a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics


Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Fishman/Gordon/McConnell/Dude of Life

Vocals: Trey (lead), All (backing)

Albums: Junta, New Year's Eve 1995 - Live at Madison Square Garden, Colorado '88, Live Phish 06, Live Phish 15

Debut: 1986-10-15

Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)

Last Update: 2013-04-13

From the uniquely twisted, post-punk psyche of the Dude comes this uniquely twisted march through madness. The structure is simple: our deranged narrator happily offers his contrary point of view (“I don’t care if the world explodes”) as synaptic chaos erupts on the heels of each verse. Suddenly, we’re back in the rubber room and all is quiet, save for the peal of a familiar guitar phrase. Yeah, that’s Jerry Garcia’s signature riff from the Grateful Dead classic, “Row Jimmy.”

Phish uncorked “Sanity” at Hunt’s on 10/15/86, played it about two weeks later on Halloween, and reprised it ten years later to the day before a slightly heftier crowd at the Omni in Atlanta. They played it rarely in between, and only five times since. In 1989, “Sanity” popped off like a hypoglycemic kid in a crank frenzy, and Phish sent it to the corner for a time out. After nearly three years of tough love and Ritalin treatments, the tune resurfaced at its original, lobotomized tempo.

"Sanity" – 11/28/09, Albany, NY

As a jamming tune, “Sanity” is rather straight-jacketed. Instead, it serves to create a special mood or energy, much like “BBFCFM” or “Icculus.” As such, it tends to rear its mercurial head at special shows, such as the 4/16/92 Anaconda gem, the legendary 12/31/95 MSG epic, the 8/15/98 Lemonwheel extravaganza (where it nestled snugly between “Gumbo” and “Tweezer”), and the crowd-pleasing opener on the third night of the '09 Hampton reunion run. Other notable versions include 2/13/87 UVM Slade Hall (with The Dude), 9/13/88 at Sam’s Tavern in Burlington (Fishman’s first known public vacuum solo), 7/3/10 Atlanta (a loose but spirited reading in which Trey forgets the second verse and is reminded by a courteous fan down in front) and 10/22/10 Providence.

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Recommended Versions: 1986-10-31, 1987-08-21, 1988-07-25, 1989-05-28, 1992-04-16, 1995-12-31, 1996-10-31, 1998-08-15, 1998-11-27, 2009-03-08

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nichobert Reply
nichobert 10/22/10 is probably the most notable outside of the Chalkdust Torture / Chalkdust Torture Reprise hybrid version they played throughout 89

10/22 stretches into a weird ambient jam for a few minutes. Pretty cool stuff
Score: 1
NoFIller Reply
NoFIller Holy cow. Never made the JG riff reference. Just listened to them side by side. Spot on.
Score: 1
GitDown Reply
Though mentioned by date in the recommended versions, Sanity is particularly ironically appropriate placed smack dab in the middle of the INSANITY that is the second set of 11/27/98, coming abruptly after the crazy Chalkdust Dagwood Bumstead Jam Sandwich, to be followed by a Buffalo Bill, a Mike's Groove to die for, and one of my favorite Antelopes.
Score: 0
kipmat Reply
kipmat For me, the 7/25/88 version, released as a bonus track on Junta, is the definitive version of this song. Coming at the tail end of a long gig, having taken off the dresses the band had been wearing, singing lyrics observing how one's faculties are not in order, with the drummer contributing a trombone solo with the microphone all the way up in the bell of the trombone, and the song just drags to a stop, and the audience screams for more... very artistic...
Score: 0
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