Ain't Love Funny
Music/Lyrics: J.J. Cale
Vocals: Mike (lead), Page,Trey (backing)
Original Artist: J.J. Cale
Original Album: Closer to You (1994)
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
This delicate J.J. Cale tune was a pleasant surprise for fans at the 6/20/97 Prague show. For its debut performance during the first set, it rose from a sweetly textured post-“Horn” jam and segued into an equally sublime “Limb By Limb.” The rich, melodic harmonies are almost painfully sweet, and Phish wisely remained faithful to the original, leaving the instrumentation sparse and simple. Although the song’s delicate fragility and subtlety make it an atypical choice for a cover, the band pulled it off nicely on the three occasions it was played (twice in Europe, once in the U.S.). After another first-set appearance in Amsterdam on 7/1/97, the song made its final appearance at Alpine Valley over a month later on 8/9/97 in the middle of the cosmic journey that was that evening’s “Mike’s Groove.”
Mike has also covered the song in several non-Phish contexts. He performed the tune with Doug Perkins and Jamie Masefield both before (2/4/99 and 1/14/00) and after (5/30, 5/31, and 6/1/03) that trio’s incarnation as Grappa Boom. “Ain’t Love Funny” has also appeared in the touring repertoire of Mike and Leo Kottke (11/9/02 and 11/12/02, among others) as well as the Mike Gordon Band (6/30/08, 9/17/09 etc).