Over the next eight days, I’m going to present songs in a sort of ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ format. While I was looking up clips on YouTube, I made some jumps from one to another based on random criteria and figured I might as well hold on to that process as I posted them.
The string begins with an elderly woman behind the counter in a small town…
I feel like I should like Pearl Jam more than I do. Or rather, that I should pay more attention to their music. Because when I go back and listen to the highlights of their first few albums, I’m always impressed. Somewhere along the line I stopped listening to them and sold back some of the CDs, but perhaps that was a mistake.
This song is a wonderful example of Pearl Jam at their best. You’ve got Eddie Vedder’s unique, effective vocals over the simple strumming of an acoustic guitar spinning a yarn (a micro-narrative, if you will) about a bittersweet encounter. There’s nothing pretentious here and nothing obnoxious (a problem with some of their louder material) … it’s simple and moving. I love songs that don’t show the strain of too much ambition but still manage to carry a lot of emotional and thematic weight.
I found a quote from Vedder explaining the song. I know some people don’t like to hear from the writer when it comes to songs, books or movies but I lap this stuff up. I want to know exactly what thinking went into every line. I reserve the right to disagree, but it’s nice to have the information.
It’s kind of about a lady, and she’s getting on in years, and she’s stuck in this small town. Small towns fascinate me: You either struggle like hell to get out, to some people want to stay ’cause then they’re the big fish in the small pond, and then others just kind of get stuck there. So here she is working in this little place, and then an old flame comes in, and he’s probably driving a nice car and looking kind of sharp – not a fancy car, but he’s moved on. And then she sees him, and at first she doesn’t even remember who he is, and then she realizes who it is. She’s just too embarrassed to say ‘hello.’
Haunting, familiar, yet I can’t seem to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me
All these changes taking place,
I wish I’d seen the place
But no one’s ever taken me
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
I swear I recognize your breath
Memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
Me you wouldn’t recall, for
I’m not my former…
Its hard when you’re stuck upon the shelf
I changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate
Perhaps that’s what no one wants to see
I just want to scream Hello
My God its been so long, never dreamed you’d return
But now here you are, and here I am
Hearts and thoughts they fade…away…