Pearl Jam. My favourite band ever; or so I claim. In actual fact, although I’ve listened to plenty of their songs, there are only a couple of Pearl Jam albums that I’ve listened to all the way through. One of them is Yield. Another, the first I ever heard, is No Code.
As I drive to the gym one night, wearing my Pearl Jam t-shirt, I decide to listen to whatever Pearl Jam I have on my ipod. Driving someone else’s large car along a country road in the dark, I realise why (apart from their music) I love Pearl Jam so much. It is the perpetual youth that the music stirs up in me; the fact that I will always be 17, taken back to driving another large, borrowed car along a different country road to see the person who first lent me No code. Ten years older than me, English with an American accent (after 10 years in the States), he had been there, caught up in the deluge of Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots. He had lived in that scene, experienced the gigs and the grunge. “This reminds me of you,” he said one day, as we drove along listening to ‘Smile’. He was always in love with innocent, 17-year-old me, although I continually rejected him.
Perhaps Pearl Jam is my favourite band because it has been the soundtrack to some of my serious love stories. Tales in which I was the object of desire; the Bohemian lover; the transgressing heart-breaker too weak to admit the facts. Wanting the bird in my hand and the one in the sky. Pearl Jam bonded me with people I loved and has played in the years since I was 17.And although their music has been attached to other people and newer, different times, whenever I am driving in the dark with Pearl Jam drifting through the speakers, I will always be 17, restored to a confidence behind the wheel that eludes me now. Seventeen, borrowing my parents’ bulky, diesel, Peugeot 405 (which, back then I could drive way better than the posh car my fiance lets me borrow now). Or I am 25 and in London, watching a DVD of Eddie Vedder unplugged on MTV. Or I am 31, promising myself I will listen to all of Pearl Jam’s albums before this Winter Solstice. Then I can sell my soul for a ticket when they next tour; truly claim to be a huge fan when I know what Ten sounds like from start to finish.