October 24, 2010

I Won't Be Taken

There is no doubt that there is a pattern developing when we stop and reflect on these first eight songs from Ten, the debut album from Pearl Jam:
Abused martyred narrator overcomes pain and suffering to lead other troubled souls to salvation and peace.
Nearly every song is born in the murky aches of shame, but through enduring power of defiance and an electric guitar they elevate themselves to anthems of survival, beyond endurance, but authentic change, growth, evolution. These songs are the timeless soundtrack of every broken childhood across the world. The perpetrators of the destruction may differ, but the victim is clear to all of us who have ever stared at the lingering effects of cruelty in the mirror for the duration of our lives.

The first time I heard these songs I was just finishing high school. I had finally met a group of friends who were like brothers to me. I had begin given the opportunity to finally open up and share most of the pain I had been carrying my entire life. Music had always been an escape, but not until Ten by Pearl Jam did I realize that music could be born from within me and work itself outwards. The songs were not written about someone like me, they were written for me by me. I understood them on such a visceral level, that even twenty years later I can relive the times alone in my room, in the darkness, with the headphones screaming into the pillow.

These songs were about release. They allowed me to shed the shame and guilt I had carried for so long and walk with my face blood into the garden...

Garden itself is probably the most immature of these debut confessions. The lyrics are bare-boned, basic, and adolescent at best. Not much more that the scribbling of an angst ridden teenager in a journal of unripe life observations. What the song lacks in depth, however, it makes up for with raw emotional vehemence. The chorus is textbook Vedder. While the dirge like entry, could be the poetry of any teenager, the chorus shows scope and vision. It is as if he knew that someday he would hear his words echoed back to him by full stadiums.
After all is done
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

I don't show...
I don't share...
I don't need
What you have to give...
Furthermore, musically it is amazing to see how the song has evolved. The guitar in this version from the nineties is raw and messy. True to their “grunge” roots the sound is muddled and dirty. Vedder doing his typical apathetic front man character doesn’t do the already weak lyrics any favors…..( I do love however how at the end he says, I would tell you more if I knew how.)

Flash forward a few years and notice how rich the guitar parts have become. As if the mature arrangement wasn’t enough, Vedder’s vocals now show a trace of tenderness and peace. Finally McCready's guitar solo extenuates his growth as a guitar player. It's as if the grunge sound has been reshaped to sound bluesy ala Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Garden is probably the most underplayed song on the album, because it is not one of the timeless Pearl Jam songs, but it is important to understand it as a foundation of what would come; songs like Given To Fly were sown in The Garden.


  1. Anonymous10:51 PM

    Yet more proof for the old idea that what we know best is what we write best about.

    Music and prose are intrinsically connected - in a way that, mired in its ponderous stillness, art cannot touch. Thanks for reminding me why.

  2. onepercentyellow9:04 AM

    I'm a much bigger fan of this song than of Porch, actually. While the lyrics may be weak, the smoothness of the vocals ends up being like a long chant, almost like a grungy Om......

  3. thanks for posting my photo with credit!
    = )

  4. @onepercentyellow Great call. I couldn't articulate what I meant about the chorus, but you are right there is a chant like quality to it.

    @sunshinecity Love it when people respond back from Flickr. Glad you like it. Are you on Twitter?

    @Anonymous who ever you are? Thank you for this line:

    Music and prose are intrinsically connected - in a way that, mired in its ponderous stillness, art cannot touch