A few weeks ago I wrote about my love of Pearl Jam (OK, obsession maybe). But it occurs to me that while people are probably familiar with their various hits, those only scratch the surface of why they are my favorite band. So I present a few of the deeper cuts.
Sleight of Hand – Binaural
“He found himself staring down at his own hands, not remembering the changes, not recalling the plan… was his.”
That’s how we go into the first chorus for this song. A man who finds himself at the crossroads of life. I’ve written about this idea before – that an 18 year old has picked out your life for you. Determined your path.
“Lost on a road he knew by heart.”
And here we have a man who has finally reached the point where he has to make a change – to something different. Hoping that it’s not too late to change.
“He waves goodbye to himself.”
It doesn’t take much, just a desire to make the change… and a willingness to do it.
A little push.
“Another man… moved by Slight of Hand.”
Unemployable – Pearl Jam
“Thinking if he can’t sleep, how will he ever dream again.”
More than anything, it’s this one lyric that does it for me. Something so simple about stress, about not knowing how we’re supposed to get through the next day. How do we know we’ve done the right thing by our family? All of these things which keep us up at night – leads us to the real point:
When all we’re doing is just getting by – “How will he ever dream again.”
We all have dreams or at least had them at one point and put them aside for various reasons life throws at us. But they aren’t gone, just buried deep… waiting for us to dream them again.
Gone – Pearl Jam
I’m a sucker for Pearl Jam’s “Driving” songs. They started back on Vs. with Rearviewmirror – Eddie’s howl “Things were clearer… when you were in my Rearviewmirror.”
Yield brought MFC (Many Fast Cars) which I love for its tempo right out of the gate. We’re already on the road, going as fast as we can.
Gone, though, is different. It starts slow, deliberate… another person who is dissatisfied with their life. We see a mix of their regular self. Almost like a list of things someone wouldn’t care to miss. And then the decision is made.
“I will be what I could be once I get out of this town.”
But it’s a game… when will they end up with the choice? When will they make it.
“Long gone, I haven’t gone at all…
This time I’m gone.”
Is it a dare? And if so, for who? Us? Them?
4/20/02 – Lost Dogs (Disc 2 – Hidden Track)
“So sing just like him…”
“Because he’s dead.”
Pearl Jam’s tribute to Layne Stanley isn’t lauded or celebrated, but is buried as an unlisted track on their 2nd Lost Dogs Disc. And that’s fine. It doesn’t need to be anything more than it is. All too often we look at musicians who cannot escape their personal demons and succumb – and then we’re all left to wonder (and lament) about the music they didn’t get to create. That the world is denied their gift.
And then we get to Pearl Jam. Somehow, someway they’ve made it through when their popularity could crush them. Past individual member’s struggles with drugs. Past the tragedy at Rosklide…
“No blame, no blame… it could be you.”
That refrain we all make when faced with the loss of someone we cared about, admired, or loved. We have to carry on. We have to “use” the pain and push through the sludge.
Otherwise we might succumb too.
Off He Goes – No Code
We actually included this song on the cds we burned for our wedding keepsakes. I knew a couple of things about that project (which Courtney put me in charge of) but the biggest was that it wasn’t just going to be a bunch of sappy love songs for the sake of having love songs. And that there needed to be 1 Pearl Jam song.
I thought about it for a good while. Trying to figure out if their was a song that just fit, and then I went back and listened to the lyrics for this song – a song about friends and how fleeting our time is with them as we grow older.
“We go way back.”
Those early days where all we had to focus on was school and maybe sports. Somewhere along the line life started to show up. And friends moved away or they got busy. And it can be sad…
“And now I rub my eyes, for he has returned.”
The moments that we now might get to spend with those old friends through phone calls or emails or even in person – we have to take a little time and really understand what we have with each other. Catch up with them, but more than anything take the time to be in that moment.
“And now he’s home and we’re laughing like we always did
My same old, same old friend…”
You won’t regret it.
John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.
He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!
And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.