One of the many great resources available via the Phish fan site Phish.net is a comprehensive batch of song histories. The Phish.net Team fully details the hundreds of tunes, both covers and originals, the quartet has played over the years as well as many songs performed by side projects. A major update has been made to the “Roses Are Free” song history including the thoughts from one of the men who wrote the Ween song that Phish covers – Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo.
Deaner weighed in on the genesis of the song as well as his take on Phish starting to cover “Roses Are Free” beginning with its debut on December 11, 1997 in Rochester, New York:
Aaron wrote this song and recorded it in his apartment in Stockton, NJ during the very fertile writing period preceding Chocolate and Cheese. There was no bass on it. I immediately fell in love with the song and thought it was the closest thing we’d ever recorded to truly emulate Prince, who is our musical hero. The demo was on four tracks with two vocals, drum machine and keyboard. I heard it as being symphonic. I think it’s ironic that as many times as we’ve worn our Prince inspiration on our sleeves that no one ever picked up the obvious, massive Prince influence of the song. When we re-recorded it for Chocolate and Cheese we filled up 24 tracks with parts. We never played it live, it had never even occurred to us until Phish started playing it out. Now it’s one of my favorite songs to perform live, as the whole band is playing the entire time. Usually it’s our finale of finales, the last song of the last encore. Phish, by covering it, made it one of our popular and most crowd pleasing tunes. For that we owe Trey forever because it opened up so many people’s ears to the music of Ween and introduced us to a whole new audience within the jam band scene, which never would have happened otherwise.
During Phish’s tour stop at Blossom Music Center in Ohio on August 7, guitarist Trey Anastasio made a plea to both Melchiondo and Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman to reunite Ween. Gene and Dean parted ways in 2012.
Be sure to read the “Roses Are Free” song history for much more on the Ween classic. Phish.net song histories are updated quite frequently, so we highly recommend checking out the list and reading about your favorite tunes. The Phish.net team consists of volunteers who aim to raise funds for the non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.