The Stars of Stage and Screen: The Stories Behind the Most Memorable Songs From Movies and Musicals…Song #9/250: State of Love and Trust by Pearl Jam from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, Singles.

It isn’t easy to live in the continental United States and exist in your own bubble of sorts, but prior to 1990, that was essentially true of the region known as the Pacific Northwest. The most populated city in the area would have been Seattle, Washington. Seattle’s closest big city neighbour is actually Vancouver, British Columbia, across the border into Canada. Prior to 1990, the Pacific Northwest region of the US was known more for its wilderness and hiking trails and, oh yes, a volcano named Mount St. Helens! If you traveled there it was definitely a destination journey, meaning that you wanted to go specifically there. It was a boutique location, for sure. Consequently, if you happened to live there, you did so in a very tight knit community. Seattle, in particular, was insulated from much of what was happening elsewhere across the States. This sense of relative isolation allowed the local Arts scene to incubate, free of scrutiny from the outside world. Thus, when local band Nirvana released “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the outside world sat up and took notice. This song is credited with launching the Grunge music movement and creating what music journalists dubbed “The Seattle Scene”. But, truth be told, Seattle, Washington had been a hotbed for great music long before the region was “discovered” by the rest of the country. Bands such as Bikini Kill, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees and many more were all well established on the local music circuit by the time Nirvana came out with the Nevermind album. Once Nirvana went supernova, as it were, the world descended on Seattle and that quiet sense of purity that characterized the music scene there was gone forever. If you happen to ever hear someone being interviewed who was in Seattle prior to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, they always lament the loss of privacy that came with being discovered. To get a sense of what it was like to live in Seattle just before Grunge exploded isn’t easy. However, we are lucky that there was a movie made there in 1992 by director Cameron Crowe that did a pretty good job of capturing the fashion, the music, the club scene and the sense of community that existed in the Arts world in Seattle. That movie was called Singles. This is the story of that movie, the impactful soundtrack that accompanied it and the mega-hit TV show that was inspired because of it.

Singles was a movie that starred Bridget Fonda, Matt Dillon, Kyra Sedgewick and a host of characters from around Seattle such as the members of Pearl Jam, Chris Cornell and the members of Soundgarden, director Tim Burton and many others. The movie is basically a romantic comedy of sorts that uses, as its setting, the world of Seattle’s Arts scene as it existed just before “Teen Spirit” took off. Throughout much of the movie, songs by Seattle bands can be heard playing in the background, or else whole scenes will take place in a club or at a concert with real bands on stage. One scene was even shot at the real gravesite of legendary rocker…and Seattle resident…Jimi Hendrix. As such, Singles was always more than a mere movie. It was a film that intentionally captured a moment in cultural history while it was all still relatively innocent and pure. To call Singles a time capsule would be very accurate.

L – R: Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam), actor Matt Dillon, Layne Staley (Alice in Chains), Director Cameron Crowe.

What makes Singles such a memorable movie is the soundtrack. The movie is crammed with great tunes by a ton of artists and bands who, at the time, were only really known in Seattle or on the college radio circuit. The whole soundtrack is packed with hits and/or performances from Seattle artists/bands that we consider to be huge today such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Paul Westerberg (formerly of The Replacements), Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone and The Smashing Pumpkins, along with familiar names such as Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart (who perform as The Lovemongers on this soundtrack, covering a Led Zeppelin tune called “The Battle of Evermore”) and Seattle’s most famous pre-Grunge son, Jimi Hendrix, too. What makes the Singles soundtrack unique in movie history is that at the time of its release, all of the tunes were original releases. Taking that one step further, all of these bands/artists would, in time, become big stars on the national stage, but for this soundtrack, they all submitted original work. It is almost as if some cool Seattle insider made a mixtape of the best music around at the time and released it for the world to discover. From everything I have read about this movie, I believe that those musicians who agreed to take part all did so because they believed in Cameron Crowe’s vision for how the Arts community was going to be portrayed. It was also important to them that the movie have a timelessness to it so that it wouldn’t appear dated a few years after release. The Singles soundtrack has achieved that aim. It is still one of the very best movie soundtracks that I have ever heard. I owned it back in my Columbia Record Club days and I still like all of the artists and bands who contributed to it to this very day. Don’t read too much into the fact that I chose “State of Love and Trust” by Pearl Jam to represent this movie. I could have chosen almost any of the songs in this soundtrack and it would have been a good choice. I picked “State of Love and Trust” simply because it is a good tune and I own it and like it. Simple.

Bridget Fonda and Matt Dillon.

