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Performances Song History

In the Midnight Hour

Music: Pickett

Lyrics: Cropper

Vocals: Trey

Original Artist: Wilson Pickett

Original Album: In the Midnight Hour & Other Hits (1965)

Debut: 1983-12-02

Historian: Ellis Godard

Phish played this Wilson Pickett tune at three of their first four known shows. The clear message in the racy lyrics – “Tonight, I’m gettin’ some” - were typical for Pickett, and a common goal of young rock guitarists, as Trey was at the time. Also like Trey, Picket experienced substance abuse and health problems, gained a criminal record for contents of his car, and lived (for a time) in New Jersey.

But only the biographies are similar – and thin, at that. Pickett grew from a rough background, the youngest of eleven children to a Detroit mother who beat him; hit upon a reverse backbeat, in writing this song, that developed into a musical subgenre; and grew to fame among legendary musicians at and connected with Stax Records. Trey, in stark contrast, was the oldest of two in a picket-fence upbringing, who's melded scores of genres but never reached popular fame. 

The musical similarities are similarly thin, with Pickett's original full of soul and Phish's a karaoke cover, at best. Differences in personal history may have played a role; Pickett lived the stereotype said to give blues and soul, while Trey wouldn't hit a bottom for nearly 25 more years. Group history may also explain the lacklusterness – again, these were among the band's very first live performances of any songs, so the lack of depth shouldn't surprise anyone.

Since these were among the group's first shows, the record of them is thus (and perhaps thankfully) also thin: The 12/2/83 debut does not circulate, and 3/4/85 was actually a mix of Phish and Lamb’s Bread. The remaining known performance (11/3/84) does little to flatter either Pickett or Phish, a rough and clumsy attempt to imitate the deeply soulful original.

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