Music: Edgar Winter
Original Artist: The Edgar Winter Group
Original Album: They Only Come Out at Night (1972)
Albums: New Year's Eve 1995 - Live at Madison Square Garden, Live in Brooklyn, Vegas 96, Live Phish 01, Live Phish 13, Live Phish 15, Live Phish 19, Hampton/Winston-Salem '97, Live in Brooklyn DVD, The Clifford Ball
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2016-03-06
Edgar Winter named this tune “Frankenstein” because its 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.
Edgar Winter Group – ”Frankenstein”
The Phish debut on 11/11/89 featured a (still unidentified) guest horn section, closing their set in support of 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, released as LivePhish 19 – only to return to the mothballs after that tour’s conclusion.
Following a 332-show absence, “Frankenstein” was again broken out at the excellent 6/11/94 Red Rocks gig, catching many fans off guard in what ended up being a stellar version. “Frankenstein” would become a setlist fixture for almost two decades. Strong and notable versions include 6/17/94 (O.J.); 10/31/94 (an appropriate Halloween show opener); 12/3/94 San Jose (with horns); 12/14/95 Binghamton (LivePhish 01); 12/31/95 (MSG classic); 8/17/96 (Clifford Ball); 10/31/96 (Halloween with 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).
Phish – ”Frankenstein,” 9/14/99, Boise, ID
“Frankenstein” wasted no time making its mark on Phish 3.0. 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.
As Phish moved into the 2010s, “Frankenstein” has become a much less frequently deployed tool. After closing the 1/1/11 MSG gig, the next two appearances would be after gaps of 53 (7/1/12 Alpine Valley) and 100 shows (10/31/14 Vegas). 2015 witnessed two appearances, sending the Alpine Valley crowd home happy on 8/9/15, and putting to bed a far less celebrated first set on 9/6/15 at Dick’s, though that night would end most joyously with the Dick’s “Harpua.”
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.