As for the movie itself, Singles never won any awards for the quality of the story being told. However, when it was released, the story of young, single, attractive twenty-somethings living near each other, growing into adulthood together, searching for love and a life lived with purpose resonated with audiences. For me, I always thought that Bridget Fonda’s character was super cute. She had a “look” that Cameron Crowe insisted that she naturally had and that somehow managed to perfectly capture that sense of fashion that was popular in Seattle at the time. This is an important note because once the movie was released, many who saw it wanted the storylines from the movie to continue on in the form of a TV show. Cameron Crowe was offered the chance to take Singles and serialize it for television but he declined, stating that he felt he had captured the spirit of Seattle perfectly in the film and didn’t wish to dilute that by having to make the story fit a national perspective. However, not long after declining the chance to take Singles to TV, a new show debuted on NBC called Friends. That show involved a group of young, attractive single twenty-somethings who all lived near each other, growing into adulthood, searching for love and a life lived with purpose. One of the stars of the show was Jennifer Aniston who, like Bridget Fonda, became known for her sense of style. I felt that “Rachel” was pretty cute at times, too. The producers of Friends insist that their show had nothing to do with Singles, but their denials are more rooted in a desire to avoid ever being sued by Crowe for a share of the profits the show has accrued over the years.

In any case, Singles is a movie that may have not ever been an Oscar-calibre story, but the cultural impact it had on the world of music and television is unquestioned. If you have never watched Singles before, please feel free to do so. It will be like unearthing a cultural time capsule. The trailer I am enclosing is really corny and low-budget, but, at least, it will introduce you to the characters. When you see it, try and figure out who inspired the various Friends characters on TV. Overall, I love Singles for the music…and for Bridget Fonda’s character. The soundtrack is outstanding. I hope that you will give it a chance, too.

The link to the video for the song “State of Love and Trust” by Pearl Jam can be found here. ***The lyrics video can be found here.

The link to the official movie trailer for Singles can be found here.

The link to a YouTube playlist for the entire movie soundtrack of Singles can be found here.

The link to the official website for Seattle, Washington can be found here.

***As always, all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post may be reblogged, copied or shared without the express written consent of the author. ©2022 tommacinneswriter.com

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #180: Better Man by Pearl Jam.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #180: Better Man by Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam have emerged from the 1990s Seattle Grunge scene intact and are still playing today. One of the most amazing aspects of their career is the fact that many of the hit songs in their catalogue were written by lead singer, Eddie Vedder, when he was still a teenager. Songs such as “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Jeremy” and, today’s song, “Better Man” were, for the most part, fully-formed when it came time to record their debut album and announce their musical presence to the world.

Eddie Vedder was 16 years old when he wrote, “Better Man” (making him only one year older than my daughter, Leah). Like many teenagers, Vedder found himself dealing with some emotional family turmoil. In his case, now that he was getting older, his mother felt he was mature enough to handle the news that the man he thought was his “real” father was, in fact, his step-father and that his biological Dad had never been part of his life. Looking at this decision from an outside, objective perspective….it can be said that being honest with someone you love is always the best policy but, I am sure that Vedder’s mother must have had her fears that he would not receive this news well which is, in fact, how it turned out. In concerts, Vedder has been known to introduce this song about it being about, “the bastard who married my Mom.”

“Better Man” was written as Vedder’s way of dealing with his emotions at the time. As mentioned, he was a sixteen year old boy then. The lyrics are surprisingly mature and paint a very detailed picture of a relationship that is unsteady and of a woman who wishes to leave but feels unable to do so. “Better Man” is a quieter song, as compared to some of Pearl Jam’s other guitar-driven rockers in their catalogue but, it still rocks well. It has become a fan favourite and a song that the audience often takes over and sings for Vedder, as he quietly plays guitar in accompaniment. The song ended up, not on their debut album but, a few years later, on an album called, “Vitalogy”.

Pearl Jam are an interesting band because they have had a very careful approach to how their music is marketed to their fans. They are not in the habit of making music videos nor of releasing songs as singles. For the most part, “Pearl Jam” release only concert videos and only release albums, as a whole, for download or sale in stores as a physical CD or album. They are close associates of fellow musical contrarians, Neil Young, Pete Townsend and Bruce Springsteen who, like Pearl jam, try to make their music as corporate-free as possible. Because of this sense of character that the band maintains, their fanbase is very loyal. There is a sense of trust between band and fans that sees the band release good material, without much in the way of promotion, while the fans buy unseen albums on faith. Because Pearl Jam write and record with integrity, they rarely disappoint their fans. Thus, a positive cycle of trust endures.

It is for this reason that someone like Eddie Vedder would entrust the singing of so personal a song like, “Better Man” to his fans. He knows they will handle his story with care. It is because of this atmosphere that the playing of “Better Man” has become such a highlight of Pearl Jam’s live shows. But, no need for you to take my word for it. Here is a live concert video of “Better Man” by Pearl Jam. I think that this is a wonderful song and I hope that you like it, too. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Better Man” by Pearl Jam, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Pearl Jam, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting the best artists and bands. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #271: Jeremy by Pearl jam.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #271: Jeremy by Pearl Jam.

“Jeremy” by “Pearl Jam” is a song that draws its’ inspiration from a true and tragic event. In this case, it is two similar events that both involve separate shootings that took place in schools. However, the crux of the story of “Jeremy” involves how artists portray real people; be it in music or on film or whatever media the artist is working in at the time. How responsible are artists when it comes to the accuracy of their portrayal? How much “creative license” is implied when someone becomes the subject of someone’s creative vision? Let’s find out, as we discuss one of “Pearl Jam’s” first and biggest hits, “Jeremy”.

“Jeremy” was one of three big hits that “Pearl Jam” had on their debut album, “Ten”. The other hits were “Alive” and “Even Flow”. Pearl Jam, who hail from Seattle, were part of the famous, “Seattle scene”, along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and Soundgarden. They have had many other hits such as “Better Man”, “State of Love and Trust”, “Nothingman”, “Daughter”, “Black” “Yellow Ledbetter” and many more. They have sold millions of albums worldwide and were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. They have always maintained their artistic independence. That was evident right from their very first album when lead singer Eddie Vedder and bassist, Jeff Ament, teamed up to write a song about a young man who committed suicide in a classroom in front of his teacher and classmates.

The song, “Jeremy” is mostly drawn from a small newspaper article that concerned a boy named Jeremy Wade Delle. The article comprised one-quarter of one column and was tucked somewhere in the middle of the paper. As Vedder first read the article, he wondered what had pushed this young man to perform such an act but, at the same time, Vedder questioned the extent to which Delle’s act had the impact that he may had envisioned. So, Vedder wrote a song about the incident. That song and the famous video that helped launch Pearl Jam’s career, was “inspired” by the actual suicide but, it was never intended to be about the young man, in question, Jeremy Wade Delle. Thus, to most of us who watched the video and listened to the intense lyrics, our impression of “Jeremy” was that he was mentally-ill, that his parents never gave him enough attention and that his classmates thought he was a bit of a freak and treated him accordingly. In real life, Delle’s mother and several of his classmates have rallied to his defence and have gone public with their criticisms of the song and how he will be forever tainted by Vedder’s ill-conceived portrayal. They claim that Delle was artistic, quiet and that he actually had several good friends. Vedder has apologized for any harm caused to Delle’s family but, he is unapologetic about the nature of his creative license that allowed him to create a character and storyline based upon someone who actually lived and died.

But, the story doesn’t end there, either. The video that was made to accompany the song was censored by the record label and by the folks who worked at MTV. The original video ended with the character of “Jeremy” putting the gun barrel into his mouth. The next scene showed his classmates recoiling in shock, blood splattering their clothes and classroom. The implied violent death was deemed too graphic. This resulted in the scene with the gun barrel entering “Jeremy’s” mouth being cut. Instead, the revised video shows “Jeremy” standing up at the front of the classroom and then, the scene shifts to the blood-spattered classmates. This removed the graphic suicide but, it caused another issue to arise. Many who saw the new video mistakenly thought that “Jeremy” had shot his teacher and that it was his teacher’s blood that had splattered. The whole exercise in creating a dramatic representation of their song ended up frustrating the members of “Pearl jam” so much that they refused to make any more staged videos. From that point on, every “Pearl Jam” video was a concert video. Vedder maintained that the controversy over the video detracted from the point of the song which was, in his words, that the real “Jeremy” probably thought his act would be viewed as dramatic and impactful when, in fact, it warranted only one quarter of one column and would be forgotten as quickly as the story was first read. Vedder claims that living and improving and growing stronger, with help, is always better than suicide.

Regardless of the controversial nature of “Jeremy”, the song has become one of “Pearl Jam’s” signature songs. It is always sung with much intensity as Vedder sings of the difference between living and dying and of which path leads to a greater personal legacy in the end. In order for you to decide for yourselves as to the merits of this song, I will play the original, uncensored dramatic video, as well as, a live version of the song, too. Both videos are intensely paced and sung with great passion. The band is super tight and highly skilled; playing faster when the drama requires it and softly, when more nuanced scenes come along in the story. But, as I said, in the end, I will leave it for you to decide how you feel about how “Pearl Jam” portrayed “Jeremy”.

Is what they did justified because it resulted in a kick-ass song? Was the real “Jeremy” owed a better and more realistic portrayal or was he damaged goods and fair game to be portrayed as he was because his story lay in the public domain? Whatever the case, a young man died for real, by his own hand. Nothing about this discussion changes that fact.

Here is “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam.

The link to the “official” video for the song, “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, can be found here.

The link to the video for the live version of the song, “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Pearl Jam can be found here.

The link to the website for radio station, KEXP, can be found here. Thanks, folks, for playing the best music every day.