Sunday, July 18, 2010

Song Stuck In My Head This Week - 18th July '10 - Pearl Jam - Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town

Pearl Jam formed in 1990 out of the ashes of, in my opinion, the first and greatest bands of the 'grunge' movement Mother Love Bone. After storming to mainstream success in 1991 with their debut album 'Ten', Pearl Jam were often criticised for being 'too commercial' but over the following years since then have been staunchly anti-commercial in the way they have behaved within the industry - not recording videos for their songs especially when MTV was key in 'selling' music, boycotting Ticketmaster etc.

Two decades on, Pearl Jam are still recording and performing, still putting out seriously amazing music. The song that quite often, like this week, gets stuck in my head comes from their 1993 album 'Vs'.

Composed by Eddie Vedder in a mere 20 minutes - he didn't even write the lyrics down, just got the melody and recorded it as the words came to him - 'Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town' is one of the bands more popular songs and even featured on their 2004 Greatest Hits album 'rearviewmirror' despite having never been a single.

'Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town' tells the story of a woman who's lived in a small town all her life. When an old flame who'd long since moved away comes in she at first doesn't recognise him but, when she does she's too afraid to say anything. It's as if she's too embarrassed that she didn't move on and achieve her potential like he did.

I think the song, while set in a small town in America, can really reflect on the lives of many people all over the world. I long to get out of the town I'm in. I'm really drawn to California and would love to live there. I want more than the life I have now and I'm sure there is more out there for me, yet I often feel destined to be where I am forever like so many others I know.

When Eddie Vedder sings the line 'I just want to scream hello', while in the song it's the internal voice of the woman who is too shy to speak to her old flame, for me it feels like a cry to the world. A cry to show the world I'm here and to hope that the world says 'hello' back. I mean, this blog is my attempt to spread my music tastes with the world. I hope that it sometimes opens people’s eyes and ears to music they've never heard of or change their minds about people they'd previously heard. It's my way of saying 'hello'. It's very rare that someone will say 'hello' back and I have no idea if anyone's even reading this or if it's making any impact at all but still I speak just in case someone is. As for the 'teen angst' years of the 90s, this was also the song that struck a chord with me too as, when you're at that age, you tend to feel isolated and like no one understands. It was like my emotions were my 'small town' but I didn't feel I had any way of communicating with anyone about how I felt.

My favourite version of this song was when they performed it at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia on 3rd April 1994. The concert was broadcast on the radio worldwide and I was up in the early hours recording it off the radio while listening to it on Radio 1. That recording is one of my most precious possessions as, though the recording is a bit sketchy having been played a lot over the years (even with one of the tapes breaking and being repaired with some sellotape), it brings back all the memories of sitting alone in the near dark in my room excitedly hearing a band I loved play live for the first time (I was 14 at the time of broadcast).

I hope you enjoy the song this week. It is, in my opinion, truly wonderful!

Pearl Jam - Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town

I seem to recognize your face
Haunting, familiar yet, I can't seem to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me
All these changes taking place, I wish I'd seen the place
But no one's ever taken me
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...

I swear I recognize your breath
Memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
Me, you wouldnt recall, for I'm not my former
It's hard when you're stuck upon the shelf
I changed by not changing at all,
Small town predicts my fate
Perhaps that's what no one wants to see
I just want to scream...hello...
My god its been so long, never dreamed you'd return
But now here you are, and here I am
Hearts and thoughts they fade...away...

Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade...fade away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade...

1 comment:

RJKaplan66 said...


This is one of my faves of PJ too. It's such a simple song in many ways, but effectively melancholy in evoking the the story. What I like is that the lyrics don't explicitly tell the story but allow us to paint the picture to fill it in how we see it.