Backwards Down The Number Line
Trey Anastasio Lyrics


Jump to: Overall Meaning ↴  Line by Line Meaning ↴

Happy happy oh my friend
Blow out candles once again
Leave the presents all inside
Take my hand and let's take a ride

Backwards down the number line
You were eight and I was nine
Do you know what happened then
Do you know why we're still friends

Laughing all these many years
We've pushed through hardships tasted tears
We made a promise one to keep
I can still recite it in my sleep

Every time a birthday comes
Call your friend and sing a song
Or whisper it in to his ears
Or write it down just don't miss a year

You decide what it contains
How long it goes
But this remains
The only rule is it begins
Happy happy oh my friend

You decide what it contains
How long it goes
But this remains
The only rule is it begins

And all my friends come
Backwards down the number line

All my friends come
Backwards down the number line

All my friends come
Backwards down the number line

All my friends

You decide what it contains
How long it goes
But this remains
The only rule is it begins
Happy happy oh my friend

You decide what it contains
How long it goes
But this remains
The only rule is it begins

And all my friends come
Backwards down the number line

All my friends come
Backwards down the number line

All my friends come
Backwards down the number line

All my friends

And all my friends come
Backwards down the number line

All my friends come
Backwards down the number line

All my friends come
Backwards down the number line





All my friends

Overall Meaning

The song "Backwards Down The Number Line" by Trey Anastasio is a poignant reflection on the passage of time and the enduring nature of true friendship. The lyrics describe a birthday celebration between two childhood friends, who have aged together and weathered life's ups and downs while remaining steadfast companions. They take a ride "backwards down the number line," reminiscing about their past and the moments that brought them to where they are now.


Throughout the song, there is a sense of joy and nostalgia for the memories shared between the two friends. They have experienced hardships and tasted tears together, but they have always kept a promise to each other, which the singer can recite by heart even in his sleep. The chorus repeats the phrase "happy, happy oh my friend," emphasizing the importance of the bond they share and the joy that still exists between them.


The lyrics also convey a message of gratitude for the enduring nature of true friendship, and a reminder that it takes effort to maintain those relationships over time. The singer urges listeners to call their friends on their birthdays, and to sing, whisper, or write a message to remind them of how much they are loved. The song closes with the repeated refrain of "all my friends come backwards down the number line," a poignant reminder of the special connections that endure through time.


Line by Line Meaning

Happy happy oh my friend
Beginning with a happy tone, the singer addresses their friend joyfully.


Blow out candles once again
The singer notes the recurrent nature of birthdays, symbolized here by the blowing of candles.


Leave the presents all inside
The singer values friendship above any tangible or material possessions.


Take my hand and let's take a ride
The artist invites their friend to join them on an emotional journey through their shared memories.


Backwards down the number line
The phrase represents the reversal of time, as the artist journeys through their memories.


You were eight and I was nine
The singer recalls a specific moment from their past, highlighting the longevity of their friendship.


Do you know what happened then
The singer poses a rhetorical question to emphasize the sentimental significance of this shared moment.


Do you know why we're still friends
The artist asks a profound question to explore the reasons behind their lasting friendship.


Laughing all these many years
The artist fondly reminisces on the many happy memories shared with their friend.


We've pushed through hardships tasted tears
The artist emphasizes the strength of their friendship by referencing the difficult times they have overcome together.


We made a promise one to keep
The singer references a special promise made between them, symbolizing the depth of their connection.


I can still recite it in my sleep
The artist emphasizes the permanence and significance of the promise they made together.


Every time a birthday comes
The singer links birthdays to the continuation of their special bond.


Call your friend and sing a song
The singer advises the listener to make a special effort to celebrate their friends on their birthdays.


Or whisper it in to his ears
The singer suggests different ways to express appreciation for a friend.


Or write it down just don't miss a year
The artist emphasizes the importance of consistency in celebrating a friend's birthday.


You decide what it contains
The artist highlights the personalization of the celebration and memories shared on birthdays.


How long it goes
The singer acknowledges the uncertainties and variations in the duration of a friendship.


But this remains
The singer emphasizes that despite all variations and changes, one thing remains constant - the beginning of friendship.


The only rule is it begins
The artist establishes the principle that the beginning of a friendship sets the foundation for all future memories and celebrations.


And all my friends come Backwards down the number line
The artist expresses appreciation for all their friends, and the journey they all share through their memories together.




Contributed by Nathaniel I. Suggest a correction in the comments below.
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Comments from YouTube:

@laurenepps1

I love this song. My amazing  beautiful 19 year old son followed Phish around the country all summer. I was worried sick, finally had him back home in the fall. He was in a tragic stupid fatal accident. He had so many friends going back since toddler years. One in particular comes to mind every time I listen to this song. My dear Taylor is missed by many. 

@goobershnoz

not trying to disrespect you, but your amazing beautiful SON Taylor?

@laurenepps1

Garrett Tyler Are you the stupidest person ever. Why would say something so stupid? You could not possibly understand my loss. You are STUPID! 

@laurenepps1

Garrett Tyler What are you talking about? Seriously, what do you mean , not trying to disrespect you, but your amazing beautiful SON Taylor. You did not know him you dumb ass. What in the world were you trying to say.

@laurenepps1

Lauren Epps are you insane? lets meet face to face. Let's see what happens. I'm pretty sure at 54 I can still kick our ass.

@laurenepps1

Garrett Tyler you look like some freak, freak. I can assure you my son was COOL, not a freak! 

16 More Replies...

@psykodj67

I dedicate this to my late wife Jessica...she loved this and sang along

@alexcaminiti

The best, worst, easiest and most difficult aspects about life & aging is relationships. When I think about all the good and bad things I’ve done and all that I have tangibly or intangibly created or accomplished, my oldest friend hasn’t always been there for me, nor I for him. But we have. The paradoxical nature of all of our intertwined existences — and how that can sometimes be so well conveyed through music — is truly astounding to me, still, after all these years. The fact of the matter is that we can only be for others what we are to ourselves. That’s why I have always been so moved by this song. Not because I’m a huge Phish fan, which I’m not (I like them and they are a great band). It’s the song and that post-first chorus solo. Man. Hits me like a ton of bricks, every single time. Life is so hard, and even harder with children… but without your oldest friend in your life, it is truly a cold, dark and unforgivingly listless place. I wish I could have been better to my ex wife and myself, and I wish I could have been less judgy and cynical throughout my teens and 20s. I hope I’m finally going to start to really embrace my strengths and imperfections in my late 30s and just be happy to look backwards down the number line and be at peace with what happened and happens from here on out, however many years are left.

@marekkowalski541

grab your dick and double click

@brucebrandy9433

The message that this song conveys is an excellent example imo, of why this band has been together as long as they have. They've pushed through the struggles that have faced them and their friendship has remained intact. And We, the Phans, benefit from that closeness they share, and the love, commitment, and most importantly, the Forgiveness required in a long-lasting friendship. I love this song, this Band and it's amazing crew (CK 5). Lauren Epps, I hope you have been able to gain some healing these last couple years. Peace.

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