Music Friday: Yellow Ledbetter

Of course you knew I’d do a Pearl Jam song eventually. Well, here it is. I don’t know everything about the history of this song, but the little I do know makes it all the more fascinating. The little I do know is that it was originally released as the B side for the Jeremy single, and that if you listen to their first ever concert, you can hear some riffs of it between songs. Twenty years ago when this song came out there was no Youtube or even Napster, and by the time I found out about it, no way of buying a physical copy of it for less than thirty dollars. For me, listening to Yellow Ledbetter in 1993 meant getting lucky on a rainy night when I was driving my car and had the radio tuned to The End. Somehow the Apocryphal nature of the song, at least back then, seemed to embed it so deep into the Pearl Jam canon that it would never be removed by even the vilest of heretics. I still have no idea what the lyrics are, don’t really even want to. Don’t have to.
I have this theory about where this song came from. I imagine Mike McCready realizing he’s joining Stone Gossard’s band, so he can’t really show anybody up with a song right off the bat. And he has an intuition that Eddie Vedder would kick Dave out of the band if he started playing his drums like Tommy Lee. Of course it was a different drummer named Dave that would eventually be kicked out of the band for something like that. So even though Mike could play his guitar like that other Eddie V. if he was allowed to, he has to improvise if he wants to contribute to the band. So instead of an Eruption, it almost seems like he’s offering up an apology for being such a good guitar player. Twenty years later, after they’ve succeeded and Mike’s been able to turn things loose on Given to Fly, Faithfull, Sirens, and so many other songs, it’s still Yellow Ledbetter that people think about when they think about Mike McCready and his guitar. That’s probably not what happened, in fact I could probably come up with a better story of what actually happened by reading Wikipedia. But then I could probably find out what the lyrics are that way, too.

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