No Way

Not counting oddities such as “Bugs” and “Push Me Pull Me”, “No Way” is by far one of the most underplayed Pearl Jam songs at live concerts. Performed only three times, all during encores between August 25th and September 7th of 1998, “No Way” has been a curious absence from the live experience. Perhaps confusion over the lyric, “I’ll stop trying to make a difference”, even though it’s negated immediately by “No way”, has kept the song from bridging, let’s say, “Grievance” and “Marker in the Sand” on stage, two examples of songs by a band that very much desires to make a difference.

On a full-length album, the song marks the first vocal performance by Vedder of a song written entirely by one of his bandmates, in this case Stone Gossard. To this day it’s still one of his best. It’s one thing to sing a cover of a beloved song by an idol or even a contemporary. In such cases (ideally) there’s a choice to perform that song over all others that’s born from a real connection with its sound and lyric. With a bandmate’s song, something that is going to represent your group to the world more than say, “Gremmie Out of Control”, the stakes are higher, and getting into the words can be more of a challenge.

Increasingly throughout four albums, Vedder’s lyrical and vocal talents became the band for a lot of people, for better or worse. And though all of the other band members had rich and involved musical histories, for Gossard or Ament to present their lyrics for Ed to sing had to have been daunting. Yield represented a determined effort to reestablish a more democratic Pearl Jam, which necessitated that completed, fully-fleshed out songs (including lyrics) be brought to the table by all members as often as possible, eliminating the need for Vedder to finish other people’s work. By all accounts, Yield was an important turning point for the band in this regard. And “No Way”, despite its miniscule live representation, reflects this renewed sense of unity and purpose.

In a way, Gossard’s lyrics appear to be directly about the band’s recent struggles: “Here’s a token of my openness / Of my need to not disappear.” As message to the band? To Ed? Something else entirely? Regardless, Vedder lends the song intensity, humor, and nuance in his vocal performance. His delivery of “All the static / In my attic-a / Shoots down my side nerve” is delightfully strange, and he strikes just the right combination of confidence and vulnerability in the prechoruses, “I just need someone to be there for me.” Gossard’s music is low-key and funky, recalling some of the band’s early focus on groove-oriented songwriting. The breakdown at the three-quarter mark is one of the band’s strangest moments on record, the song dissolving into strands before reconfiguring for the coda. “No Way” sounds effortlessly fun, which, combined with its catchiness and potential as a launch-point for extended jamming, puts it near the top of my list of songs I wish the band would bring back to the stage.

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~ by Michael on June 6, 2007.

10 Responses to “No Way”

  1. I really like the music in this song, but I don’t like the lyrics very much. The humor of Ed’s delivery saves the song on record. If it had been sung straight, it would have been awful and embarrassing. The calling in an angel line is terrible.

    This line “All the static / In my attic-a / Shoots down my side nerve” I think should be “sciatic nerve” instead of “side nerve.”

    It’s fun and works on Yield, but I’m not sure that it would be that great live. It may be too low-key as you put it. I think that Stone is a better lyric writer than Jeff, Matt and Mike, but that’s not really saying much. This is much better than PILATE.

  2. I was there for the live debut on Aug 25, 1998, but I’m not going to pretend that I remember how it sounded live. 🙂

    I really enjoy “No Way” in the context of the album. Not that it fits thematically, but I do enjoy it between “Faithfull” and “Givven to Fly”…two huge anthems that needed something in between to differentiate the songs. I think “No Way” works well in that capacity. It definately does seem to be a song that the band has forgotten about.

  3. They seemed to have a hard time finding the right spot for it in a setlist, which is why I they make the decision not to play certain songs. They always stuck it in the encore, once as the very first song, which I think is probably the best place for it. The intro to “No Way” feels like an opener, but probably not for an entire show. Good call on the “sciatic” idea. That would have been much better wordplay.

  4. My college roommate was also at that Pittsburgh show. Very cool! You can here the song by searching the TSIS setlist archive. Pretty faithful to the original.

  5. So it’s not “sciatic” nerve? I always thought it was….perhaps I’ve been singing the wrong word for years!

    And I do remember the live version being very faithful to the album version. Someone in the crowd had a sign that said, simply, “No Way”. And I remember Ed said, “My answer to that [playing the song] is no way!” But then they played it.

  6. I think that you are correct NoCoder, it is “sciatic” nerve.

    In all honesty, if they played any shows near me this year, I wouldn’t care if they played a setlist of only non-Ed-penned songs as long as I could see them. How about MANKIND as an opener?

  7. Ah, I see what you’re saying now Susan. You’re saying that he is actually singing “sciatic”, and that the lyrics were misprinted, rather than that’s what the lyric should have been. Got it! I truly love “Mankind” too. Here’s hoping!

  8. I like the subtle difference between “I just want someone to be there for me” and “I just want someone to be there for.”

    Those two sentences mean two different things, and I enjoy the nuances between the two. No offense to Stone, but that sounds like Ed’s idea.

    Also, speaking of Ed’s idea, we know it WAS Ed idea to add the “no way” part to the chorus. So, my question is, I wonder what the song was called before ed added the “no way?”

  9. Hmmmmm… very interesting…

  10. When I first heared Yield, this one impressed me so much. Then I searched for it in the official 2000 bootlegs…but I couldn’t find it…I was “shocked” when I realised that it has been played only 3 times! Maybe there is a reason…(?). The bass line is so great

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