Vedder Flashback (Condensed)

Eddie Vedder was mysterious and that’s why he was sexy. Of course, in eighth and ninth grade, I hadn’t yet made that connection; I was too overwhelmed and mesmerized by the music and the accompanying videos to try and analyze the rawness of my own attraction to him.

And it wouldn’t be until college when I made the connection that Cobain had come from punk and Vedder from metal, both taking the salient aspects of each and blending it with a previously un-attempted Pacific Northwest drone. Heading Nirvana and Pearl Jam, respectively, the two defined the grunge scene like binary stars locked in their own orbits.

But it was not as if they were trying to be this way. My high school perspective was to take Vedder’s silence as extremism, martyrdom, and a stick-it-to-the-man type of attitude. Whether or not this was solely my projection I cannot say, but surely I wasn’t the only one who noticed – Spin Magazine once produced a cover issue with, yes, a startlingly sexy cover shot of the grunge idol, whose mouth was taped shut.

Tonight I rented the 1992 romance film Singles, which has among other things, a brief guest appearance by Vedder. Once it made it to the rental stands in the nineties, I remember watching it with buddies and rewinding the scene where he enters (stage left…or, come to think of it, was it stage right?). Will have to check again.

I bother to bring this up not to demonstrate some teeny-bopper obsession. No, the thing with Vedder was different – because all along I recognized the inherent depth of his music. “Jeremy,” from their debut album Ten still strikes me as perhaps one of the most profound modern American music songs ever written. Better yet, back then MTV hadn’t sold out yet (in fact, MTV was still in it’s adolescence) so they still played videos and analyzed them artistically. The video for “Jeremy” was taunting, traumatic, raw, relatable, terrifying.

I remember sitting on the cold linoleum floor outside the women’s locker room before a home game one afternoon of my freshman year in high school. Cobain would be alive only another six months but none of us knew that at the time. In the right hand pocket of my rain coat I kept my coveted Panasonic Discman – the latest phenomenon in technology. I waited anxiously for my friend Cindy to finish changing and bring her backpack out – because in it she had the new Pearl Jam album.

Versus was their second album. Versus, as in vs., as in against, I remember thinking. How appropriate to listen to this as I walked across the parking lot, past the football stadium, across the lower lot, and down to the Junior Varsity fields for a home game against Madison. How did my battles on the soccer field connect to the battles that rolled off Vedder’s tongue? What battles would I have yet to fight?

Oh, there would be many. And yes, I played the album so much it scratched, and yes I still have the original jewel case (also scratched), and yes I still remember every word to every song.

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