David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 115: Pearl Jam (Not For You)

August 19, 2020

We all spend way too many years of our lives worrying about whether we fit in. When we are not doing that, we spend most of the rest of the years of our lives judging others for not fitting in with us. If you can honestly say you have never gotten caught up in such battles, well, then this blog is not for you.

I have written before about my inability to get into my 90's music, which frankly, when you are a rock and roll purist like myself, means Grunge. At the time, I just didn't get it. I was in my 30's, finished with my doctorate, well on the way to a professional career, a starter house, white picket fence (o.k. I never had that, but you get my point), family dog, and eventually kids.  I really believed I had no clue about teen spirits, black hole suns, or Jeremys.

In all of the cases of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, I came around. Contrary to what my friends might tell you, I am not a complete idiot; sometimes, however, I need to be hit over the head about a zillion times. In the last ten years, I have come to realize that Pearl Jam may be one of the greatest bands ever. However, for the longest time, I took them at the word that what they did was "not for me." Wouldn't you, if that famous Eddie Vedder scowl seemed to be aimed your way?

"Not For You" is an extremely aggressive attack on somebody. When I first heard it, I assumed that attack was on my generation and older. It sure sounded like Vedder's "small . . . table" that "sits just two" had no room for me. In retrospect, helped by some of Vedder's commentary about the song, I have come to realize that the song wasn't simply about excluding older generation from youth coups, but was about calling out specific members of an older generation who take advantage of youth.  At the time, though, it was hard not to think that the line "all that's sacred comes from youth" was a direct attack on my middle-aged life, on my 3/4 acre of land in Livonia, Michigan, on my Ford Escort station wagon (did I really just admit that?). Who the heck am I kidding, I would have called my older self out in my early 20's?

It didn't help that grunge, especially "Jeremy," "Even Flow," and "Dissident" sounded like white noise to my increasingly aging ears. I could kind of hear melodies, but they paled in comparison to the less distorted more mainstream rock of "Losing My Religion" or "Laid" that at the time saved me from abandoning all hope in music.

Thankfully, I matured (or in a way immatured) over the next decade so that I could appreciate the grandeur that is Pearl Jam: the multi-guitar assault that especially overpowers the last two minutes of the song, one guitar providing the essential rhythm, another soaring up and down the neck, leaving eventually the third one to pluck individual, graceful notes that sound like a piano more than a guitar.

And through it all is Eddie Vedder's voice. It is primarily coincidental (although I believe little is coincidental in this series) that this song follows Brandi Carlile's "The Story." In yesterday's blog, I praised the moment she screams in her song, but for years, I would have dismissed Vedder's screams in "Not For You" as just amplification, not as enunciation.  I was wrong. He is generally pissed when he screams "This is not for you/oh, never was for you, f*ck you." Gee, how did I miss that initially? I probably did deserve the f*ck you!

"Not For You" is an anthem, for those of us who want music to be pure; for those who know artists need to get credit; for those who hate the leeches who manipulate young artists; for all of us who need music to say something; for the desire for emotion, movement, hope.

Don't be like me left out in the cold for so long. As Vedder sings, "if you hate something, don't you do it too." If everyone listened to that, our society might actually evolve. Or at least Facebook would go bankrupt in a second. Don't worry Zuckerberg, that was not (really meant) for you.

"Not For You." Pearl Jam. Vitalogy. Epic. 1994. Link here.

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Day 116: Billy Idol "Flesh For Fantasy."->

See full unfinished list here.