Happy Birthday Mike Gordon: Phish Isolated Bass Tracks

By Nate Todd Jun 3, 2021 9:58 am PDT

Mike Gordon celebrates his 56th birthday today. The beloved Phish bassist was born on June 3, 1965 in Sudbury, Massachusetts. As the lord of the low end in Phish, Mike’s unique style of bass playing keeps in step with Jon Fishman’s intricate beats, bubbles underneath Page McConnell's keyboard stylings and offers a melodic foil to Trey Anastasio’s guitar.

Of all the conventional rock instruments, bass can often drift to the back of listeners’ minds as guitar and keys steal the limelight. But not with Mike, he keeps his lines interesting and his slap bass is poppin’. Even so, it’s a treat to get to hear Gordon’s bass lines isolated to really dial in on the tasty, and sometimes nasty, stuff he’s doing. Luckily, a beautiful intersection of nerddom took place when Mike’s bass tracks were isolated from a number of live Phish songs featured in the video games Rock Band and Guitar Hero. JamBase takes a look at four of these isolated tracks in honor of Mike’s birthday today.

Llama | 1991

The first is from the game Rock Band, which featured Phish performing “Llama” from 1991. It’s easy to see why Cactus is a fitting nickname for Gordon because his slap bass absolutely bristles on this track.

Chalk Dust Torture | November 16, 1994

The next 3 isolated tracks come from a Phish “Live Track Pack” gamers could purchase for Guitar Hero World Tour. On the “Chalk Dust Torture” from November 16, 1994 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mike really shows off how he walks the tight rope between holding down a conventional bassline but also adding some choice melodic flourishes, not two mention two-note and even chords, that one might not notice with the full band playing.

Sample In A Jar | December 1, 1994

If “Chalk Dust Torture” shows off Gordon’s more melodic side, then the isolated track of Sample In A Jar” from December 1, 1994 in Salem, Oregon is Mike holding down the deep end plain and simple. But to add some flair, his bass does have an edgy bite to it.

Down With Disease | December 1, 1995

Perhaps one of Mike’s most recognizable basslines is his intro to “Down With Disease.” It’s often an easy song to see coming because you can hear Cactus kick on his flanger and envelope filter. Mike’s line on “DWD” — the one above from December 1, 1995 in Hershey, Pennsylvania — also has a bit of everything: some nasty slapping, some bubbly melodic runs and some good old-fashioned bass thumping.

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