Head Held High

Originally Performed ByThe Velvet Underground
Original AlbumLoaded (1970)
Appears On
Music/LyricsLou Reed
VocalsTrey (lead), All (backing)
Phish Debut1998-10-31
Last Played2012-07-04
Current Gap254
HistorianPhillip Zerbo (pzerbo); Mark Toscano
Last Update2012-07-28


The Velvet Underground original is a fun, grating rock n’ roller featuring some unusual instrumental flourishes and bridges, some uncharacteristic double guitar work, and typically invigorating Reed vocals that level off somewhere around a dull roar.

For their 10/31/98 Loaded set, Phish covered the tune well – even faithfully – beginning with the song’s odd false-start vocal refrain. Though Trey’s voice doesn’t quite have Reed’s growly scouring-pad sound, he did an admirable job, capturing at least the slightly manic, half-drunk feeling found in the original. Phish’s version clocked in at a little over a minute longer than the original studio version owing to some extended slamming on the tune’s closing chorus. Altogether it was a fun, faithful performance that got a huge crowd reaction.

Phish’s 2012 summer tour was chock-full of bust-outs of cover tunes that had long been on the shelf, including ”La Grange,” “Blister in the Sun,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” and “Purple Rain.” “Head Held High” joined this group on 7/4/12 at Jones Beach, 356 shows removed from its 10/31/98 Phish debut, sandwiched between a set of sandwiches (“Alumni” > “LTJP” > “Alumni” and “TMWSIY” > “Avenu Malkenu” > “TMWSIY.”). Do the dog!

Phish, “Head Held High” – 7/4/12, Wantagh, NY

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