Some say my uncle, that he's a zero
His life is as a shell, he left it back at Stateside
I'd say he's doin' pretty well, without his shell
Vocals: Mike, Page, Trey
Original Artist: Little Feat
Original Album: Time Loves a Hero (1977)
Albums: Star Lake 98
Historian: Ellis Godard (lemuria)
Last Update: 2011-07-06
Of all the rarities “busted out” during Phish shows over the years, perhaps the most poignant is “Time Loves a Hero.” Early performances of this Little Feat bop had an exuberance that suggested prophecy (though not the full sound of the original, which featured the Tower of Power horns). The Phish debut was particularly strong. The next two appearances came at the first Molly’s gig (11/3/88) and only two days later at Hamilton College (11/5/88). The song then moved earlier in the setlist with each appearance, as if the lyrics were becoming stronger and stronger omens of the band’s coming success, until it moved too early in the evening for an audience to hear, serving as the soundcheck on two consecutive nights (4/14/89 and 4/15/89).
The lyrics deal with an uncle who left his wife and “blue collar hell” for “the beaches of Puerto Rico.” The chorus then ponders whether the uncle will someday be lauded for having ditched convention in search of beauty, or will instead continue to be seen as a hollow deviant. Though with the harshness of a good blues story, the song brings to mind a popular image of traveling musicians as carefree artists. But the realities of sleeping on YMCA floors and traveling cross-country in the back of a moving truck are harsher than Caribbean beaches. Phish endured not by ditching conventions, but by adopting those that work and doing what it took to fulfill their dream. And it paid off.
Phish, "Time Loves a Hero" – 10/31/10, Atlantic City, NJ
Time confirmed the prophecy, as Phish’s heroic status in art, performance, and business was made clear over the next ten years. Appropriately, then, they have broken the song out five more times: on 8/11/98 (nearly ten years and over 1000 shows after its previous performance) for the “summer of covers” roster; on 12/31/02 (151 shows later) to celebrate their return from the hiatus; on 7/1/10 (127 shows later) as part of what was nearly a second "summer of covers"; as part of the 10/31/10 covering of Waiting for Columbus; and on 7/2/11 during day two of Superball IX.
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