Wash

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.

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~ by Michael on May 15, 2007.

10 Responses to “Wash”

  1. Yeah, b sides from ten are great. I woud hate to go to a concert and hear even flow or alive, just way too overplayed. The ten “surviors”- deep, garden, oceans, why go, maybe once, maybe release are just as strong as the hits. I have yet to hear the Alive b side but i’ve heard the fast version, that was good stuff. I believe it’s on you tube. Dave K. shreds pretty well on this song, he was good folks.

  2. As Stone says in the Lost Dogs booklet:”…I love the anti-guitar solo by Mike. He sort of rubs his strings and with minimal effort colors the solo section beautifully…”

    The fast version isn’t that good I think

  3. I forgot to mention that the Lost Dogs version sounds better in my opinion that the 10 one

  4. I interpret ‘Wash’ to be about drug addiction.

  5. When you go to a show and its opened by Wash, you know its going to be a special night. That is something that cannot be said for many other b-sides. Of course, if you go to a show and hear Breath or Tremor Christ it is great, but Wash always signals that you are about to hear a LOT of really great tunes, not the hits, but rather, something for the hardcore fans. I’d put good money on Wash opening the 10C show in London.

  6. Wash is almost certainly about a cheating lover, and the ensuing guilt. “Wash my love” seems pretty straightforward, actually.

  7. Giannis – “I forgot to mention that the Lost Dogs version sounds better in my opinion that the 10 one”

    Agreed.

    slightojeff – “Wash is almost certainly about a cheating lover, and the ensuing guilt. “Wash my love” seems pretty straightforward, actually.”

    Disagree. And I only disagree because you said “almost certainly”, otherwise to each his own.

  8. I know a lot of people who wish they can wash their love of drugs/alcohol. “to the clean form..the pure form”

  9. I, too, remember the excitement of tracking this song down. Though I never did have the stickman T-shirt, I just knew Wash and State *had* to be important because they were on that damned shirt.

    I found it in 1993 in Utica, N.Y., of all places, on an egregiously-illegal bootleg called Rare Jam, which collected all the Ten b-sides plus the two Singles tracks and I Got a Feeling. In other words, a fantastic buy for a 14-year-old who had no idea what a b-side even was at the time.

    Regarding Wash’s lyrics, the line, “What she don’t know today, might kill us both tomorrow,” always has struck me as an AIDS reference, a reference that fits loosely with the preceding bit, “What’s clean is pure, but I’m white on the outside.” And tying it to the chorus, perhaps the protagonist is expressing a desire to be cleansed of disease.

    With the line “sin for sale” clearly evoking prostitution, my literal interpretation of the song’s lyrics would be something like: The male protagonist contracts AIDS from a prostitute and endangers the life of his woman friend by being dishonest with her. Note the double meaning of “lies” in the second verse — “And the *truth* that *lies* at home.” The two words are opposites.

    But I’m not entirely convinced of this reading.

    The interpretation I’m going with is that the protagonist is suffering from mental defect, almost like the Alive-Once-Footsteps character. We don’t know why — and it’s not important — but the Wash character’s mind is “filthy” and the truth that lies is “on the inside” and he can’t “get it off.” And furthermore, an unnamed woman’s interaction with him might “kill both of them tomorrow.”

    Couple the protagonist’s confessions with his notions of “sin for sale,” “the devil’s seed,” cleanliness being purity and the city needing rain to wash away the filth and an image of a psychopath emerges. He can’t express his desires in socially-acceptable ways, so he implores somebody — but who, exactly? — to wash his love.

    Would I have arrived at such a conclusion were it not for the often disturbing imagery of the Ten era, e.g. Once, Dirty Frank, Jeremy, State of Love and Trust? No, probably not.

  10. My guess is that Wash is about Andy Wood. Just a guess…..

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