Music: Edgar Winter
Original Artist: The Edgar Winter Group
Original Album: They Only Come Out at Night (1972)
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo), Mark Toscano
Edgar Winter named this tune “Frankenstein” because its various sections were independently composed, and then fitted together like a monstrous creation. A last-minute addition to They Only Come Out at Night, what was originally an afterthought turned into Edgar Winter's only chart-topping hit and his career-defining signature song. This creation ended up dominating radio and the concert stage, leaving a wretched path of devastation in its wake.
Phish's demonstrated preference for both classic rock covers and complex multi-part instrumentals made a cover of this tune a no-brainer. The debut on 11/11/89 featured a guest horn section, closing Phish's set opening for Max Creek and Third World at UVM's Patrick Gym. "Frankenstein" apparently wasn't quite right for the band at the time, however; after only three more appearances that fall, the song disappeared for over two hundred shows. Perhaps finding the tune best served with horns, "Frankenstein" resurfaced on the July ‘91 Giant Country Horns tour. The song was a standard on that tour appearing in almost half of its shows (including 7/12/91, later released as Live Phish 19), only to return to the mothballs after that tour's conclusion.
Following a three hundred-plus show absence, the song was broken out at the excellent 6/11/94 Red Rocks gig, catching many fans off guard in what ended up being a stellar version. Since then it has made regular appearances in the Phish setlist. Strong and notable versions include 6/17/94 (O.J.), 10/31/94 (an appropriate Halloween show opener),12/3/94 (with horns), 11/11/95 (segueing into “Suspicious Minds”), 12/14/95 (Live Phish 01), 12/31/95 (MSG classic), 8/17/96 (Clifford Ball), 10/31/96 (Halloween and horns again),12/30/97 (Fish on vacuum), 9/14/99 (with vacuum and “One of These Days” quote), 12/2/03 (20th anniversary gig, with a "Kung" interlude) and 6/17/04 (Live in Brooklyn). Strong teases of the song have also shown up in the 12/15/99 “Rocky Top,” the 8/14/97 Merry Pranksters jam, and “YEM” from 7/19/91, 6/18/94, 11/23/94, and 8/3/03.
"Frankenstein" wasted no time making its mark on "3.0" Phish. Already late (fifteen songs!) into the first set of the final Hampton reunion gig on 3/8/09, Page moved out from his keyboards to strap on... the keytar! And not just any keytar, this particular model was once owned by none other than James Brown! The next performance of "Frankenstein"(6/10/09 Knoxville) again featured Page on keytar, with Mike joining in on the fun new toy act with the "inferno bass" (with a fire-orange sunburst flame shaped body). The tour-closing "Frankenstein" encore at Alpine Valley (6/21/09) saw Page on keytar, Mike on inferno bass, and Trey breaking out a guitar with five – count them, five! – necks. A present to Trey from the rest of the band, this axe made for a dramatic stage visual, though its long-term practicality for live performances is dubious. Surely a ridiculous drum set for Fish can't be far behind. After twenty years in the repertoire, "Frankenstein" still provides the band a vehicle for that "over-the-top" moment, as well as a good laugh.
For the ultimate bizarre "Frankenstein," there is Fishman's complete a cappella rendition left in four parts on then-manager John Paluska's answering machine early in 1990. The recording circulates, if you dare.
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