Music That Inspires: Ten

Yes, I am one of those people who like Pearl Jam.

I do not remember the first Pearl Jam song I heard. The one that sticks in my mind is Jeremy, mostly because of the video, but I feel like I heard Alive or Evenflow first.

I consider Pearl Jam’s Ten a perfect album. I love every song. It has a special meaning for me because the summer of 1993. The album almost plays out exactly the that summer went. I remember listening to the songs and seeing parts of my life in the lyrics. The songs were not at all about the situations I experienced, but I saw them that way.

I also made my younger brother hate this album. I would make him listen to it, either by the stereo, headphones, or singing the songs. When moved in together years later, he banned from playing the album on anything he could hear. A running joke between us is that to annoy him I will sing the opening lines of GardenShe don’t wander in, don’t wander in here, she — which he usually follows up with something along the lines of “I swear to God….” and then offers a colorful threat. (Ironically, this is just happen. He heard me playing Evenflow and yelled at me, and now he is yelling at me and hitting me for adding this to the post.)

I think the reason I love the album is because of the raw energy of the music and lyrics. The way Eddie Vedder sings adds to this. He is similar to Bjork in that you cannot know what he will say next. It is as if he is finding the lyrics as he goes along.

Below of my favorite songs from the album. I ended up buying the European version of the album a few years ago to replace the original I left at home, which explains the inclusion of Dirty Frank.

I remember seeing this video just before going to 4th grade. I had never seen or heard anything like this before. I think this song might be the first time I understood using of words as metaphor. Even though I saw the video, I always thought Jeremy was talking about the things I was forbidden to say. I loved singing the end of the song because it was a way of saying it without saying it.

I think this is the first song I heard with a clear reference to a mother propositioning her son. The second verse reads:

Oh, she walks slowly
Across a young man’s room
She said, “I’m ready for you”
Why I can’t remember anything to this very day
‘Cept the look
The look
Oh, you know where
Now I can’t see I just stare

I told this to my brother when I realized what it was about. He joked about me wanting to have sex with my mother, but never mentioned the lyrics again.

This song is my favorite Pearl Jam song. This song in particular personified that summer, especially this part:

After all is done
and we’re still alone
I won’t be taken, yet

I’ll go with my hands bound
I will walk with my face, blood
I will walk with my shadow flag
Into your garden, garden of stone

This song was my defiance. I could not stop what would happen, but I could choose to go along with it. I would face it and deal will it head on. Sometimes I would think about the song or sing it under my breath (which is how the running joke started with my brother). It did not make the situation any better, and when I was overheard a few times it made it worse, but it did make me feel better in that moment.

The curious thing is that no one is really sure what the song is about. Vedder never gave a clear answer, and the lyrics are vague enough that they could reference a cemetery, a war, a broken relationship, or modern society. Some people may take issue with that. I rather enjoy it. The song can mean whatever you want or need it to mean.

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