Eyes of the World
Original Artist: Grateful Dead
Original Album: Wake of the Flood (1973)
Historian: Mark Toscano, Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
"Eyes of the World” features some of the most introspective lyrics Robert Hunter ever wrote for the Dead. Appropriately, it was a staple of their live performances and one of their most popular songs. “Eyes” never left the Dead’s repertoire for more than 16 shows at a time from its debut on 2/9/73 to its last performance on 7/6/95, and it remains a concert staple for Phil Lesh, Ratdog, and other post-Dead entities.
Phish debuted this cover at one of their first shows billed as “Phish,” performing a passable version that segued interestingly into the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.” This combo is especially telling, as it represents the two major musical forces that brought the band together; Trey, Jeff, Mike, and Fish all commonly liked the Dead and The Allman Brothers, both considered fathers of modern jam-rock. At the first Nectar’s show on 12/1/84, “Eyes” showed up as an extra long encore. Then at Page’s first show on 5/3/85, the song segued out of the Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias.” No other versions of the tune are known to exist, but it is likely the guys played it here and there at other undocumented early shows. It should be noted that while Phish certainly covered a few Dead tunes during their first few years, they were decidedly never a “Dead cover band,” as is sometimes inaccurately asserted.
Outside of Phish, “Eyes” was played on 12/31/86 by a band consisting of half Phish (Trey and Page) and half The Joneses, billed as “The Phones.” Trey then had a fun and unique opportunity to reprise this performance over fifteen years later; a private party on 7/6/02 in Hinesburg, VT featured “Doctor Jones,” consisting of former members of The Joneses and Trey on guitar. “Eyes” was performed, and recordings do circulate. "Eyes" was sadly omitted from the April 1999 "Phil & Phriends" run (it was sound-checked on 4/17/99), although you can catch an excellent version with Trey from the Phil & Friends 2/12/06 Beacon Theater gig.
Grateful Dead "Eyes of the World" 10/20/74 San Francisco, CA