Vocals: Trey, Page
Original Artist: The Rolling Stones
Original Album: Exile on Main St (1972)
“Rocks Off,” the opening track of The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St (and, by extension, Phish’s second set opener on 10/31/09), sets the mood for the entire album. This, even by Stones’ standards, is going to be a dark, loose, gritty, affair. Mick Jagger’s vocals are buried in the mix and delivered in such a fashion that it’s hard to decipher many of the lyrics (one of the more amusing aspects of Phish’s performance of not just “Rocks Off,” but all of Exile, is actually hearing all of these often raunchy lyrics delivered so clearly), and you can just about see the raw energy dripping from your speakers. Only The Rolling Stones could transform a song about, um, performance issues into a rock anthem that oozes with attitude.
Of course, like most of the songs on Exile, there’s a story behind the song. Allegedly, Keith Richards’ parts, which formed the foundation of “Rocks Off,” were recorded over the course of a night, while Keith faded in and out of heroin-induced oblivion. At 4:00 am, convinced he was done for the night, the sound engineers clocked out and embarked on the 30-minute drive back to their accommodations, whereupon they were summoned back to Keith’s villa in Nellcôte (where the album was being recorded). Inspiration had hit, and Keith was ready to complete the song (which, in fairness, he did, to great effect).
Phish’s version was played well enough and, aided by the horn section of Dave Guy, David Smith and Tony Jarvis, set the tone for what was to come, even if Trey didn’t exactly nail the song’s opening chords. It’s safe to say fans of both the Stones and Phish hope one day he gives it another shot.
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