Not having any idea where to look for my old cassette single of “Immortality”, I made an impulse buy at an online store for a download of the Frogs’ version of “Rearviewmirror”. It’s downloading right now. Enough time has passed, my musical palette expanded, that I should be able to handle their warped, psych-folkish rendition more than I did at the time of its release. Let’s have a listen and find out!




Well, I’m definitely more open to it than I was at 16, no longer quite as freaked out by weird, overdriven vocals, droning feedback, or a classic song by my favorite band getting stretched out and mangled to the point of being barely recognizable. It’s almost a completely different song, and in being so, illuminates what makes the original what it is. “Rearviewmirror” marked one of the first times Vedder played guitar on stage, being the author of that distinctive, primary riff, which he described as having led to the driving-themed lyrics because of its propulsive sound. For that reason, “Rearviewmirror” is probably the singular most important Vedder composition toward shaping not only his own musical contributions, but in turn all of Pearl Jam’s.


“Rearviewmirror” is heavy to be sure, but it’s also nimble, or at least more so than the band had previously shown. Still an extremely young band by the time of Vs., they’d already proven themselves worthy of many descriptors: powerful, tough, bruising, energetic, momentous. But “Rearviewmirror” was the first in a long string of songs from “Corduroy” to “MFC” to “Green Disease” that displayed a litheness uncommon for a rock band. The Frogs’ version is notable because without Vedder’s guitar figuring mimicking a revving engine, the song barely crawls. It’s an alligator compared to Pearl Jam’s gazelle. Fitting as the b-side to the dark, lonely “Immortality” though.


The song has over the years been used as a platform for extensive soloing, much as “Daughter”, “Even Flow”, and “Porch”, a way perhaps to further cement or articulate the song’s status as a benchmark/pillar (naming their greatest hits double-disc after the song didn’t hurt the cause either). But the song doesn’t need expansion or titling duty to resonate with fans. The internal engine of the song coupled with its memorable lines (“I gather speed from you fucking with me”, “Wounds in the mirror waved”) more than do the job. There have been times when I’ve grown tired of the exhaustive live renditions, but going back to the song, or, ahem, looking in the rear view mirror at it (couldn’t resist), it’s hard to deny the solidity of its construction or the universality of its simple theme of driving to escape, to move past, to gain distance en route to perspective.


~ by Michael on September 13, 2007.

5 Responses to “Rearviewmirror”

  1. C13, you’re moving like General Patton moved the 3rd Army. I can hardly keep up with you.

    You’ve hit on my favorite Pearl Jam song. Hearing this song for the first time on Vs was like experiencing music in a way that I never had before. Did anything else in 1993 sound like RVM? I loved Pearl Jam already, and I loved the rest of Vs, but there was something indescribable about this song. I could probably go into my less eloquent version of the way that the guitar parts are layered, and the riff repeated and inverted, but really I didn’t understand my response.

    Since then, I’ve heard many live versions with various amounts of soloing, but even now when I hear the studio version, I can feel just the way that I did hearing it for the first time. Weird, but it still feels fresh. This is one for which I would love for you to do a more detailed analysis of the music.

    P.S. I still hate the Frogs version of RVM.
    P.P.S. I also hate REM’s version of LONG ROAD.

    So sorry.

  2. C13, Since we’ve talked about Eddie’s voice, and how it’s aged, would you be interested in talking about his guitar playing and whether his playing has been a good addition?

  3. It really doesn’t get much better than RVM. The thing about it, maybe more than any other song on Vs., when I hear it, I’m transported back to fall 1993. Other Vs. tunes have moved on in my mind…or maybe bring me back to a different place and time, but RVM is just SO 1993…autumn in Berkeley…California colors…Pearl Jam on the cover of Rolling Stone…they played the Greek theatre…a pint of Anchor Steam slipped out of my hand and smashed on the floor of Vesuvio…they wouldn’t give me another one…there was a scene…i walked outside…it was cold, raining…we ended up at your place, lit some candles…i can feel them burning now.

  4. 1. For me, this is the song I think of immediately when someone says “Pearl Jam.” I think this is the band’s finest song and my favorite.

    2. The live versions have gotten a little over-long, but I still dig this song live. I love its place as a set closer. The band can explore all sorts of solos and other tomfoolery before they head backstage to take a quick breather.

    3. To hear “RVM” on Vs. is to be immediately transported to the fall of 93. I’m embarassed to say that when Vs. came out, I was only a fan of the singles, primarily because of my kinda strict upbringing, I could only listen to PJ’s music when I would watch MTV while my parents were out of the room. So of course, when Vs. came out, I bought the cassette and listened to it privately.

    I’m embarassed to say that for the first six momths, I only listened to side A. Specifically, “Daughter-Glorified G-Dissident” over and over again. “Blood” scared me at the time and it was the first track on side B. So I never flipped it over 😦

    But when I heard RVM for the first, I swear to God, my ears truly opened for the first time in my life. So this is what love must feel like. That’s what I thought when I heard it. I still feel the same way about the song almost 15 years later.

  5. My first experience with Pj was the greatest hits disc, i got it for Christmas two years ago. It was so fast and ferocious, especially with the drums just bashing at the end, and it was immediately recognizable that this song was just that much more than a powerful song. That is a great word to use too, “nimble”, there is an immediate feeling of moving from the first seconds. And the occasional stops the song makes, after the speed up of course, only furthers the feeling of going really, really fast.
    I think everyone has to give some credit to Ed on this one; “how do you play that riff and sing at the same time?” It is intense on every term.

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