Daily Song Study

Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter

In songs on August 5, 2011 at 10:22 am

Today we study things that shouldn’t work but somehow do anyway. In 1992, following the release of their soon-to-be-megaplatinum debut album Ten, Pearl Jam released Jeremy as a single. On that single was another track, Yellow Ledbetter, which quite obviously was a work in progress.

Singer Eddie Vedder is clearly trying out nonsense words to a melody he’s got in his head for this chord progression. This is a common approach, but normally the actual words take form before anyone bothers to, you know, release the thing to millions of fans.

Still, somehow it works. A lot of this has to do with Mike McCready’s intricate guitar work, but what really comes through in all of the performances is an indescribable energy that keeps you listening even if the listener (and even the band) may not know what the hell is going on. Vedder has a sense of humor about this, once answering a question about the lyrics by saying “Wait…you mean there’s lyrics?”

The funniest part is the attempt by fans to decipher the lyrics over the years. This has occasionally led to moments of comic brilliance:

In any case, this tune goes to prove that enjoyable songs needn’t necessarily make any sense whatsoever.

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