Alive

Happy Mother’s Day!  In honor of the occasion, what better song to reflect on than “Alive”? Actually, apart from that little joke, I haven’t been looking forward to writing about this song–not because I don’t enjoy it, or because it doesn’t have meaning for me, but because what can be written about “Alive” that hasn’t been written a thousand times before? By now, even non-fans could probably tell you the complicated backstory about how Vedder learned that his stepfather was not actually his biological father, and that his real dad was a musician he’d met once or twice but was since deceased.  And that the other half of the song, the whole Oedipal business about the “the look, the look” being between the mother’s legs was thankfully fictional, setting up the killing spree of “Once” and the death row reflections of “Footsteps”.  Looking for new information on “Alive”? Good luck!

But thinking of “Alive” does give me the best chance to reflect on Ten, as a whole. Even though “Even Flow” was the first song I heard, the reason I bought the album, “Alive” was and is the heart and spirit of early Pearl Jam.  Without it (and it was curiously missing from an early industry demo tape), it might be assumed that the band’s career would not have launched quite the same way.  While not the biggest hit of the band’s career, it is perhaps the most iconic for longtime fans, and even some newer ones.   It might be because the chorus of “I’m still alive” is taken as an affirmative sing-along, without the rest of the song’s complications, but I think it’s mostly because the song clearly made the band, and Vedder in particular, the voice for disaffected youth, for better or worse.

For better of course, because the song made Pearl Jam’s long career possible by giving them a song (and a solo) that automatically ranked in rock’s pantheon of epics. For worse because of the long shadow it cast on the band’s music, where everything they did since was expected to match in terms of angst and imagined “Gen-X”ness.  The band couldn’t and wouldn’t thankfully replicate the massiveness of that anthem, preferring to evolve and grow and leave it to hordes of scavenger bands to try.  But neither have they abandoned “Alive”.  Apart from most of the 2000 U.S. tour (the exception being part of an incredible final show in Seattle), when it understandably didn’t seem right to sing “I’m still alive” after the tragedy of Roskilde, Pearl Jam has kept the song with them, still trusting in its power, still appreciating their devoted fanbase, still alive after all these years.

About these ads

~ by Michael on May 13, 2007.

6 Responses to “Alive”

  1. Maybe their most famous song. I like it a lot (who does not?). The band in the 2006 tour, showed that really enjoys playing this one

  2. C13 – “and it was curiously missing from an early industry demo tape”

    According to Jeff Ament, ‘Alive’ was not originally meant to be on Ten in the early process. It was going only going to be on that early demo sampler, (which I believe was the first ever pj release.) But it was getting a good response from people so they added it to the album. And as they say, the rest is history.

  3. I want to thank you for this great site!

    You wrote “And that the other half of the song, the whole Oedipal business about the “the look, the look” being between the mother’s legs was thankfully fictional, setting up the killing spree of “Once” and the death row reflections of “Footsteps”.”

    Can you tell me where I can find the information that it was fictional? Thanks!

  4. Fatal: I’d have to backtrack and find those articles, but they do exist. You might start with Wikipedia. There’s an interview where Ed talks about it being half-real, half-fictional.

  5. Thanks for reply, I’ll start from Wikipedia!

  6. i love this song although its kind of gotten old from being so overplayed. i think the story eddie managed to make out of stone and jeffs demos is amazing, how he created such meaningful, fleshed-out lyrics just based on music, and how its partly based on his story and partly fictional. the meaning of the song is pretty disturbing actually, i wasnt expecting it at all until i read the story behind it because the music is so nice and the lyrics seem so uplifting. but i think “footsteps” is my favorite out of the trilogy, its somehow even more powerful than this one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: