Decoding Mike McCready’s M I K E Guitar Picks

by Jessica Letkemann on August 21, 2013

The M I K E guitar picks of Pearl Jam's Mike McCreadyMike McCready’s been raining M I K & E picks on Pearl Jam crowds since 2011. Here’s a look at all 16 types and what they mean. It’s elemental.

The quiet days of August are here. The Wrigley Field and London Pearl Jam shows are behind us, and “Lightning Bolt” and the fall tour are ahead, but right now there’s time for quiet contemplation on the little things… like those “M,” “I,” “K” and “E” guitar picks Mike McCready has been raining down on fans like candy at shows since 2011.

Mike’s been tossing out — often green — personalized picks at Pearl Jam shows since well back into the 90s (as TwoFeetThick.com chronicled about a decade ago here), but his current crop, which debuted two years ago, are black, white and red. And lest you think the Pearl Jam trading cards offered at Wrigley in July were the first “collect them all” sets of PJ memorabilia, there were more varieties of these picks than might meet the eye if you only caught one or two. There are actually FOUR different sets of the M, I, K, and E picks, for a grand total of 16 different picks in the whole collection:

The black picks with red M, I, K, or E letters.
The white picks with red M, I, K, or E letters.
The black picks with white M, I, K, or E letters.
The white picks with black M, I, K, or E letters.

What the letters spell is pretty obvious. Less obvious are the designs on the reverse, but there is an explanation there too if you have at least one M, one I, one K and one E pick in front of you. You might even say it’s elemental…

The reverse side of all colors of the M picks feature a drawing of a mountain of some kind and then “PJMM-E,” which stands for “Pearl Jam Mike McCready – Earth.” The mountain or mound represents “earth.”

The reverse side of all colors of the I picks feature a drawing of a cloud with a face blowing a gust of wind which stands for “PJMM-A” for “Pearl Jam Mike McCready – Air.” The blowing cloud represents “air.”

The reverse side of all colors of the K picks feature a drawing of a blazing sun and then “PJMM-F,” which stands for “Pearl Jam Mike McCready – Fire.” The blazing sun (which is even red on the white picks with red letters) represents fire.

The reverse side of all colors of the E picks feature a drawing of a wave and then “PJMM-W,” which stands for “Pearl Jam Mike McCready – Water.” The wave represents water.

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water are the four classical elements of ancient science in Greece, India, Babylonia, and Egypt just to name a few. The four are often known as the Aristotelian elements. Those four are were considered the common elements with the idea of a special fifth element — known as aether or quintessence — sometimes added to denote a sort of kind of matter that the heavens (the stars, and beyond) or an idea of the “void” or “space” might be made of.

So next time you see one of those M’s, I’s, K’s and the strangely rarer E’s either in Mike’s hand or in a grinning fans’, you’ll know that McCready went deep into classical science to rock the old-school elements on his picks.

With 16 different picks comprising the whole cosmology of these picks however, I still have never met one single fan who’s managed to collect them all. If you have, we’d love to hear the story in the comments section below.

Thanks to Mike Dolan (@MikeDolam) and Kathy Davis (@Crookedarm23) for help with the “E” pick.

More on Pearl Jam Guitar Picks from TFT: Show Us Your Picks

Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media (Fuse.tv) and was previously managing editor of Billboard.com. She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.

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