Ed Talks Backspacer Track-by-Track

by Kathy Davis on September 16, 2009

Brad Wheeler of the Toronto Globe and Mail spoke to our singer Eddie Vedder when the band rolled through Canada recently.  Mr. Wheeler was able to get Ed’s take on each track of the upcoming Backspacer, and our boy was wonderfully forthcoming!  The original article is here; here is an excerpt of what Ed had to say about the songs:

Gonna See My Friend “All I remember is writing it in a little room on a small table with a little four-track tape machine. I got it sounding loud real quick, without disturbing the neighbours. I work using headphones a lot. I’m not going to have any hearing left. We all make sacrifices at our jobs, and my hearing is obviously going to be the first thing to go.”

Got “I’m talking about music to put on when you don’t know how you’re going to get to work, when you’re just not feeling it. It rains in Seattle 220 days a year on average – there’s a lot of mornings it’s hard to get going. This song will do it.”

The Fixer  “Men, we all think we can fix anything. It’s not necessarily a good thing. In a relationship, a woman will say ‘This is wrong,’ and we’re like, ‘I’ll fix that, don’t worry about it, we can fix it.’ These wonderful people, the woman you’re in a relationship with, they don’t want you to fix it. They just want you to listen to what’s happening: ‘Don’t fix it, I want you to own this with me – feel it.’ This is a reminder song to me, to stop fixing.”

Johnny Guitar An angular Elvis Costello-like number motivated by an album-cover photo from a record by pimp-blues guitarist Johnny (Guitar) Watson that was pasted over a men’s room urinal. “It’s actually not the first time we’ve got our inspiration from something on a bathroom wall. It’s a made-up story about a kid falling in love with a girl on a record cover. I imagine that must have happened a few times.”

Just Breathe “There’s never a dull moment on the road – every day it’s something. Maybe that’s why my goal is the dull moment. That’s what this song is: It’s saying, ‘Just stop, and be together. Don’t talk now, just breathe and feel each other’s presence – now that the kids are in bed.’

Amongst the Waves About ebbs and flows – of a couple’s relationships or even those of a long-running rock band. “On the strength of this album, we feel good about where the band is at. Our relationship is long-standing, but it’s turned into a forthcoming relationship. We’re open and honest. Things go pretty easy – we feel like a gang. We feel like a galvanized group of individuals. As far as waves, I think we’re up there.”

Unthought Known “It’s about a conversation with (actress) Catherine Keener, and a book – I think it might have even been called Unthought Known . I got back late to my hotel in New York, and I pushed it that extra hour. I pushed the limits of how much you can drink and smoke, and this song came out of it. I think the thought of the song is that there are things that you know, and they’re in us, but we just haven’t thought of them. But they’re there, and we base decisions on them.”

Supersonic A towering track written two years ago by guitarist Stone Gossard, with Vedder adding lyrics about living life with the volume on full, and the need for loud music. “There’s something about this infusion of energy. It’s a tangible thing that gives you as much energy as a drug. It can change the shape of your mood. I think [rock music] is the greatest art form there is, because there’s so many elements to it, volume being one of them. But momentum, and rhythm, and the literary side of a good lyric, it can really transport you.”

Speed of Sound “I was working with Ronnie Wood on a record he’s putting together. He asked me if I could contribute some words, which really excited me because I love his voice. This particular song was a little difficult to transcribe though, so it ended up in [Pearl Jam's] court. I played it to Brendan at four in the afternoon, and by the next afternoon it was complete.”

Force of Nature “It’s about the strength of one person in the relationship, when they can withstand some of the faults in another – maybe drug addiction, or straying off the path. The person in the song is the lighthouse for the other person caught in the storm.”

The End “I got a phone call from a friend, from Spain. I couldn’t pick up the phone because I was recording the guitar part. I had written half the song’s lyrics. When I checked his message, he had said something that enabled me to write the second verse, and in 20 minutes, it was done. That’s how it happened on this record. It was writing the quick ones – there was no room for the other stuff. We’ll see how long approaching it like this goes. But it’s the right way for us to do it right now.”

photo by Charla Jones/Globe and Mail

photo by Charla Jones/Globe and Mail

Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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