Blood

I’ve made it a principle on this blog to refrain from too much cussing, but with “Blood”, I feel it’s apropos, as in: the intensity of this song is fucking scary. And you must pronounce the “ing”, it’s better that way. Fucking scary. After 14 years, the shock hasn’t worn off. “Blood” doesn’t so much as hit you like a sledgehammer as it does a sledgehammer covered in spikes. The initial assault of chords is made all the more outrageous as complemented by funk interludes (some of the band’s best “funk” moments). It’s ridiculous, energizing, exasperating, 100% convincing. In hindsight, a song so full-throttle should seem over-the-top, exaggerated, as in “what was all that fuss about”, but “Blood” doesn’t. It still sounds and feels justified after all these years.

The Atlanta 1994 version of “Blood” was something of a revelation the first time I heard it, completely capturing Vedder losing his breath at the end of one particularly intense scream.  But he comes roaring back shortly after, a dive even more impressive and daring to me than his legendary scaffold climbing and leaping.  “Blood” is a dare.  “Suck my fucking life out man!” he screams like a masochist, but with a hint of reciprocity: should a red mosquito actually attempt any blood-sucking it is presumed, there’s a mighty swat in store.  The live version in question is also telling for its tag of “This is not for you! / Never was for you!”, calling out the same enemies in that song.

Some bands want to be megastars with their first albums, want the groupies, the adulation, the #1 sales, even if it means a short shelf-life, one-hit wonderdom, or compromised music.  There are cut-out bins at record stores, and flea-market tables filled with former million-selling CD’s by bands you’d be hard pressed to remember.  And maybe those dudes (and gals) are totally cool with that.  Ed clearly wasn’t.  Pearl Jam has always been a mixture of pride, integrity, and humility.  They want to work hard on their own terms to be truly worthy of the good fortune they’ve received.  When Ed sings “Paint it big / Turn Ed into one my fuckin’ enemies”, he could be recalling any number of pretty boy bands or butt rock assholes content to surrender completely to media hype.  “Blood” succinctly demands control of its own destiny, declaring a force not to be fucked with, by sarcastically proclaiming the opposite.

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~ by Michael on August 29, 2007.

9 Responses to “Blood”

  1. That last paragraph was completely perfect. Thanks, C13!

  2. ‘Blood’ is similiar to ‘Spin the Black Circle’ in the way the lyrics depict heroin usage as a metaphor for some other meaning.
    In ‘Spin the Black’ it’s about the love of Vinyl, and in ‘Blood’ the heroin metaphor is used to get across Ed’s discontent with the media, in particular the major rock magazines Rolling Stone, Spin, and Circus. “Stab it down/one way needle/pull so slowly” “It’s my blooooodddd” The media is like a heroin needle slowly sucking the life out of him just like heroin sucks your life out.

    (In the early and mid 90’s heroin was a growing problem in Seattle, which explains why the popularity of the subject matter with some Seattle bands.)

    I think Eddie used this same scheme with “Severed Hand”, a song that I have heard countless people think is about psychotropic drugs or something, when (to me atleast) it’s obviously about a soldier off to war. Jeff Ament also said that Eddie is good at making you think a song is about a friend or a relationship when it’s really about the state of the nation.

  3. Fun(c)king right the fun(c)k on, man. Fun(c)k yeah. I was at the ’95 Red Rock shows, and one of those night, I forget which, “Blood” literally knocked me back on my ass. I just had to sit the fuck down. The intesity was so fucking powerful. The light show was pretty fucked, too…and I seriously had to sit and hold my head and just try to get a fucking grip on my shit, you know what I mean? Besides the Atlanta show, I have another great live version that I think comes from a show in Germany in ’96, not sure…but during the extended instrumental there’s a “tag” of Bowie’s “Fame”, nicely done. And that funk riff…and Ed’s scream…and being the first time Ed went at the “fame sucks” theme that became such a major theme on the next album, which would explain why this one, in its raw abrasiveness and funky goodness, doesn’t bug me as much as the more purposefully crafted fuck-you’s that came later. I would say that the more funk-you’s in your fuck-you’s, the better.

  4. Fuckin’ Scary. Even now, when they bring this one out, it’s scary.

    BYM’s theory about the heroin use metaphor is interesting. I always thought that the “Stab it down, one-way needle, pulled so slowly/Drains and spills, soaks the pages, fills their sponges” referred more to a butterfly needle for drawing blood. The “needle” is the press draining the blood out of him, “soaking” their pages with stories that turn him into nothing but a commodity, a bloodless shell of a living human being.

    BYM, your interpretation of SEVERED HAND intrigues me. I’m dying to read what C13 has to say about that one.

  5. Agree with what’s been said already. What really surpises me about this song, however, is its still-frequent appearance on recent tours. And I’ll admit that sometimes it’s painful to hear. It sounds like it is physically paining EV. But I’m glad it’s still around and yes, it is still scary as hell.

  6. The day I made the connection between the first three lines and the specific music magazines Ed was railing against was the day the lightbulb went on for me with this song.

    Spin, Roll, Circus … that’s just subtle enough to be cool.

    Other than that, I agree with what’s been said already, for the most part. Don’t think the imagery depicts heroin … doesn’t really make sense in this song. Ed’s not addicted to the fame. He’s repulsed by it.

    The imagery here is one of being forced to give blood, like being attacked by some demented, militant wing of the Red Cross. They are taking what’s his, turning it into commodity and in turn transforming Ed into everything he hates.

    It’s like with the Time magazine thing. You can decline interviews and rebuff photo requests, and they can still put your face on the cover of the biggest mainstream magazine in the world, with or without your consent.

    Ed, during the Vs. era, saw himself losing control of who he was, even as he fought desperately to keep it.

  7. Yeah, slightojeff and Susan, I never thought of it as giving blood in that sense, but it makes sense.

  8. ‘pull so slowly’…. I never did heroin but I don’t think you pull blood when doing heroin, so I guess my heroin remark was off the mark. This site has opened my eyes in a different light on a lot of songs.

  9. when i first saw the lyrics sheet i assumed it was a heroin reference, but once you listen to the full thing i think its obvious that it isnt. i love the references to the magazines in the beginning, although “fucking circus” is kind of pushing it, sounds a little too forced. this is definitely one of the songs that got me into “vs.” back when i still thought it was an album of pop songs like “daughter” and “elderly woman behind a counter in a small town” (both of which i now love). i never knew just how great eddie’s scream could be until i heard this.

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