As those of you who knew me when can attest, I used to be a big Pearl Jam fan. Ten was the first album I actually went out and bought, and to some extent it changed my life. It showed a kid raised on the Beatles and Steely Dan that raw emotion and power were just as important musically as beautiful melodies and tight-ass grooves. I'd sing Jeremy in the shower; I'd write the lyrics to Alive in my class notebooks; I'd put on Oceans before I went to sleep. Pearl Jam took hold of my 12-year-old mind and refused to let go.
I still remember the date the second album. came out - Oct 19 1993. I remember calling my friends who had bought it immediately and hearing about the tapes that said "Five Against One" instead of "Vs.", and the weird sheep-dog thing on the cover. I remember arguing about whether or not Animal was a ripoff of Why Go because the drum beats were so similar; I remember relishing the chance to scream "Get out of my fucking face" along with Eddie in Leash; I remember falling in love with Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in A Small Town, and playing those three chords on the guitar over and over and over.
But what I remember most vividly is the sense of wonder I had at the newness of what I was hearing. The folks who tried to tell me they were copying Nirvana just didn't get it - they just weren't listening. I was obsessed with this one thought: where will this lead?
This is the beginning of something, I said to myself. I was fascinated with the idea that someday this band, these 5 guys who had made an album or two that I loved, would have a whole catalog behind them - they would keep making music and grow together and have ups and downs and award shows and greatest hits albums and screaming fans. It became this metaphor for me of the unknowable future - I had no idea what would happen between now and then, but I knew that whatever it was, it would shape the results in ways I couldn't imagine. And in the back of my mind, I knew, that far beyond the tangle of pre-teen angst, in a world where fantasy words like college and sex and jobs and independent and yes, even adult might actually mean something, the same would be true for me. For all of us. That in our futures lay paths we might never dream of, possibilities we might never expect, but futures nonetheless. We didn't know how, and we didn't even know where, but we knew we would get there.
Today, the band that shelled out their own dough to give their fans an unprecedented number of live CD's, the band that took on Ticketmaster, the band that brought us Yellow friggin Ledbetter, released their first Greatest Hits album, rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003).
And today I look around at my friends. Some of you are writing musicals, some of you are going to law school, med school, some of you are creating new lives, some of you are doing all you can to harness the best of your own. We've all gone far on our journeys, and we've all got so much further we get to go.
Welcome to the first step of the future, friends. We done all growed up. Forget these first 8 years. Here's to looking forward, past where you see can clearly, into the great wonder of the unknown. Here's to the brilliant adventures that life takes us on. Here's to the Greatest Hits of the 21st Century.