Music/Lyrics: Lou Reed
Vocals: Page (lead), Trey (backing)
Original Artist: The Velvet Underground
Original Album: Loaded (1970)
Albums: Live Phish 16
Historian: Mark Toscano, Elayne Best
Last Update: 2012-07-04
Whether or not you like The Velvet Underground, this song is a classic. It’s easily one of the Velvets’ most recognizable tunes, and on 10/31/98 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, it got Phish its biggest cheer of recognition for the entire second set.
Phish, "Sweet Jane" – 10/31/98, Las Vegas, NV
Phish had already covered “Sweet Jane” once to close out the first set on 8/8/98 at Merriweather, delivering the tune in an enjoyable fashion, but not nearly as inspired version as the one that took place on Halloween. The latter was thrilling, and drove the crowd wild with its energized shipping and handling. Page’s vocals were sturdy and engaging, and even when Trey just chorded, it electrified the whole room.
Lou Reed, "Sweet Jane" – 1974, Paris, France
Many signs and multiple requests have been made for the return of “Sweet Jane” since the Halloween treat in 1998. Fourteen years and 352 shows would pass before the wish was granted. You could hear the cheers of the jubilant fans in the crowd when the opening notes of “Sweet Jane” began on 6/29/12 at Deer Creek. Fans were just as elated at home at the return of this cover, though many continue to chase a live version. We can only hope Phish will play “Sweet Jane” more frequently in the rotation as “some people like to go out dancing, other folks, we got to work”.
Would Lou Reed have enjoyed Phish's reading of his song? Well, possibly not, but for a specific reason. When the Velvets originally cut the tune for Loaded, the song’s bridge ended up getting completely excised to save time (a similar thing happened to “New Age” on the same album). As a result, the Velvets – especially Lou Reed – were always displeased with the truncated version of their song that did not include the so-called “wine and roses” segment. Until the mid-’90s, the bridgeless version of the tune predominated on the radio and on disc, and this was the version Phish has covered each time played.