Original Artist: Talking Heads
Original Album: Talking Heads `77 (1977)
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2012-07-28
Phish first jammed on late 70s hit “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads in the middle of a raging “Weekapaug” on 3/30/93 in Eugene, OR. While tentative and incomplete, this nevertheless wetted fans' appetite for another Talking Heads song to join "Cities" in the repertoire. That appetite was quenched – and then some – with the 1996 Halloween performance of Remain in Light. "Psycho Killer," however, remained on the lam.
Phish then pulled out the song 413 shows later on 12/7/97, a show widely considered among the best of that incredibly strong year. That gig at Dayton’s Nutter Center wasted no time making its mark in Phish history, opening with a memorable “AC/DC Bag” -> “Psycho Killer” -> “Jesus Just Left Chicago” sequence; this show was made available as a Live Phish archival release in 2003. In a Washington Post article, Page noted the Dayton gig in the context of the strong Talking Heads influence in Phish’s music: “When we’re really playing at our best, things we love just come flowing out. The other night, we started playing 'Psycho Killer' in the middle of a jam and that’s a song that’s not even in our repertoire.”
Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer” – 1978
They were certainly playing at their best on 8/14/09 in Hartford, when "Psycho Killer" slashed its way back onto the Phish stage, emerging out of a monster "Ghost." While the version was rough and left the song unfinished, the energy of the moment was decidedly old-school, and "Psycho Killer" gave way to jamming purportedly based on the early video game "Pong," followed by interpretive "Pong dancing." The throwback craziness was by no means over, as the set progresses into "Catapult" and then the first "Icculus" in a decade. "Headlong I go for glory, OK!"
Phish, “Psycho Killer” – 8/14/09, Hartford, CT
Fast forward another 127 shows to 7/6/12 at SPAC for another rendition of “Psycho Killer,” this time as the meat of a “Tube” sandwich. The melody was reprised later in the set, with alternate “tucking” lyrics during the “HYHU” that set up “Cracklin’ Rosie.”
The Eugene, Dayton, Hartford and SPAC gigs contain the only (more-or-less) full versions Phish has performed to date, though the song has been teased and jammed on other occasions. You can find “Psycho Killer” quotes in "YEM" vocal jams on 8/9/93 and 5/23/94, while instrumental teases can also be found in “AC/DC Bag” on 12/30/97 and in “Ghost” on 11/24/98.
Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer” – Stop Making Sense