Five Other Possibilities

Despite Ziggy Stardust being my personal choice for Phish’s musical costume, plenty of other engaging album choices still remain. Assuming Phish is working off their provided list, several defining records could still hold the golden ticket. While everyone has their own opinion of what could work and what certainly will not, I present to five other albums – in no particular order – that Phish could destroy.


Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones


Hailed as one of the Stones finest accomplishments, their 1972 masterpiece blends the influences of blues, rock, country and soul to form a double-album considered among the best “studio” works of all time. During the recording process, nine years into their career as one of the biggest rock acts in the world, the Stones found themselves in financial straits, and decided to flee England to avoid paying income tax. The band drove to the French Riviera, setting up shop in the basement of Villa Nellcote, Keith Richard’s mansion by the sea. As they began recording in their makeshift studio, the band members were at the height of their drug and alcohol addictions, including Keith Richards’ notorious heroin habit. The combination of cramped quarters and intoxicated, unreliable band members created a frustrating dynamic for the band as they plugged away sporadically – usually in the middle of night – in all sorts of chemical states.

The resulting work, however, has since been exalted as a trendsetting record of the gritty, drugged-out rock and roll scene that blossomed in the Seventies. “Exile” came first, spawning a generation of bad-boy imitators,  but no one did it quite like the Stones.  Some hail the mere fact that the Stones actually got “Exile” recorded as a miracle, as they were hardly in control of anything during this period. But what resulted was “Exile On Main Street,” the Stones tenth album, and  snapshot of ragged rock stars trying to keep it together. Perhaps Robert Greenfield, author of “Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones” said it best:

To say that the human toll exacted during the making of Exile on Main Street was extreme is an understatement of major proportions. But then even if you had tried to tell the denizens of Nellcote that far too many of them would, in the immortal words of Pete Townshend, die before they got old, no one would have listened. They were all too busy getting high.


London Calling – The Clash


If Phish were to veer from classic rock, The Clash’s dynamic double-album, London Calling, would be an outstanding choice. The band’s third album, released in 1979, represented a shift in The Clash’s musical style, steering away from the classic punk sound, with  elements of ska, pop, soul, rockabilly and reggae. And unlike The Rolling Stones odyssey of “Exile,” The Clash recorded London Calling within a matter of weeks; many songs finished in one or two takes. “London Calling” was the Clash’s watershed album, transforming the scruffy British quartet into bona-fide rock stars.

Their musically diverse songs carried various political messages. Whether attacking fascism in “Clampdown, denouncing drug culture in “Hateful”, or commenting on political rebellion in “Spanish Bombs,” The Clash’s songs often carried serious meaning amidst their playful feel. “London Calling’s” copious grooves and dub rhythms could provide Festival 8 with a horn-laced, desert dance party with a grand finale of the infectious pop single, “Train In Vain.”


Hot Rats – Frank Zappa


The quirky time signatures, sudden changes, and generally bizarre complexity that defined Phish’s early work can be largely traced directly to Frank Zappa. An iconoclast to the end, Zappa made music his own way – a style that Hot Rats illustrates with vibrancy. Released in 1969, and comprised of only six tracks, Zappa described the album as “a movie for your ears.” Departing from his shorter satirical songs and raunchy lyrics popularized with his band, The Mothers of Invention, Hot Rats focuses on longer, jazz-like instrumentals with extensive soloing – a format that sounds perfect for Phish.

Though the album’s opener, “Peaches en Regelia,” has been in Phish’s long-time repertoire, the overwhelming complexity of the record’s compositions makes me question its real chances. This summer Trey was still working on nailing the licks to “Sugar Shack,” and for this costume he’d have to pick up the nuances of 17-minute track “The Gumbo Variations,” among others. But given the proper time and attention, this album could make for a mind-numbing set. Just thinking about Phish playing “Willie the Pimp” makes my ears drool.


The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – Genesis


This 1974 double concept album from Genesis could make a spectacular Halloween set, but with a ninety-minute running time “The Lamb” seems like a long shot. However, if Phish were to come out and nail the surreal tale of Rael, a juvenile delinquent in New York City who is swept underground to face his personal demons and split personality, the results would be astounding. Akin in structure to “The Wall,” “Lamb” is a theatrical rock opera that Genesis coupled with an elaborate stage show during their touring days for the album; a show that could translate to the stage in Indio. Peter Gabriel actually played the story’s protagonist, adding another potential layer of costume for Trey. If Phish took this route, they would certainly showcase hours upon hours of  meticulous preparation.

With little to no time for improvisation, Phish would likely play this psychedelic relic straight through. But within the album, the songs differ in feel from the groovy to the eerie to the spoken word. The first record boasts ten structured songs, but the second half contains nightmarish soundscapes as Rael descends into the underworld. Though many wouldn’t know what hit them, there would be a lot of new Genesis fans leaving Indio on November 2 if the band chose The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.


Thriller – Michael Jackson


With Phish’s gallery of 99 albums, the talk of Michael Jackson’s masterpiece has faded to silence – and this could be exactly what Phish wants. Potentially a diversion to keep people preoccupied, the gallery has certainly kept the community’s heads spinning. But maybe – just maybe – this is all a smokescreen, and the band will come out and rock Jackson’s 1982 classic that fans have been pushing since 1995.

The most popular argument against “Thriller” is the wide range of dynamic vocals that fill the album, but if we start eliminating album choices because Phish aren’t the vocalists that their predeccessors were, we’d have to cross out quite a few. Could they reproduce Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Mick Jones, or even David Lee Roth? No – but that certainly hasn’t ruled out any of those albums, so I think “Thriller” must be legitamately considered. There could be a guest vocalist, Trey could “sing” with his guitar, or they could have another arrangement already in place. The bottom line is that this album would blow Indio apart – and what better subject matter for Halloween?! Just imagine the look of the crowd when Phish starts “Wanna’ Be Startin’ Something.” Now imagine the look of the crowd 20 minutes later after the disco-funk jam concludes. You know the songs; you get the picture. Just outside of his former Los Angeles home, and months after his passing, this could be Phish’s lasting tribute to the King of Pop.

Winged music note


Jam of the Day:

Down With Disease > Have Mercy > Disease” 11.12.94 II

A historic chunk of improv from Kent St, Ohio during Fall ’94.



10.15.94 Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, Pelham, AL < Torrent

10.15.94 Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, Pelham, AL < Megaupload


Everyone knows about Oak Mountain’s 1999 installment, but if we rewind five years from there, or fiftteen years from today, we find The Dave Matthews Band opening for Phish in their only other visit to the Alabama amphitheatre. After a classic first set and an adventurous second, the band invited their guests out to join them on “The Maker.” A southern nugget from Fall ’94.

I: Wilson, Sparkle, Simple > Maze, Glide, Reba, Down with Disease, Golgi Apparatus

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Runaway Jim, Halley’s Comet > Scent of a Mule, You Enjoy Myself > Catapult > You Enjoy Myself, Amazing Grace, Foreplay/Long Time*, Bouncing Around the Room, Suzy Greenberg

E: Drums** > The Maker***

*Acoustic, **w/ Carter Beauford on drums, ***w/ Dave Matthews Band, debut

Source: Audio Technica 822 > Sony D8

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