Happy When I’m Crying
From one song used primarily as a tag (“W.M.A.”) to another cannibalized for an album track, one of the great X-Mas single originals: “Happy When I’m Crying”. The 1997 Pearl Jam Fan Club 45 was also that of R.E.M., who contributed the fuzzed-out “Live For Today” in an aural yuletide feast for fanboys and fangirls everywhere. “Happy When I’m Crying” is credited solely to then-drummer Jack Irons, whose other complete lyrical/musical contribution to the canon (besides “The Color Red”), “Whale Song”, features similar idealism and verbal simplicity. But while I might be one of the few people who actually digs “Whale Song”, I’ve got to admit “Happy When I’m Crying” is even better. With a different arrangement, it could have even found a place on Yield, though I like the junky electric guitar and toy instrumentation just fine. If Pearl Jam ever decided to make a compilation of all their weird garage-pop experiments, heretofore known and unknown, I would be the happiest camper, crying even.
Befitting the holiday release, the song opens with a woman speaking (in Portuguese?) what translates to “It is a pleasure for us to wish you, together with R.E.M. a merry Christmas”, and ends with sleigh bells jingling and an oddly unsettling Santa Claus ho-ho-hoing. But between those bookends is a choppy little punk song full of odd percussion and a halting, understated vocal performance by Vedder. “Does peace come out of fighting / Can truth come out of lying” asks the tune, and by the end it turns out that nope, neither. Never played live, it’d be cool to see the band give it a shot–maybe bring its author out on stage to bash the drums a little bit. As it stands, most people have only heard the song’s lyric “If reality is what I see” as a snippet swirled into Yield’s “Push Me Pull Me”. Hey, if that song can be performed live (three times, even!), surely “Happy When I’m Crying” can see the light of day, someday.