We know your wedding band just crushed it -- that “Brown Eyed Girl” totally killed -- but, sorry, Phish are the greatest cover band of all time. Wedding bands, tribute acts and a thousand dudes with a thousand acoustic guitars crank out constant covers, and some do an impressive job, but nothing compares to talents of Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman. Over their 30-plus years, Phish have taken on everyone from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Syd Barrett and Neil Diamond. And they have a knack for making everything their own while celebrating the original song, as you'll see in this list of the Top 10 Phish Classic Rock Covers:
"Walk Away"The James Gang
Do you like big guitar? Of course you do, you’re a Phish fan. This Joe Walsh tune is always a great showpiece for Trey Anastasio’s monster shredding (and Jon Fishman’s drumming too!). Often a starting point, or ending point, or even middle point, for triumphant jams, “Walk Away” has been connected to “Tweezer,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” the Breeders’ “Cannonball” and more.
“Frankenstein”The Edgar Winter Group
The band has taken on this classic-rock warhorse almost 100 times. “Frankenstein” has been in and out of standard rotation since the ’80s (mostly in) and often spotlights each member. But usually it’s Page McConnell’s collection of vintage Hammonds, Wurlitzers, Fender Rhodes and, if you are very lucky, a Keytar once owned by James Brown, that shines brightest.
“Peaches en Regalia” Frank Zappa
Like “Frankenstein,” this has been a Phish staple since the ’80s (Nov. 15, 1986, to be exact). Like “Frankenstein,” few fans are ever disappointed when they hear the opening drum pattern to this Frank Zappa tune. Also, while everybody knows how big an influence the Grateful Dead were on the band, you can’t discount the impact Zappa has had on Phish. From the humor to the restless sonic experimentation, he matters as much as the Dead.
When Phish donned Quadrophenia as their musical costume on Halloween night 1995, they could have carried any number of Who tunes into the future. But only “Drowned” has been played with any consistency. A huge song with epic range, the guys made a good choice. Can Page McConnell elicit more excitement with an opening piano riff than he does with “Drowned?” Actually, he can. Just check out the next song.
“Loving Cup” The Rolling Stones
Phish have done loads of Stones covers, including “Emotional Rescue,” "Sympathy for the Devil” and the entire Exile on Main St. album. But this one is tops. The minute fans hear Page McConnell hit the opening piano riff of “Loving Cup,” they go nuts. The tune has the right blend of swampy, bluesy swagger and hippie joy to make it perfect for Phish.
"Sweet Jane"The Velvet Underground
It’s the trippy intro that really gets you. When most bands cover “Sweet Jane” (and so many do, because it’s awesome), they skip the jangly little opening. But when the band did the Velvets' Loaded on Halloween 1998 in Las Vegas, they made sure to nail the intro. Oh, yeah, the rest of the song is also tremendous. Actually, the whole Loaded album is amazing.
Should Phish end every show with “Purple Rain"? It would probably get boring, then again … Jon Fishman and his vacuum often have fun with this while Trey Anastasio plays drums, but the song would probably work better if Fish sat behind the kit and we got a towering guitar solo. Anyway, speaking of Prince. How about Sign o' the Times for a future Halloween show?
"Good Times, Bad Times"Led Zeppelin
Maybe the hardest band in the world to cover with grace and fire, Zeppelin featured four of the biggest talents ever to play rock ‘n’ roll. But Phish usually get this tune very right. Trey Anastasio’s guitar can’t get bigger or bolder than on this. Thankfully, the band doesn’t hide this one away. Phish have performed it more than 200 times since 1986.
"Crossyed and Painless"Talking Heads
While “Cities” is an obvious choice for a Phish Talking Heads cover (it’s been in rotation since 1984), “Crosseyed and Painless” crushes it. The song is one of the great grooves in rock ‘n’ roll and Phish love to lay down in it and get comfortable. So often Phish can get loopy or goofy or downright silly; the tune provides a dramatic counterpoint: dark, angular, brilliantly furious.
"Terrapin Station"The Grateful Dead
A four-leaf clover, a unicorn in forest clearing, a clean festival porta potty ... “Terrapin Station” was a rare and shocking revelation when the band played it at Virginia Beach on the third anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death. Rendered with reverence and sublime beauty, the song features Phish doing delicate passages and thundering with force.