to my colleagues @Doctor_Smarty, @ucpete and @Westbrook. A week ago, we thought this project was a "wrap." Thanks to the fans out there, we realized that we needed to go back and listen to some more versions. And listen we did. These three guys are relentless and independent minded, yet cooperative, team oriented, and care only that if our first crack at a new chart for Ghost had some holes in it, that we do our collective best to fix the chart, and make it even better. Thanks guys!
, comment by tubescreamer
tubescreamer @Dog_Faced_Boy, @Doctor_Smarty, @ucpete and @Westbrook. First off I want to say what an incredible undertaking this was. Really impressive, considerate, and well planned. A boon for the community at large. Thank you. While relistening to the summer 97 tour, i just noticed a very small update needed-- It looks like 7-10-97 ghost was removed from the chart but when you hover over the jam after Take Me To The River it says to see the ghost chart. Just thought you should know. Thanks!
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