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