10 Songs, 10 Stories | Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam | Photo by Jason Gonulsen

To celebrate Pearl Jam’s October U.S. tour that kicks off today in Cincinnati, we’re rolling out a new feature called “10 Songs, 10 Stories” where we, the writers at Speakers in Code, talk about songs that have left marks on our lives.

Pearl Jam will be in St. Louis on Friday at the Scottrade Center, and a few tickets still remain. Purchase them here.

Listen to/read about each song individually below, or subscribe to the playlist on Spotify here.

1. Corduroy

I don’t want to be held in your debt
I’ll pay it off in blood, let I be wed
I’m already cut up and half dead
I’ll end up alone like I began

For New Year’s Eve 2010, my friend (who would later become my girlfriend) and I drove from St. Louis to New York City, and with the iPod on shuffle, this song came on at the exact moment when we first saw the “Welcome to New York” sign. We cranked up the volume, sang loudly (“can’t buy what I want because it’s free”), laughed. I remember it like yesterday. If there’s one thing you must know about me: I remember everything.

2. Smile

I miss you already, I miss you always
I miss you already, I miss you all day
This is how I feel

I grew up in Springfield, Illinois, and when I was bored I either played basketball in my driveway or took my Ford Mercury for a spin. One time, with the windows rolled down, this song came on, and I was screaming, “I miss you allllreadddyyyy,” totally lost in the moment…and also stopped at a red light. I looked to my left to find a woman eating french fries and laughing her ass off at my loudness.

3. Long Road

I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today

My father was born in Izmir, Turkey, and I have traveled to that beautiful country three times. During my second trip, there was a bus ride on the Bosphorus Bridge, which takes you over the body of water called the Bosphorus, which separates two continents: Europe and Asia. There is even a “Welcome to Asia” or “Welcome to Europe” sign, depending which direction you’re traveling. While on the bridge, I was listening to “Long Road,” staring out the window into a sight so beautiful and peaceful. “And I wished for so long, cannot stay.” I wish I could have stayed.

4. Once

Backstreet lover on the side of the road
I got a bomb in my temple that is gonna explode

When I was in high school, I basically did three things: read, listen to music, and play soccer. For the latter, I traveled often to Rockford, Illinois, and before one tryout for some God-awful thing called the “Olympic Development Program,” my friends and I piled into a mini-van and listened to this song. We didn’t say a word to each other; it was supposed to pump us up, and it did. For the record, the rest of Ten played on.

5. The End

More than friends I always pledged
Cause friends they come and go
People change as does everything
I wanted to grow old
Just want to grow old

I cried once at work (okay, I once derailed at work), but I don’t believe anyone actually saw it because it was so late in the day. It was because I heard this song for the first time right after a harsh breakup. I think it’s how Eddie sings, “Help me see myself, because I can no longer tell.” We all want to be loved.

6. Come Back

And sometimes you’re there
And you’re talking back to me
Come the morning I could swear you’re next to me
And it’s okay
It’s okay
It’s okay

I miss my Grandpa, and some nights I still dream of him. It was his kindness, his ability to listen, his effort that made him a great human being. When I hear “Come Back,” I think of him every time.

7. Rearviewmirror

I gather speed from you fucking with me
Once and for all I’m far away

I purchased Vs. on the day it was released, but the only device I had on which to play it was broken. So, I would stare at the orange compact disc for days — seriously, I would just look at the thing, helpless (this situation, of course, would never happen today). I finally drove to my cousin’s house by the lake, where I listened to it alone in a bedroom at least four times straight. And this was the song that gave me chills, especially how it ends.

8. Thumbing My Way

All the rusted signs we ignore throughout our lives
Choosing the shiny ones instead
I turned my back, now there’s no turning back

I’ve been to Bonnaroo twice, and near the end of my first trip in 2010, I became ill due to the heat (and maybe too much alcohol, okay?). Two things that helped me recover: 1. Water; 2. “Thumbing My Way.” On my way back home, I drove through lonesome Tennessee back roads with this song as my soundtrack.

9. Just Breathe

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me

I first heard “Just Breathe” in a crappy Vegas hotel called The Riviera. This was back when I occasionally bet on sports, which is about the dumbest thing I have ever done in my life. But there were these words: “Stay with me, let’s just breathe.” I then made my final bet ever, won $500, and got the hell outta Vegas.

10. Nothingman

She once believed in every story he had to tell
One day she stiffened, took the other side

There are many things I could write here, but the one moment that is sticking with me right now is witnessing a fan at last year’s PJ show at Wrigley Field, walking by himself, singing, “Oh, she don’t want him, Oh, she won’t feed him,” hitting his chest near his heart, staring off into space. Isn’t it something?

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