While some Ed Vedder solo compositions have yet to see full band treatment (“You’re True”, “Longing to Belong”, etc.), “Gone” had a quick turnaround from its creation to its appearance on 2006’s Pearl Jam. Similar to “Elderly Woman”, “Gone” instantly won the favor of the rest of the band, who cajoled Vedder into further developing the song. Written (and demoed) in a hotel room just the night before its first performance in Atlantic City, New Jersey, “Gone” is the latest in a long line of Ed tunes which focus on escape via automobile. In that respect, the song wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place on Yield, sounding like an amalgam of “MFC” and “In Hiding”.

What starts out as a glum, sadsack moodpiece eventually breaks out with a clatter of triumphant chords on the chorus. Then the cycle of build-up and release starts anew. Acknowledged by Vedder as a latter day “Rearviewmirror”, “Gone” is lyrically direct: an escapist anthem about getting out of a dead-end town/job/situation. Had the Pete Townshend reference “If nothing is everything / I’ll have it all” appeared on Vs., however, it would have certainly been connoted as suicidal. In 2006, thankfully that sort of dire Gen-X assumption doesn’t wash. Also including the line “This American dream / I’m disbelieving”, “Gone” is much more concerned with socio-political themes of materialism, the environment, and Big Oil (“When the gas in my tank / Feels like money in the bank”), than it is with personal crisis.

The larger escape in “Gone”, of the kind that makes Vedder wish for “Tee-pees-R-Us”, is framed in the narrative of an individual attempting his own flight from society (via a hybrid no less, according to the man himself). That’s an important step in Vedder’s development as a writer. Where he once played down his writing skill with regard to “Rearviewmirror”, saying “I am not a good enough writer to have an agenda or come up with a message and try to put it into a song,” he has since learned that good writers DON’T have agendas that they try to squeeze awkwardly (and preachily) into songs. Good writers use interesting language to describe events and actions that inspire feeling in their listeners. To force an agenda in art inevitably results in something didactic that is not art, but rather propaganda or advertising.

Although I would hesitate to hold “Gone” in the upper echelon of Pearl Jam songs, or even more specifically Vedder-penned Pearl Jam songs, it’s quite good, belying a growing confidence in the overall arc a song can take, and because of lines like “The lights of the city / Only look good when I’m speeding”. Perhaps a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”, or Victoria Williams’s “Lights” is in order?


~ by Michael on June 1, 2007.

13 Responses to “Gone”

  1. For some reason, this song just feels far too obvious for me. I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but it just feels so cut-and-dry. I’m a big fan of the songs that EV has written himself. I think he has a knack for good songwriting. I mean, you can’t really point to anything in “Gone” and say, “That’s not good.” But at the same time, nothing really sticks out. I enjoy the song’s build up but aside from that, I don’t think it’s one of the stronger tracks on the self-titled album.

  2. Except maybe that it fulfills a certain needed role? I’m not sure. It was written fairly late in the process of putting that album together, so there’s lot of questions that can be raised as to why it stuck, and if it bumped anything else out of the running (same goes for Gods Dice). Was “Gone” really better than “Of the Earth” or “Cold Concession”? Until we get to hear those songs, we won’t know!

  3. Begrudginly, I’ll admit that it serves as a needed segue into the second half of the album. How else would you go from “Big Wave” to “Wasted Reprise”? That’s a valid point and I guess until we hear the b-sides (wasn’t an early song called “2X4”?), we won’t know if “Gone” bumped a great track off the record…

  4. To me, “if nothing is everything” line is one of the best ed has ever written, even if he did borrow it, in part, from PT.

    That line sums up, fairly succinctly, the life we all should try to lead.

    Musically, love how the chorus just seems to bounce. I can’t listen to that part without grooving my head a little bit.

  5. Great song! Either Eddie sings that alone or with full band it sounds very good. It seems that is about the american dream that failed. Eddie maybe had Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” when he wrote this one

  6. edit: had in mind*** Springsteen’s…

  7. There was in fact a reported song called “2×4”. There’s still a lot of talk of PJ boards about the whereabouts of these tracks, whether or not the names just changed, or what have you. Plus, there are a ton of track names that may or may not be just rumors. We fans just can’t wait for more!

  8. I absolutely love this song. While I don’t think that it is one of Eddie’s greatest songs, I always sing along with it when I hear it. I love both the Ed solo version and the album version. I love the vocals, the world-weary quality of the verses, then the soaring chorus.

    I can’t wait to hear the b-sides, but I’m glad this song made the album.

  9. A good, solid song. It has confused me as to its placing in setlists on a couple of last years shows, before or after Betterman, as i have always found the two very similar in song structure.

  10. I went to the casino last weekend, and this song has a completely different meaning on the drive to the casino compared to the drive home after losing all your money. On the way there, it was such a motivating factor to win, but it was a depressing “I’m never coming back again, I quit gambling” feeling when I listened to it on that 8am drive home. The gas in my tank felt like money in the bank.

  11. I disagree that “When the gas in my tank | Feels like money in the bank” relates to political matters about oil. I relate to a kind of feeling that, when you got a car that is yours, and its tank is full of gas, you feel like you can go anywhere, anytime you want.

  12. You’re probably right on that one Pearljammer; I was probably just frustrated at getting robbed at the petrol station and forced that reading onto the song where it didn’t exist. šŸ™‚

  13. agree with pearljammer =P

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