Blue Water Origins
By Jake Vigliotti
Blue Water Baboon Farm. Just the name invokes a bit of intrigue. Who names a song after a baboon? And what’s with the water? Well, for starters, the true, copyrighted name is simply Blue Water. No Farm. No Baboons. But what fun is that? After all, it was named “Blue Water Baboon Farm” at one time, right? Well, not exactly.
The first recorded Blue Water Baboon Farm happened on May 5, 1992. Campus radio station WTJU held a fund raiser, and DMB (minus Boyd – who was not officially in the band yet, and Carter, who skipped on the daytime performance) performed a set live. During a break, a caller asked Dave to play “Big Blue Baboon Farm”, much to the surprise of host Rob Beamer and also Peter Greisar (you’ll recall he was in the DMB then). The band performed it, and they all commented how well it worked – Peter responding “That was a really cool song, Dave.” And Dave mentioned how it was the first time “They all” played it. Dave went as far as to joke they’d play it every day from there on out.
It's worth noting that the copyright office lists the date of origin as 1990. However, practically no one that knew Dave back then recalls the song in any form during those very early days of writing. So there isn't any 'proof' of the songs existence prior to that radio performance. But clearly, some people knew of it. And Dave seemingly wanted to play it again.
And the Dave Matthews Band did play it again a week later, in Richmond on May 13. Even the earliest cassette tapes traded called the song “Blue Water Baboon Farm”. So how exactly did that title stick? It seems that somehow Big Blue Baboon Farm morphed into Blue Water Baboon Farm, and the name sort of stuck. Shortly after the May 13 performance, on May 26 Minarets and Blue Water Baboon Farm were performed in a medley. Blue Water Baboon Farm followed Minarets for the rest of its existence in this format.
Later, when the Minarets digest mailing list became the spot for info, an email chain where fans interacted in a message board-style, fans reverted to calling the song “Blue Water”, and only referring to it by the full “Blue Water Baboon Farm” for those performances that they deemed ‘special’ – specifically those in which Boyd really shined. They referred to that - the Boyd jam - as the “Baboon Farm” portion. Incidentally, Boyd shined on every version, so they were all Blue Water Baboon Farm. Funny how that works out? So, in reality, every time someone mentioned the song as Blue Water, it was petty-much corrected to Blue Water Baboon Farm. And, of course, the song was a fan-favorite. Even in those early days, fans pined for the song to be played live.
Then, oddly, in 1994, the song disappeared. Fans were a bit miffed, and in a time when DMB wasn’t the world act that they are, fans could ask Dave ‘what happened to Blue Water Baboon Farm?’ The answers were usually casual enough; just focusing on other material, preparing for a new album, etc. Of course, there probably was a lot more going on. Dave commented in a 2001 interview that suicide was always something on his mind (more on that later). This was also a time when the little band from the little town from “somewhere in Virginia” made it big, and there must be a natural sense of guilt associated with that; considering all the other bands that didn’t make it. But the real reason rests only among the band. Little did anyone know that February 25, 1995 would be the last full-band Blue Water Baboon Farm. It just fell-out of full-band shows. Dave performed it a few times (mostly partials) during Dave and Tim shows in 1990’s, but the song, as a full-out jam song with Boyd blasting away, was all but gone.
On December 8, 2000 at Penn State, a fan won a chance to meet Dave prior to the show. With him he brought a VHS tape that had some old songs on it. The tape was cued up to Blue Water Baboon Farm from June 17, 1992. Clearly Dave saw it. It was the first Blue Water Baboon Farm of any kind in three years. The shock that went through the internet - to those watching the real-time set list, was thunderous. The name Blue Water flashed, and then quickly disappeared from the on-line listing. We all quickly found out it was true; the beloved Blue Water Baboon Farm returned! Throughout the 2000’s, it made occasional appearances in Dave and Tim shows, but it’s still been missing as a full-band song.
Until now. For the most part at least
The big question is, why? Well, it’s a heavy song, in terms of lyrics. It seems that it’s about suicide; not exactly the most cheery topic for any song. It’s also quite long, and at a time when DMB was trying to introduce their music to new fans, such a somber tune could be deemed as a show-killer. Sure, I love it, and you love it, but it could be taken that way.
So why is it back? Now? Again, who knows? Dave sent a ‘tweet’ (if that is the proper terminology) the day after the Charlottesville show, simply saying “Blue Water”. Something must have triggered his memory. Regardless, it’s back, and that’s a good thing.
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