Punch Me in the Eye
Also Known As: I Will Set You Free
Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Mark Toscano
This is not what you think. This is a truly bizarre song. Yes, Phish currently plays a song called “Punch You in the Eye.” Yes, back in October of 1989 when “Punch You in the Eye” premiered, it was actually called “Punch Me in the Eye” (see 10/26/89 to hear Trey mention this multiple times). But this is not the same song. The only similarity between “Punch You” (1989) and “Punch Me” (1987) is the inclusion of the lyric “punch you in the eye.” That’s where the similarities end. This song seems to represent a sort of amalgamation of musical and lyrical ideas that ended up in later Phish tunes (“Wilson,” “Divided Sky,” and of course “Punch You in the Eye”), however not before shining brightly – but all too briefly – in the form of this genuinely disturbed song.
After starting out with some silly falsetto harmonies (“Kill you ‘til you die... Punch you in the eye... Kill you ‘til you’re dead... Punch you in the head...”), the song segues into an evil vocal section featuring horrible chants of “I will set you free... Kick you in the knee...” This is followed by a brief Mike solo over a two-chord progression a la “Avenu Malkenu.” Page then takes a solo over a climactic progression of minor seventh chords, which are found today in a section of “Divided Sky.” A strange and dissonant jam ensues, culminating in a rock-a-billy closing chorus that threatens us: “I will kill you ‘til you die... I will punch you in the eye... I will kick you in the knee... I will set you free.” There is only one known performance of this song, on 4/24/87.
Though it wasn’t performed after its debut, of interesting note is the 5/11/87 show, only a few weeks after the tune’s first and only known performance. Following “Clod,” Trey and company joke about playing “Peach” -> ”Punch” (“Peaches en Regalia” followed by “PMITE”), but their uncertainty about the song’s future is clear. Trey noted: “What can we do with ‘Punch’?” Well, they did something with it, but not for another two and a half years.