Satan’s Bed

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.


~ by Michael on September 20, 2007.

10 Responses to “Satan’s Bed”

  1. Very little to say about the song itself. But to me it represents the quintessential “oh man, my parents would kill me if they knew I was listening to this” song. Three curse words, and one “dick,” which is borderline, and probably would count in the context of the sucking. Owning this on cassette in 1995, when I was 12, there was a while lotta fast-forwardin’ goin’ on between “Bugs” and “Better Man.” Listening in full was reserved for listening on my headphones while I was riding my bike around the neighborhood.

  2. I used to be scared to death of my copy of Badmotorfinger, mostly due to that warped Fisher Price toy saying, “The devil says………”

  3. I always loved this song. It seems a little Leash-ish and goofy now. But I still love it, and I don’t care what anyone says. đŸ™‚

    btw, I also loved the State College Live version, just because it reminded me of the greatness of live Pearl Jam. The band is, as Stone once put it, “a semi-professional rock band.” The best PJ shows, to me, have that vibe of, “I’m just watching these guys rehearse their shit and fuck around.”

    Ed: “Model, role model … bwaaaa … fuck!” I love that shit.

  4. Kevin Davis, I can share the “my parents would kill me for listening to this” sentiment. I remember vividly visiting relatives with my father. And one of my cousin had the Vitalogy cassette. I remember my dad (a devout Christian type) picking it up and first seeing “Tremor Christ” and then he said aloud, albeit in hushed tones, “Satan’s Bed? We need to pray for this boy.” Oh the memories.

    I love this song. It seems entirely care-free to me and it’s one of my favorite Stone grooves. I was in the audience for the State College show and while I can admit that the band absolutely BUTCHERED this song, it was still one of the great memories of my life. To be there and hear that song, knowing that it hadn’t been played in forever, was such a great feeling.

  5. 6. Atlanta 94

  6. “Model, role model … bwaaaa … fuck!”

  7. I wonder if Eddie rolled his skinny little bitch model, role model girlfriend in blood to get some flesh to stick before impregnating her. doubt it. torture follows reward follows torture follows reward follows…oh wait, it’s ten years later…less angst…let’s see…yeah, i’d say now it’s just reward following reward…nice. i might get some moderate unpleasantness following reward sometimes, stuck in traffic or something, but nothing like torture anymore…no way…are you kidding? have you seen my girlfriend?

  8. corduroy…I know you like “unemployable”, (perhaps you relate to it more than i do…) and because of you and your blog and previous loving comments you’ve made about the song, I’ve stopped skipping over it and might now consider it a strong b-side…but to use it in a sentence with those other songs…and to even suggest it as part of the “canon”…c’mon dude…seriously…it’s offensive…i’ve also noticed that as a further sign of how much you like the song, it looks like you’re saving it for last of the “Pearl Jam” tracks…fair enough, but you’re going to have to muster all your semi-professional rock critic witchcraft mojo bullshit to convince me that “unemployable” deserves canonization any more than…whatever…i mean, I can’t wait to see why you like this song so much…because i just can’t figure it out, and am practically outraged by it…

  9. Oleyever, I can’t presume the power to allay your outrage, but I will do my best.

  10. that’s all i ask, my friend…good luck.

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