Do the Evolution

 Some web-savvy More Than Ten reader will have to help me dig up the article or interview where it’s revealed that “Do the Evolution” was an 11th hour addition to Yield. Or was it Single Video Theory? Regardless, I love the idea that some of the most iconic and hugely popular songs of a band’s career (see also R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon”) were such late arrivals to the party.

In 1997, Pearl Jam fandom was abuzz with the news that the band would be opening a handful of shows for the Rolling Stones at Oakland Stadium in California.  After debuting as the set closer at a warm-up gig in Santa Cruz (the band billed as the Honking Seals), “Do the Evolution” gained a pre-album reputation for both its explosive energy and Vedder’s unique dance moves.  In the ten years since, the song has become an absolute staple, played more times than any other Pearl Jam original post-Vitalogy.

Despite this fact, I’ve witnessed less complaints about the song’s omnipresence than that of “Even Flow”, “Betterman”, or even “Corduroy”.  It’s popularity is due in no small part to the infectious Stone Gossard riff, and wry, sarcastic humor.  Though its theme is grave, the band’s approach makes it one of the band’s funnest heavier tracks, a combination that carried over to Pearl Jam’s first video since the days of Ten. Vedder’s screams are riveting, and constrast well with the mock church choir singing on the bridge.

Thematically, the song is said to be the most consistent Yield track with Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, according to that book’s author. It also echoes backward and forward in Pearl Jam’s catalog, from “Glorified G” (“That’s okay man / ‘Cause I love God” :: “I can kill ’cause in God I trust”), to the recent spate of songs dealing with corporate greed.  The sheer rage of the song, off-set by the glee allowed by the sarcasm, makes “Do the Evolution” one of the band’s more effective political indictments.

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~ by Michael on July 12, 2007.

15 Responses to “Do the Evolution”

  1. This often happens to me on this site. I see the song title that C-13 is writing about for the day. I get way too excited. I read his thoughts. Then I immediately hit the Comment button before I’m even sure what I’m going to say.

    By the numbers, DTE is my 3rd favorite Pearl Jam song, but that it will probably move up at some point. It’s also a song for which I can’t quite explain the depths of my love. Forgetting the studio version for just a minute, the live version of DTE is one of those ethereal, show-defining moments for me. If DTE comes early in the set, I feel as if I can gauge how intense the show will be by Ed’s opening howl. Point is, I get tired of “Evenflow” (not so much “Corduroy”), but if DTE was played at every single show from here on out, I would not complain one time.

    The studio version is a slightly different beast. I have friends whose first exposure to this song was from Live on 2 Legs. Then they finally get to the studio version and were extremely disappointed. I can understand that though. The studio, and even very early live versions, were more controlled and slower than the live version we know now. And of course, I understand that. The song was growing its sea legs. But over time, the manic, almost out-of-control nature of the live version of DTE has become the only recognizable version of the song for me.

    I love love love this song. Perdiod.

  2. I know I talk about lyrics too much. But this is some of Ed’s best work, imo. “I am the first mammal to wear pants.”

    I love that.

  3. There’s never too much talking about anything!

  4. C13 summed this one up pretty well. Unlike NoCoder, I am a bigger fan of the studio version (not to say the live version isn’t great too). I like how with each coming verse Eddie growls louder/harder giving the song increased momentum. It seems like the music increases pace too.

    The best thing about this song to me are the lyrics. A song about human evolution, how great is that. Some people think that evolution is dead. Not the theory, the process.

    Great video too!

  5. I’ve got to catch my breath here. We’ve gone from GHOST, IN THE MOONLIGHT and LEATHERMAN to three core staples, PORCH, DAUGHTER and DO THE EVOLUTION. I don’t really have anything to add to the discussion. Your initial observations are terrific and everyone else has really filled out the discussion. This recent trio are staples for a reason; all are great songs, and they are also uniquely Pearl Jam.

    About the timing of DO THE EVOLUTION. There is a session guide put together by a fan that seems very accurate based on interviews that I’ve read. According to this guide, DO THE EVOLUTION was the last song recorded. You may already have this, but here is the link:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20030625171607/www24.brinkster.com/jamsessions/recordingsessionsguide.html

  6. Thanks Susan; I’ve viewed that website many times, but never looked that closely at the notes. Always very interesting to read. Weird how it happened that the entries went from rarities and less-favored tracks to the biggies. Didn’t plan it that way! I’ll be gone for a couple days w/o a computer handy, but I hope to be back in action Monday at the latest.

  7. That is bad news C13, what do you expect me to do with myself for three days? But here is some good news. I don’t know if the link works.

    http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003608467

  8. I was going to say exactly the same thing susan said about your last six posts. Three nuggets followed by three classics. It’s hard to know what to say. I think I like “Do the Evolution” more because the lyrics are cute and the band obviously seems to like it more than for any other reason. The live version is definitely better, too. I remember one specific moment, sitting on a porch of all places, with a girlfriend i had been trying to convert to my weird world of Pearl Jam worship listening to DTE, and at that point with the choir, I said, “shh, listen, listen…….c’mon… NObody makes music like this.” and she said, “mm’O.K.” She’s now a lawyer in D.C…doing the evolution into a lower form of life. Awhoohoo.

  9. I feel the same way BYM feels. I love Pearl Jam’s music, but your blog is the most fun I’ve had with their music recently short of going to an actual concert.

  10. This song might be a release for the band but it does diddley for me. The quickness of it and the same riff over and over again is just annoying to me.

  11. Thanks so much, Susan. That is a wonderful, huge, humbling thing to say.

  12. My first memory of this song came in an interview with the band on MTV of all places right around the time Yield was released. They asked Ed the sort of lame question,” What’s your favorite song on the record?”

    He’s says DTE: “I love everything about that damn song.”

    Not to be elitist, but I frankly can’t see how anybody can be a fan of this band — or music in general, for that matter — and not get this song.

  13. At this point i’d like to interject that there is no greater feeling than joining 10,000 other PJ fans in concert in raising your arms to sing along with the Stone & Jeff ‘balls in a vice’ hallelujah line 🙂

  14. What a shitty race are humans

  15. I first got the Rearviewmirror ‘best of’ CD for Christmas in 2004… and it took me until about a month and a half ago to find this absolute gem. Originally, I discounted it for the first few seconds (please don’t hurt me…) and then I gave it a listen. That hook in the middle, the sheer boundless energy attached to the song and the completely raw emotion in Vedder’s singing just made it a new hit on the car stereo… =D

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