One of the earliest new songs to get mentioned between Ten and Vs. was actually a track that wouldn’t appear on record until Pearl Jam’s third record. Referred to in print as “The Whipping” in several concert reviews circa 1993, and as “Don’t Need” on bootlegs, the song was demoed for Vs., as were many other tracks from “Hard To Imagine” to “Betterman” that didn’t end up on that album. Whenever I hear the song I can’t help but think of an old amusement park ride called the Whip, which jostled riders down the straight lines of a track before “whipping” them around the corner, gravity slamming passengers into each other.
The song “Whipping” has that same kind of centrifugal force, never once relenting for a quick, brutal two-and-a-half minutes. The song quiets down somewhat during the breakdowns, where Vedder repeats “they’re whipping,” but the tension is knotted tight, giving way to ferocious drum fills and an increasingly exasperated lead singer. As the lyrics were printed in Vitalogy on a petition form letter to President Clinton, urging him to take action against anti-abortion terrorists such as those who murdered Dr. David Gunn, I always assumed “Whipping” was about that issue (the night of the song’s premiere in San Francisco, the band played under the name “The David J. Gunn Band”). But the song’s lyrics don’t give any indication that it is or isn’t. The most I can derive from the words is a general frustration with the hypocrisy of conservatism, “They don’t want no change we already have.” The whipping, therefore, would appear to be authoritarians attempting to keep people in line by force. Which, now that I think of it, could come right back around to abortion clinic bombers trying to enforce their own ideal of morality through violent acts. Also, the song is great for making you want to jump around.