It’s easy to make arguments for the canonization of songs like “Rearviewmirror”, “Release”, “Corduroy”, “Unemployable” (get ready for it), though certainly more difficult, or seemingly dubious to ask the same for “Satan’s Bed”. But it should be done. Words like “raucous” and “irreverent” don’t do the song justice. It’s not the most shocking song ever written, not laugh-out-loud funny, not even that original music-wise. But the whole thing just clicks, feels classic, convincing, not a thing I would change about it. When I wanted to convince a music-obsessive, non-Pearl Jam fan best friend of mine that the band was actually worth her time and attention, this is the track I started with. Surprised? Well…
Consider that one of the biggest misconceptions about Pearl Jam is that they’re humorless, self-serious, and just no fun at all. Unless you paid enough attention to the songs themselves at the time (or found a b-side or two), prior to “Satan’s Bed” you could be forgiven for that misunderstanding. But from Stone’s garage rock construction, to the whip-cracking sound effects, to Ed’s delirious wordplay, “Satan’s Bed” established that Pearl Jam were capable of immediacy and joy without an altruistic mission. Of course, the song’s prime concern is with groupies, fame, selling out, etc., but it’s done with sass. The choral shouts of “already in love” lend credence to the idea that “Satan’s Bed” is a song of fidelity, but it’s also just good, dumb, loose rock and roll. Not only does Ed fly all over the place lyrically, but he puts on an absolute vocal performance, growling, shouting, laughing, “taking it out and chopping it up” to quote Royal Tenenbaum.
“Satan’s Bed” is a song that’s difficult to write about because thinking too hard or deeply about it seems extremely beside the point. Plus, all I want to do is gush. Yet that nagging voice in my head keeps urging me to break it down. So find goddamnit, here are five points:
1. Thank you Jimmy Shoaf.
2. The artwork on the lyric sheet still freaks me out.
3. On a related note: Santa’s Bed?
4. 2003’s State College show: I have to admit the version of “Satan’s Bed” that the band pulled out on request did bum me out. I wanted to just enjoy the silliness and sheer balls of playing a song unrehearsed, with all of the funny miscues, etc. But at that point I really wanted to hear that song live again.
5. 2006: Thrilling to see the song return somewhat to the fold. Still played less than 20 times in the band’s entire history, but “Satan’s Bed” seemed to make complete sense alongside the band’s more recent material. Raw, nervy, punchy, electric; “Satan’s Bed”: better than memory foam.