Limb By Limb
Vocals: Trey (lead), All (backing)
Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update: 2016-03-04
"During the Billy Breathes session,” says Page in The Phish Book, “we recorded something called ‘Taken Far Away,’ which consisted of us repeating that phrase along with the 'trampled by lambs & pecked by the dove’ line. Once or twice during soundchecks we played another song called ‘Chinese Wall,’ which included the lines ‘Drop me off the Chinese Wall / Peel my fingers off the rim,’ sung to a completely different two-chord progression. So we’d actually been messing with pieces of ‘Limb By Limb’ for years until they all returned as a complete song that was so much better than those earlier things that I totally forgot about until just now.”
"Limb By Limb" – 6/22/97, Koblenz, Germany
Though the Dublin gig on 6/13/97 was the official debut of what we now know as “Limb By Limb,” a coarse version of the tune was road-tested at Brad Sands’ party on 6/6/97. Along with “Ghost,” it instantly became a favorite among the Anastasio/Marshall collaborations debuted on that summer tour through Europe, and has been a regular in setlists since.
“Limb By Limb,” like “Guyute” and “Taste,” is an example of Phish’s affinity for the 6/8 time signature. The lyrics are vintage Marshall, chock full of vivid imagery that suggests a relationship gone cold. The jam segment mirrors the images in the lyrics, shattering, splintering, and then reforming. As in “Taste,” Trey and Page sometimes weave scales and modes into the fabric of this jam that lend an Indian or Arabic tone to the proceedings, and some have likened “Limb By Limb” to the Grateful Dead’s “Crazy Fingers” in that regard (see the 6/22/00 Antioch, TN version for a prime example).
Other outstanding “Limbs” abound, including a few extended takes like 8/19/97 Great Went (the band simply does not want to stop), 11/2/98 West Valley City, UT (delicate and remarkably patient), 6/16/00 Osaka, Japan (the second longest version ever played – and in this case quantity correlates to quality), and 8/28/12 St. Louis, MO (veers into a scorching blues jam in 4/4 time before returning to form). But by no means does “Limb By Limb” need to linger in order to excel. Equally incendiary but more compact examples of the song’s power include 8/3/97 George, WA (heartfelt catharsis), 11/28/97 Worcester, MA (funhouse ride), and 12/29/03 Miami, FL (relentless pursuit of peak).