Johnny B. Goode
Music/Lyrics: Chuck Berry
Vocals: Trey (lead), Page (backing)
Original Artist: Chuck Berry
Original Album: Single (1958)
Historian: Chris Bertolet
Smack in the middle of a tour characterized by expansive, complex jams, Phish proffered their first public attempt at “Johnny B. Goode,” one of rock’s earliest and most elementary anthems. Simple or not, a self-referential ode to a young guitar stud destined for stardom should never be performed by a band without a stellar axe-man. Some think Phish has one.
Phish, "Johnny B. Goode" – 2/16/97, Cologne, Germany
Phish’s hyperactive reading of “JBG” first reared its head in the middle of a “Tweezer” at Virginia’s Stone Ridge on 6/17/95; at the Sugarbush show weeks later, it came charging out of the meat of “David Bowie.” Though both versions delivered the goods, they interrupted the continuity of the jam that contained them, and after that, Phish more often let “JBG” stand on its own. At the Gorge show on 8/2/97, however, Trey steered the band into “JBG,” abandoning a dramatic, conflicted “Diseezer” segue that found him at loggerheads with Fishman. Though some in the crowd groaned in disappointment, the hi-torque “JBG” won over the audience emphatically.
Other marquee versions of “JBG” include the 12/31/95 MSG encore (near-dangerous energy release), the 8/6/96 Red Rocks encore (which capped a set-long sparring match with an electric Mother Nature), and the 11/17/97 Denver oddity (meanders into space, never to return). “Johnny” seems to have jumped the tracks for an extended vacation; he hasn’t been seen with Phish since July of 1998. Page did, however, play “JBG” with The John Entwistle Band on 5/29/01 at B.B. King’s in New York.