Three chords. I-IV-V. Building blocks of popular Western music. Infinite variations. You can spend a lifetime with only these three chords, and still create a diverse body of work. “Wishlist” plays exclusively with these basics, resulting in one of the band’s most accessible songs. It is both adored and reviled, ignored and misunderstood for its perceived simplicity. But it is built on fundamental writerly instincts both lyrically and musically, deriving its meaning directly from its form, construction, craft.


“I wish I was” is an anaphoric formula, just fill in the blank. It must have been great fun as a writer to edit down the original, longer list of lines, to pick out the absolute best. Everyone seems to have their favorite, assuming they like the song. I’m partial to the lines that elide over each other, and Ed’s use of the infinitive “to trust”. All around “Wishlist” is playful and sweet, full of imagery yet still triggering one’s imagination. The use of an e-bow on the strings further creates a dreamy atmosphere, a substitute for the lyrical capacity of a violin or pedal steel. The only complaint I can devise for the song is its fade out, another song where I prefer the Monkeywrench version, its closing resolute, “I guess it never stops”.


~ by Michael on September 14, 2007.

10 Responses to “Wishlist”

  1. “I wish I was the full moon shining off your Camaro’s hood.”

    As a high school student, I knew countless beautiful girls with Camaros (I lived in a small, backwoods town). This is the line that I sung extra hard with my eyes closed when I was in 10th grade.

    For me, this song is timeless. Great call on the Monkeywrench version, C-13. That’s a beautiful version. My favorite moments with this song were from Pittsburgh 03 when the mirrorball balled dropped over the Mellon Arena crowd. It was a moment, with that ball swirling and casting its array of colors across the entire crowd and the walls of that arena, that I will never forget.

  2. I don’t really understand why this song is so hated by so many fans. It’s incredibly sweet and pretty. There are also so many memorable lines, which Eddie so often seems to forget. I love the mirrorball, too. I remember seeing WISHLIST on the David Letterman show. And thinking that Eddie had never looked so cute before. Sorry about that.

    And I was one of those beautiful girls in a Camaro.

  3. as a fan of lists of all kinds, i really think this is on of Ed`s most unique lyrical work… I`d give my left leg for the idea of a song consisting of nothing more than a list…

    “I wish I was an alien behind the sun/ I wish I was the souvenir you keep your house key on”

    in just a few seconds you literally get stuck on to a key chain from travelling in the the galaxy…

  4. oh my god…high school girls swooning over cute eddie vedder and his sweet, pretty song…i can almost see his Tiger Beat picture hanging inside your locker. I felt a tinge of guilt about the Bon Jovi comment I made about Yield in the “Given to Fly” thread, but you two have just confirmed what I was getting at. I don’t really understand why it’s so hard to understand why this song is hated so by so many fans. I wouldn’t say I HATE the song…don’t think i could say that about any PJ song, and as I said before, all the Yield songs sound much better live, and that’s probably even more true with Wishlist…even with its cute lyrics and three cute little chords. I also enjoy the little exchange between Ed and the others on Single Video Theory about that famous e-bow and who’s going to play it. But seriously, maybe this is the right time to debate whether or not pearl jam would be what it is if it wasn’t for their cuteness…are ed’s (or whoever’s) looks responsible for a degree of the band’s success? not many ugly people end up on magazine covers…and I suppose you could throw Ed in there with that long tradition of rock and roll lead singers who has had his own “groupie” following…how much is this a part of the band’s history? And, more importantly, is there any hope for the rest of us ugly mugs, or will being a music critic be as close as C13 gets to his rock and roll fantasy? All this and more on the next “Pearl Jam: Behind teh Music” (cue Wishlist)

  5. oleyever, you got me figured out. Me and my cheerleadin’ buds was ridin’ along in my Camaro dissin’ all the loser guys up and down the strip blastin’ WISHLIST and LAST KISS from my Bose system that my Daddy bought me for my b’day.

    Yup, Eddie’s picture wuz hangin’ in my locker, ya no the shirtless, longhaired one. Damn wuz he hot!!!!

    Oh, and my long, blonde, wavy locks are the real deal.

  6. I’m too sexy for this blog, too sexy for this blog, so sexy it’s wronggggg. Also, I have no rock and roll fantasy.

  7. The thing I love about “Wishlist” is how all the wishes appear to be wishes for the narrator’s self (I wish I was this, I wish I had that), when in fact they’re quite the opposite. I mean, who would wish to be a pedal brake? It’s surely not a selfish wish, as a pedal brake is an inanimate object that sits there and gets stepped on, but rather an indirectly selfless hope to make the life of someone the narrator loves just a little bit easier. Which is ultimately what all of “Wishlist” is – the desire to do something to make better the lives of the ones we love. And at the end of the day, isn’t that pretty much what songs like “Save You” and “Habit” are about too?

    I think “I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good” is probably my favorite line in all of PJ’s discography.

  8. Kevin Davis:

    I’ve loved Wishlist from the day I first heard it. You’ve pointed out something significant that I never realized before.

    And not are the narrator’s wishes actually wishes for the benefit of someone else … there’s also this tinge of sadness that these wishes are of yet unfulfilled. And, also, the hopefulness that someday they will be.

    I could spill many a paragraph waxing philosophic about any number of lines in this song. But I’ll talk about my favorite.

    “I wish I was the souvenir you kept your house key on.”

    Why do I love this line so much? Here’s what it means to me: I wish I was so ingrained in the everyday tapestry of your life that you almost take me for granted. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. How many of us have that *something* that we hang our keys on, day in and day out, without even thinking about it? That souvenir is there to provide an important function. But you’ve grown so comfortable and so used to it being in its place, that you’d only notice it if it was gone.

    I think, in large part, that’s what love is like. You want to become so much a part of someone’s life, that is is only unnatural if you are not there.

    As a college student in 1998 about to graduate and, ostensibly, find a soul mate, this is a line that always touched me.

  9. Aw, shit, here’s one more:

    I also like the messenger line, because to me it contains a tinge of sadness. Ed isn’t wishing that he is a messenger. He’s already a messenger. What he’s actually wishing for is for all the news to be good. And, everywhere you look in the world, the news is of course not good. So poignant.

  10. Man, writing lyrics is near impossible! I can’t think of one wish line that I could come up with myself. “I wish I was talented…as talented as Ed”

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