Two. Two album covers for “Wash”–both a b-side to the original “Alive” single, and a rescued Dog. What made Pearl Jam’s rarities compilation so special, drawing praise even from outside the fan community, was that it featured alternate takes of most of the tracks completists and collectors most likely already had. Because what could be worse as a loyal fan than spending years collecting expensive import-only CD singles, soundtracks, whatever, only to have your favorite band slap ‘em all on one low-priced set for everyone to get their grubby hands on with absolutely zero effort? Lost Dogs rewarded uber-fans for their hard work by releasing songs like “Wash”, “U”, “Alone”, and others in slightly altered forms.
My first recollections of “Wash” are from a t-shirt, not a shiny aluminum disc. I remember proudly wearing my “Alive” stickman shirt to junior high at least once a week back in 1992, with its faux-notebook paper “taped” to the back. Kids passing in the halls thought someone had stuck a note to my back (not unlikely), and kept tapping me to tell me so, but it was just the shirt. If they’d looked close enough, they might ask themselves why a bully would want a list of words like “Alive”, “Wash”, and “State” on their victim’s back, but whatever. The concept of b-sides and other non-album tracks was completely foreign to me. I had no idea what “Wash” and “State” were supposed to be, never mind how to find them. That changed soon enough.
“State” was easy enough, as one of my older sister’s friends introduced me to the Singles soundtrack. But “Wash” was a complete mystery. It wasn’t until a rare trip to Boston, when I found a copy of the Japanese import “Alive” EP at a Sam Goody at Quincy Market, and what a day that was. For a mere $25 (!) I was treated to a live version of the title track, the re-recorded “Even Flow”, “Dirty Frank”, and “Wash”. I felt like a king. I loved “Wash” so much, I taped over the top squares of my Ten cassette and added it as a bonus track after the final notes of “Master/Slave”. “Wash” is still the ultimate b-side for me for that reason; I get the same feeling of being let in on a secret every time I hear it.
Ten has become such a benchmark recording, with nearly every song a hit or close to it, that I find it difficult to listen to anymore. On bootlegs, unless a song is reinvented like “Garden”, or resuscitated like “Why Go”, I can pretty much give or take. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s that I’ve heard those songs so many times for so long, I don’t need to hear them. So Ten era b-sides are valuable to me, because they bring me back to when I had my first connection with the band. The b-side “Wash” has that good ole fashioned Rick Parashar production, as if it was recorded in an echoey dungeon. The band swims in reverb, the arrangement so sparse you can hear each instrument bouncing off the next. I’ve never contemplated the lyrics, so someone who has, please feel free to chime in (I’ve been thrown off for years by the puzzling and bad transcription in the Japanese liner notes). The Lost Dogs “Wash” is punchier, louder, a bit less relaxed. I’m surprised to see Parashar’s credit on there for this one–since it sounds nothing like the original release. Any information on this recording would also be wonderful for all of you PJ sleuths out there. Also, the legendary fast version of Wash from 12/31/92 is worth the price of admission, so if it’s no longer available, well, happy hunting.