“Bug” by Phish

There appears to be two common ways in which the title of this song (“Bug’) has been understood. One is that “bug” – a term also mentioned in the chorus – is a reference to Y2K, which was supposed to be a major computer bug.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Phish's Bug at Lyrics.org.

For readers who may not have been around at the turn of the century, many people were concerned that due to a certain rumored glitch, the computers we were using would not be able to process dates beyond the year 2000, thus throwing like the entire world economy into disarray. It may sound funny now, but to reiterate, a lot of folk were shook back then. And we don’t know if Phish were among them. But it is interesting, even if unrelated, to also note that phishing itself is a form of computer attack.

The second generally-accepted hypothetical premise is that these lyrics represent the vocalist’s reflections on the life of a bug. In other words, he observes how insects conduct themselves or what have you and compares that to us human beings. 

Don’t be obsessed with material things!

Whether the inspiration was Y2K, a bug’s life or anything else, these lyrics ultimately read like a criticism of being preoccupied with things of the world, as some people would term it.

In other words, it all begins with the vocalist getting existential on the listener. And what he seems to be saying is that, generally speaking, what we spend most of our time thinking about is, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant. And again, this is the type of philosophical conclusion one can come either by being under the impression the world is coming to an end, so to speak, or by observing how simpler forms of life do their thing.

A criticism of finances?

Now it should be noted that even though this piece is terse lyrically, it’s not easy to understand in whole. So it’s like, who really knows what Trey is talking about at the beginning of the second verse anyway? But as the passage closes, you do kinda get the impression that he’s criticizing finances basically. It is as though he is saying we are all caught up in the rat race as we spend or save. Or as the final line of the song reads, “it doesn’t matter”.

Long and Short of “Bug”

Due to what has to be the intentional ambiguity of what’s being put forth, some speculation is in order. In these types of pieces, sometimes it’s best to focus on what is generally discernible as opposed to what isn’t. And it’s easy to tell that “Bug” is supposed to represent some deep thinking on the part of the narrator; “his thoughts are faded”, and his ultimate conclusion is that “it doesn’t matter” anyway.

Those types of assertions, when put together, can be taken different ways. But it seems that in the very least, Phish is questioning the overall validity of the paper chase which tends to define our lives. For if the Y2K bug were to hit as some believed, the economy would have been cast back ages, i.e. many people instantly losing their wealth. Or if you look at things from an animal’s perspective, of course they don’t even use money in the first place. So it’s sorta like where the vocalist’s thoughts are leading him are to the concept of not thinking too much to begin with.

Lyrics for Phish's "Bug"

Phish and “Bug”

Phish is a band of rockers from Vermont who have released 15 studio albums between 1989 and 2020. The song “Bug” comes from the ninth of such outings, a project titled “Farmhouse”, which Elektra Records made public on 16 May 2000. To note there’s only one actual single that came from that LP, a song called “Heavy Things”.

Phish’s membership has remained consistent throughout the decades, consisting of these musicians:

  • vocalist/guitarist Trey Anastasio
  • bassist Mike Gordon
  • keyboardist Page McConnell
  • drummer Jon Fishman

Phish member, Anastasio, wrote this song along with one of the band’s regular collaborators, Tom Marshall. Anastasio was also behind the production of the entirety of “Farmhouse”, achieving that goal alongside Bryce Goggin.


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