Historian: Craig DeLucia; Mockingbird Staff
Last Update: 2012-03-31
Perhaps no individual Phish song gained more of a sense of identity from the emergence of the Cow Funk in 1997 than “Tube.” The fan favorite, which until then had never seemed to find a comfortable place in the rotation, suddenly became a centerpiece set-up song that the band tweaked and rode to much applause.
“Tube” shouldn’t be confused with “First Tube,” which debuted in 1999 and was included on Farmhouse, “Last Tube,” the Trey Anastasio jam centerpiece, or Vida Blue’s “Fresh Tube.” The original “Tube” combines quirky Fishman-penned lyrics that reference asteroids crashing, tigers in lily patches, and even singer Robert Palmer (though few can decipher the ending lyrics well enough to know what he is doing!) with a fast, shuffle-style verse and a groovy jam in the middle.
By 1991, “Tube” had become a regular song in rotation and was often used as a second-set opener. But the song became rarer in 1992 and seemingly disappeared in 1993. Subsequently, it was played only once in 1994 and a handful of times in 1995. Trey referenced the crowd’s fondness for the rare song on 12/11/95, when he rewarded the fans in attendance with “Tube” for their participation in the humorous “Dog Log” album gag.
Still, fans were disappointed when “Tube” seemed to go back in a hole, as it was fairly forgotten by the band in 1996 and early 1997. And then the Cow Funk hit. Spurred by Mike’s Modulus bass and setlists that placed increased emphasis on thick funk-oriented jams, “Tube” seemed to be a perfect vehicle to convey the sound the band was trying to perfect. For some reason, it stayed away until the 12/7/97 Dayton show (made available as a Live Phish archival release in 2003), but once unleashed it came charging out. The band was apparently happy enough with their performance that they reprised the jam segment after the song concluded before moving nicely into “Slave.” A few weeks later, fans at MSG caught a hot “Tube” on 12/29/97 (complete with an “I Feel the Earth Move” tease) and realized that the asteroid had surely crashed and left one hell of a burning song behind!
In 1998 and 1999, the band moved to a more groove-oriented style of jamming and “Tube” continued to grow. It was a fitting choice for the first song of 1998 and only grew stronger throughout the year. The fully untapped potential of the jam segment was unleashed and then some at the first of two shows at Hampton; released on Hampton Comes Alive, you'll not want to miss this one! Also check out the hot 11/2/98 version that contained the second-ever “Tube Reprise” jam (see, also, 12/7/97) and that moved nicely into the return of “Drowned.” Other notable versions include 7/21/98, 11/20/98, and 7/17/99. Additionally, the “Tube” from 12/30/03 stands toe-to-toe with the finest versions, and was so powerful that Phish didn’t even finish it until the following evening!
For whatever reason, post-breakup versions of "Tube" have been scaled-down from a jamming perspective. That said, fans of the song should be sure to check out the 6/9/09 version where Trey explains the common origin of "Tube," "Gumbo" and "Dog Faced Boy." To make your collection complete, pick up the outtakes from Story of the Ghost to hear the unreleased studio version.
"Tube" – 4/2/98, Uniondale, NY