Originally Performed ByPhish
Lyrics ByJimmy Johnson
VocalsLaura Olsher (Narration Samples)
Phish Debut2014-10-31
Last Played2014-10-31
Current Gap183
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update2016-02-11


The most common self-doubt experienced by many a ship’s skipper is the simple question: “Are you too near the shore, with its crashing surf and jagged rocks?” For as anybody with experience guiding a vessel on the high seas will tell you, sailing in open water is pretty simple, harsh weather notwithstanding; the hard parts of the ocean are always going to be its edges. The leeward shore is where you will find trouble and the watery graves of the less fortunate navigators who came before you. Whether it be the Graveyard of the Pacific, which stretches from Cape Scott on the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Tillamook Bay, Oregon, or the Graveyard(s) of the Atlantic, which surround the Outer Banks of Virginia and North Carolina to the south and Sable Island off Nova Scotia to the north; here there be ghosts of both ships and sailors alike. 

Such is the tale told by narrator Laura Olsher in “Shipwreck,” the sixth track on Disneyland Records' sound effects album Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. As the captain of a passenger liner on a holiday cruise attempts to make his way along a rocky shoreline, he encounters a thick patch of fog. Although he reduces speed and proceeds with caution, he inexplicably makes the fatal blunder of leaving the bridge in order to reassure his passengers. To the sound effects of crashing surf, howling winds (typically not observed during foggy conditions), and foghorns, the ship ultimately ends up wrecking on the reef; suffering a fate not unlike that of the Costa Concordia when it struck Isola del Giglio in January 2012 as her Captain (Francesco Schettino) showed great negligence and hubris while performing a sail-by and steered the vessel too close to shore.

When Phish performed “Shipwreck” during their Halloween 2014 adaptation of Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, the Laura Olsher narration preceded the debut performance of this song about an ill-fated ocean voyage. The opening movement of “Shipwreck” is a Floydian slip that artfully recreates the wallowing heave of the ocean as the boat lumbers toward the fogbound rocky shore. The bridge, depicting the horrifying moments when the feckless captain abandons his, is all about the squeals of metal on rock, water pouring through the hull, and the vessel’s descent into the abyss. The final act of the “Shipwreck” evokes images of the silent screams of “What’s The Use?” emanating from the ghostly mouths of the passengers and crew as the phantom ship sets sail for destinations unknown.


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