The 19 Best Pearl Jam Songs That Were Never Singles

Pearl Jam celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2011 by throwing a two-day concert festival at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre that I was grateful enough to attend, a documentary showcasing the history of the band, and releasing a PJ 20 soundtrack, as well as many other “goods”.

Pearl Jam is one of the best live bands today, and if you get a chance to see them, I recommend that you go. They play big venues but without all the flashy light shows, pyrotechnics, and all that other crap. It’s all about the music, and everyone is a friend.

In my short life of 18 years, there hasn’t been one single band that has had more of an impact and has changed my life more than Pearl Jam. But this post isn’t about me, but rather what Pearl Jam has always been about since they’ve started: the music.

Pearl Jam has plenty of good songs, but I didn’t want this to be like every other list, so I decided to pick out what I think are the best PJ songs that were never officially released as singles.

I hope you enjoy!

*Songs are in no particular order. 

1. “Release”

The last track of Ten holds as much power and emotion a song could have. It’s a personal song, written as a tribute to Eddie Vedder’s dad, whom he never got to really know. Instead he was told that his stepdad was his real dad. His real dad was just a “family friend,” stopping by every once in awhile.

Vedder cried the first time the band played this, and it often makes fans cry when it’s chosen as the opening song of the concert.

2. “Indifference”

Vedder said Indifference was about “[trying to] do something to make some other peoples’ lives better than they are, even if it means going through hell. Three Faces of Me.” 

The song is from the band’s second album, VS. I think it’s also one of the most underrated PJ songs. It has absolutely great lyrics and very fitting/soothing music behind it. You feel the emotion, and that’s what all great songs are able to do.

3. “Nothingman”

Speaking of power, emotional songs like Nothingman might just be the epitome of songs that have and give off pure emotion. Personally, this is one of my favorite PJ songs. So many good lyrics.

“The idea is about if you love someone and they love you, don’t fuck up…’cause you are left with less than nothing.”– Eddie Vedder on Nothingman

4. “Corduroy”

A fan favorite, Corduroy gets its’ name after Vedder found out a corduroy jacket he bought for $12 was being sold for $650.

It is about a relationship but not between two people. It’s more one person’s relationship with a million people. In fact, that song’s almost a little too obvious for me. That’s why instead of a lyric sheet we put in an X-ray of my teeth from last January and they are all in very bad shape, which was analogous to my head at the time.”-Vedder on Corduroy

 

5. “Smile”

Smile comes off of the “No Code” album, (Probably my favorite PJ album) and is actually written by Vedder’s friend Dennis Felmion of the The Frogs, who left the lyrics written in Vedder’s notebook for Vedder to find.

It’s also one of the few PJ songs to feature a harmonica, and I am kinda a sucker for harmonicas.

6. “Red Mosquito”

Also from “No Code” comes this guitar riff heavy song inspired from the cancellation of Pearl Jam’s short 1995 concert due to Vedder’s catching food poisoning. It’s just a great rock song.

7. “Faithfull”

Off of “Yield,” Faithfull is a great example of what great lyrical writing and great music writing can make when brought together.

8. “Soon Forget”

Sometimes simplicity is the best. Enough said.

(Sometimes even the great forget how to play their songs…only for a moment, though.)

9. “Inside Job”

This song’s greatness is completely attributed to lead guitarist, Mike McCready, who wrote both the lyrics and music to this song. This song blew me away the first time I heard it, and it still has that same power every listen.

One of the many things I love about Pearl Jam is they’re a band that gets its’ music from every single member of the band, not just one. All five members are extremely talented.

10. “Come Back”

Come Back is the type of song that hits the core of anyone who listens to it. When performed live it’s even better. The Avocado album, as fans like to call it, really was Pearl Jam returning to their roots and proves that this band’s success is far from over.

11. “Unthought Known”

Arguably the best song of PJ’s 2009 album, “Backspacer”. Pearl Jam excels in making very hard-driven rock songs that build as the song progresses.

12. “Sad”

Sad comes off the album “Lost Dogs”, a b-side, to a disc compilation of songs that didn’t make the cut onto the albums. Not surprising at all is the fact that there are a lot of great songs on “Lost Dogs”.

I remember reading a comment that said “Pearl Jam’s b-sides are better than a lot of bands’ a-sides.” It’s hard not to agree with that when you hear the song Sad.

13. “Down”

Down was a written for the historian, social activist, and friend of Pearl Jam, Howard Zinn. It’s an uplifting song with a fantastic guitar riff and closing minute. This and “Sad” could have been charting singles. Their absence from any of the albums still puzzles me.

14. “Alone”

Alone was recorded during the “Ten” sessions, but wasn’t released until the “Go” single. It was re-released on the “Lost Dogs” album but changed just a little bit. I personally like the original. There’s just something badass about this song.

15. “Undone”

Vedder said this song was best to listen to just before an election…and it’s election season in the Untied States.

16. Fatal

Here’s another song off of “Lost Dogs” that is an absolutely incredible song. This song never gets old. Written by rhythm guitarist, Stone Gossard, Fatal stands out as the best song, hands down, on “Lost Dogs.”

“If he’s truly out of sight, is he truly out of mind.” 

17. Hard to Imagine

The band cites this as the most written lyric on signs. I don’t blame anyone for doing that. The real seller on this song is the last 2-3 minutes where Vedder screams “Things were different then. All is different now. I tried to explain, somehow.”

It gets me every time.

18. “Drifting”

It’s the harmonica again.

19. Yellow Ledbetter

I think it’s fitting to finish this list with Yellow Ledbetter. Arguably, the fans’ favorite song, Yellow Ledbetter is often the ending song for most of Pearl Jam’s concerts.

