Knives Out

Originally Performed ByRadiohead
Original AlbumAmnesiac (2001)
Music/LyricsThom Yorke
VocalsTrey
Historianlumpblockclod
Last Update2015-04-29

History

On his first album after The Beatles broke up, John Lennon recorded “God,” where he famously declared, “I don’t believe in Beatles / I just believe in me.”  While “God” was certainly not the first “breakup song,” it was likely the first such song to essentially be directed at an artist’s entire fanbase.  

One can hardly imagine the range of emotions experienced by Lennon (and the rest of the Beatles) in 1970. In addition to leaving behind the most popular band in the history of the world, he had incurred the wrath of a legion of fans who felt as though he had taken something from them. One person who probably can relate is Trey Anastasio.  

Though no one would argue that Phish was ever remotely as popular as The Beatles, what Phish fans lack in numbers, they make up for in fervor. And much like Beatles fans before them, Phish fans were not happy when Trey announced in May 2004 that Phish was breaking up.  Many took the news personally, and many chose to blame Trey, as if Phish was something they were owed. The disaster that was Coventry only served to further embitter those fans.  

Nonetheless, when Trey returned to the stage in April 2005 – with a new band, the 70 Volt Parade – excitement ran high. Denial and anger had given way to acceptance and many fans were hopeful to see what new direction Trey would take. Unfortunately, the 70 Volt Parade’s first show (4/1/05) was not very well received, and the fact that the ensuing tour didn’t start for nearly four weeks just left fans plenty of time to take to the internet and air their discontent.

So, on 4/26/05, when Trey took the stage for the first show of the first 70VP tour, it wasn’t exactly as a conquering hero.  And apparently the feeling was mutual. Near the end of the first set, Trey played Radiohead’s “Knives Out.”  Ordinarily, the fact that Trey chose to cover a Radiohead song (taken from the Amnesiac album) wouldn’t be terribly remarkable. By 2005 Radiohead had clearly established themselves as one of the most important bands of their era. Page had already covered “Subterranean Homesick Alien” and, years later, Mike would take on “15 Steps.”

But, even those who were unfamiliar with the song would have been hard pressed to miss the significance of the lyrics.  When Trey sang, “I want you to know / He's not coming back / Look into my eyes / I'm not coming back,” it was hard not to read a deeper meaning into it.  Phish was in the past. 

Trey’s December 2006 arrest in Whitehall, NY was the low point of the break-up years (and Trey would likely call it the low point of his life).  Onstage, though, the low point just might have been this first 70 Volt Parade tour and Trey’s quixotic insistence that the music he was making with a group of musicians that -- even through a haze of opiates -- could scarcely challenge him, somehow transcended the magic he created with Phish.

Thankfully, for all of us (and not to discount the many strong solo shows Trey has delivered in other contexts), Trey was wrong. Whitehall happened, Trey got better, and Phish did come back. Contra Lennon, the dream is not over. 

Radiohead -- "Knives Out"

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