Just by reading this headline, some of you already have the whistling melody running through your head. However, the first-ever live version of “Reba” played by Phish was a little different from how the song is played now–although that whistling melody still maintains the song’s nonsensical charm.

31 years ago in 1989, Phish brought out “Reba” for the first time while playing at The Front in their hometown of Burlington, VT. Unlike how the song is arranged now, the debut actually opened with the composed instrumental section before going into a slowed-down version of the familiar quickly-sung verses. Interestingly, the lyrical part of “Reba” ended with the same build-up but went into a bizarre distortion-heavy breakdown where the band members sing “Bag it, tag it” in falsettos.

Hear Phish Make Their Debut At Famed NYC Venue Wetlands Preserve In 1989 [Listen]

From there, the debut “Reba” went into the familiar “Chase” section, with Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell going note-for-note. It’s Jon Fishman who led the transition before the band settled into a great jam session. Perhaps a little less melodic than a “Reba” jam might sound today, there’s no denying the song’s long-term potential even during its first performance many years ago.

The band hadn’t yet come up with the whistling component of “Reba”, so the jam ended with Fishman’s familiar drum line into a vocal breakdown, with the band riffing off of the words “Bag it, tag it” into utter nonsense. At the end of the song, Trey informed the crowd that “Reba” was a new song, and dedicated the performance it to “The spirit of Nancy.”

Relive the 1980 debut of “Reba” in full below.

Phish – “Reba” – 10/1/89

[Video: Josip Capan]

For fans who want to dig a little deeper into Phistory, listen to the entire October 1st, 1989 performance at The Front via the video player below.

Phish – Live At The Front In Burlington, VT – 10/1/1989

[Video: fromtheaquarium]

SETLIST: Phish | The Front | Burlington, VT  | 10/1/89

Set One: Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Who Do? We Do! > Golgi Apparatus, Harry Hood > The Chase > Wilson > Foam, Ya Mar, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg > Run Like an Antelope

Set Two: AC/DC Bag > My Sweet One > Reba[1], Dinner and a Movie > Bundle of Joy > Possum, You Enjoy Myself > If I Only Had a Brain, Contact, Split Open and Melt, The Lizards

Encore: Highway to Hell[2]

[1] Debut. No whistling.
[2] First known Phish performance.
Trey teased Purple Haze in Suzy. I’m A Man in Antelope, and the Brady Bunch theme in Possum. Trey dedicated the debut performance of Reba to the “Spirit of Nancy.” Reba did not have the whistling ending. This show also marked the first known Phish performance of Highway to Hell.