Original Artist: Neil Diamond
Original Album: Tap Root Manuscript (1970)
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2013-06-20
The man of a thousand nicknames: Tubbs; Friar Tubbs; Tubbs the Hairy Beast Man; Sneezeblood Eyeball; Norton Charlton Heston; Central Scrutinizer; Forrest Gump; J.Edgar Hoover; Bob Weaver; Friar Tuck. He’s a nut, but he can sure bang the skins.
The infamous theme songs “Cold As Ice” or “Hold Your Head Up” would always signal an appearance by one of Fishman’s alter-egos, and in the early ‘90s this would often result in a rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie.” While most Fishman tunes would make use of his world renowned skills on the Electrolux vacuum, “Cracklin’ Rosie” had its own, unique hook: the “Cracklin’ Rosie Cymbals.” Two small cymbals, one with the letter “B” and the other with the letters “AH” would merge as one to signal the famous “BAH, bah bah bah bah” chorus.
"Cracklin' Rosie" – Neil Diamond, 1971
Making its debut in Phish setlists in the spring of 1992, “Cracklin’ Rosie” was in regular and steady rotation throughout all of 1992 and 1993. The song become a rarity in the latter 90s, though it still made occasional appearances, including 6/30/95 at Great Woods (introduced as being about “a lonely man singing to his inflatable love doll”) and 8/6/98 in Atlanta (complete with several classic Fishman “victory laps” around the stage).
Renditions of “Cracklin’ Rosie” don’t vary much, other than to the relative degree that Fish decides to ham it up. Several otherwise popular shows contain excellent versions of the tune including 2/21/93 (At The Roxy), 5/6/93 (with Dick Solberg on violin), and and 12/29/94 (Live Phish 20, best known for its monster version of “David Bowie”).
“Cracklin’ Rosie” was seemingly a bygone relic of “Phish 1.0,” last performed on 12/10/99 at The Spectrum. “The Summer of Tucking” changed all that, when after a 279-show absence Friar Tuck busted out “Cracklin’ Rosie” at SPAC on 7/6/12. To the melody of “Psycho Killer” (played earlier in the set) Fish “tucked it once, he tucked it twice, and why not, he tucked it thrice!” “Cracklin’ Rosie’s” future in the Phish repertoire is however uncertain, as Fish gave the “B” and “AH” cymbals to lucky fans in the pit after the performance.
Phish, “HYHU” > “Cracklin’ Rosie” > “HYHU” – 7/6/12, Saratoga Springs, NY
Diamond reportedly wrote the song about a cheap wine resorted to for companionship by the men in a remote, predominantly male Canadian village. While it may seem strange to some that Phish would cover Neil Diamond, in a 1994 interview Trey put that notion firmly to rest: “We realized after long, arduous research that Syd Barrett and Neil Diamond were the two greatest songwriters of all time.” Tongue in cheek? You decide.
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