 

Fans are excited to hear it because it’s a great song, but sad also because the show is over, and if there’s one thing a PJ never wants to happen, it’s for the concert to end.

**********



About Tyler Juranovich

Tyler Juranovich is an Indiana native, a Ball State student, and a senior writer for MSF, where he's been writing about Chicago sports since 2009. His favorite teams are the Chicago Blackhawks and Bears. He's also a lover of reading, music, and movies. Follow him on Twitter (@tylerjuranovich) or email him at tyler.juranovich@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Josh Tinley says:

    I'm glad to see Red Mosquito make the list.

  2. where's insignificance? (-

    • I could easily put 95% of Pearl Jam songs on this list. I love them all, but , to me, these are the strongest bunch of songs you don't tend to hear on radio or tv or anything else.

  3. Bill Goodman says:

    Great list. I to agree that Pearl Jam's B sides were better than some of the A sides. Down and Sad are personal favorites of mine as well as Rearview Mirror.

    Go Blackhawks! Lets hope the Bears have a better season next year!

  4. Better Man

    • While Betterman is a great song, it was an official single and I wanted to stay away from the usual "Best of Pearl Jam" lists.

  5. PhillyGirl says:

    Tremendous list.. glad to see Down, one of my favorites. I would have added Footsteps to make it an even 20.

    • To tell you the truth, that was the last song I cut. An absolutely amazing song. I appreciate the input and the kind words. I am assuming you live in Philadelphia, so did you see PJ's 3 hour and 40 min setlist at the Spectrum when the band dressed up as Devo? That would've been badass to have attended.

  6. Rearview Mirror and Rats – I don’t think either was a single and they are the band’s two best songs – apart or back to back. RM just rocks and Rats is an awesome, funky side of the band with awesome lyrics.

  7. Nathaniel says:

    Great list! Love seeing Drifting, Down and Alone. Yellow Ledbetter may not have been a single but it played constantly on Dallas radio stations back in the day. My #20 would be Present Tense.

    • Yellow Ledbetter might get the most radio play out of all these songs, but I couldn't resist. Not every video shows a women balling her eyes out. Haha. And Present Tense is amazing. A lot better live too.

  8. I really thought Get Some and Parachutes could have made serious waves.

    Not a Riot Act fan? 1/2 full would have been a good single too.

    No Code is my favorite too, great read. Unthought Unknown isnt as good as force of nature though, "gems and rinestones" takes me out of it every time.

    • Force of Nature was on my original list. Great, great song. Riot Act is a great album, but, as you may know, cutting and trying to put only 19 songs out of Pearl Jam's huge selection of great songs (I'd say 95% are good songs), there's going to be some songs that get the short end of the rope.

  9. Nolan Again says:

    Also, beautiful selection of live performances, lots of those made my favorites list. Living in the middle of nowhere Maine, seeing PJ is a bit of a pipe dream, but Youtube helps numb the pain.

    • You need to see them at least once, but I feel your pain. Their Youtube videos do a lot, but it is not a replacement to how good PJ is live. I hope you do get to see them man! Thanks for the kind words.

  10. Seeing stuff like this is how I know they're a great band through and through. I love all the songs on this list, and yet if I made my own I think maybe 5 would be on my list. Songs that are in my bottom-half on an album consistently show up as people's favorites and vice versa. Let's face it, we like a really, really good band.

  11. No Black in your list

    • True. Though it was never a single, I didn't want to put any radio-heavy or songs average people knew. The motive of this article was to show the diversity of songs Pearl Jam has and that their not well known songs are just as good as their known songs.

  12. Great list I have to say. Gone is a great one too.

  13. so glad they weren't "singles" as radio would've ruined them by over playing them. just make sure they are in your collection

  14. Great list! Love that you included Drifting. Though I'm surprised to see Corduroy on here…not that it's not a tremendous song, but I think I must have thought it was a single. Generally when I hear Pearl Jam on the radio it's one of the five or six I'm most likely to hear. I'd have put Sleight of Hand and Gone on my list, though I can appreciate the difficulty making a list like this would present, I'd have given up. Too many great songs to narrow down!

  15. what's the point-

    you'd spend 5-8.00 for 2-3 songs, or 14.00 for the full album? and in terms of radio play, most stations tend to
    yap over the intro of a good tune until the moment the vocals start, and also chop the tail end off the jam at the end, so…………….

  16. As a die hard PJ fan I think your list hits the mark. Respect… Thumbing My Way and Gone would have rounded off this list if it went to 21.

  17. I miss Off He Goes and Light Years in this list…. yes, I like the sad songs!!!!

  18. Betterman(from comments) & Corduroy(from your list) both were singles. Immortality & Present Tense would be nice additions, just my comments, otherwise, great list!

    • Corduroy was not a single, though it did chart. And Immortality was a single. Otherwise it would've been on the list.

  19. Really enjoyed this list, though I would have definitely included "Gone", "Black Red & Yellow", "Footsteps", "Present Tense", and most importantly "Porch".

    Agreed that Indifference is such an underrated song.

  20. Andy Sharry says:

    stumbled upon this…nice job…i love when someone puts thought into their posts and brings something to the table…..you back everything up really well and although I might not agree with everything, you point out things in songs that I previously may not have been aware of.

  21. I’ve been loving PJ since their debut album and really enjoyed listening to your 19 best singles! Thanks! J

  22. How about Dirty Frank? I think its a really good song, many people will not realised that PJ can make a song like chilli peppers but still sound like a pearl jam song :)

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