Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriter: Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Ten
Definitive Version: MTV Unplugged bootleg, 1992
So, do you like Pearl Jam as the Stone Gossard Pilots? I didn’t come up with that line, of course, but I always liked it.
If Pearl Jam’s appearance on Saturday Night Live was what made me notice them, catching a rerun of their appearance on Unplugged cemented the relationship.
As I’ve mentioned, MTV Unplugged was an important show in terms of my music choices in the Nineties. The stripped-down nature was what made it great, because I believe that anyone can write something and amplify it and trick it out so it can sound good (witness most of today’s auto-tuned pop), but a truly great song needs no such trickeration. Sure, it can sound better electric—and many songs do—but if you can strip off all the gloss and it still sounds great, then that’s just a great song.
In Pearl Jam’s case, it was also the performance. You’ve probably seen it, but if not, you can find clips fairly easily. Porch is the closest I’ve seen a band come to blowing the walls down with nothing more than acoustic guitars and a microphone. I remember sitting in my apartment in Grand Blanc thinking, wow, Eddie Vedder plays for keeps at all times—even on an ordinarily sedate TV performance. That’s a band that demands respect.
Because I had my VCR hooked up to my tape deck, I was able to make a reasonable-quality bootleg of the show, and I listened to that tape all summer. Of course, it makes me think of the White Horse.
Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on your point of view—The White Horse never put Ten on the jukebox. (Nevermind was on there, briefly.) I suppose everyone would have gotten sick of me playing the whole thing every weekend. So I kept my Pearl Jam to myself on the drive into work and home after.
Recently, Dave told me he had finally discovered Pearl Jam after all these years. He asked me, rhetorically, where have I been? Dude, you were having your first kid. You had other things on your mind than some new rock band, and, hey, better late than never.