Arms wide open with the sea as his floor
Welcome to Yield, Pearl Jam’s fifth studio record, released 20 years ago — February 3, 1998 to be exact. For album facts — Yield was recorded in Seattle and Atlanta, produced by Brendan O’Brien, spawned two dynamic singles in “Given To Fly” and “Wishlist”, a Todd McFarlane animation video for “Do the Evolution” and the band’s first documentary-style film in Single Video Theory — where they literally open their doors to the making of Yield.
In support of this beautiful record, Pearl Jam spent 1998 touring the globe, playing 66 shows — both starting and ending in Seattle. This trek included some of the most unique gigs to date with; Monkeywrench II to kick things off, a return to Seattle’s legendary Crocodile Café, and the band’s first official show at Madison Square Garden.
“You might sell 30 millions records, you might play countries all around the world, but you ain’t shit ’til you play Madison Square Garden” ~ Eddie Vedder 9.10.98, after “Long Road” opener, before launching into “Corduroy” (not off Yield, but the perfect start your engine “we’re here” MSG song, with Gossard jumping up and down)
The 12 brand new songs were a collaborative effort with each member participating in the writing process. Jack Irons recorded the drums before Matt Cameron stepped in for the tour, never to look back. The beat goes on.
Yield is the only Pearl Jam album to date, to be released in the winter. It’s a record that both encompasses and is enriched by nature. Ironically, I had just gotten my driver’s license at this time. To this day, I associate Yield with driving around aimlessly just starring off into the given environment. I’m amazed at how well the album art fits the overall theme of the music. Visually and sonically, Yield just makes you feel good. I find it to be the perfect early morning sunrise companion. Two birds is what you’ll see, getting lost upon their way.
On February 7, 1998, I began a two-day mandatory retreat that all high school students in my district had to attend. As a mega-cool junior who now is allowed to drive, it was the last place I wanted to be. You had your choice of select dates and I picked the last possible weekend to attend. Little did I know, I would have Yield with me along for the ride. As it turns out, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was an escape where you learned about yourself and how to tap into the emotions of life. People shared their stories of overcoming hardships and climbing the tallest mountains. Tears were shed openly, often, and without judgement. You learned to express yourself, discover who you were, share your voice and make a difference. Furthermore, although you knew nobody else going in, you were all friends.
During this weekend, they gave each person a small notebook to write whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. There would be journal breaks for you to immediately capture in your own words what you were feeling. It was yours alone. I have carried a notebook with me every day ever since. I still have this first one and as I flip through I see the lyrics from Yield spilled on every other page. I was still learning the record at the time, so some of the words are my own interpretation.
20 years later, it’s as clear as the blue sky on the album cover just how inspiring Yield is. As a collection of art, this record digs deep into the pockets of the soul and pulls out raw sentiments of courage. With “Given to Fly” leading out of the gate, Yield takes you on your own personal journey with the sea as your floor. There is breathtaking imagery spread throughout open fields for you to navigate. Some are straightforward while others you must dig up, unearth, pick- up and put down. At the end of journey it’s gracefully suggested, “don’t you think you oughta lay your head down?”
As Pearl Jam continues to rock loud and proud around the globe, songs from Yield firmly hold their place amongst the epic setlists crafted each night. Often they are highlights of the show and result in moments of being set free that are second-to-none. Have you ever had a seat in a ten club heavy section when “In Hiding” is played? If so, you know exactly what I mean.
As we honor 20 years of this moving record, it’s no easy task to select just 10 sets of lyrics to focus on. I see Yield as one giant lyric wave to surf. Nonetheless, there are lines both big and small within this landscape that warrant an additional salute.
Were’ faithful, we all believe, we all believe it…
And everything is you
Me you, you me, it’s all related
What’s a boy to do?
Just be darling and I will be too
Faithful to you— an absolutely gorgeous delivery of an ending
I’ll stop trying to make a difference, no way
“Given to Fly”
The whole damns song…. but just to isolate a few:
A wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw
Delivered him wings, ‘Hey, look at me now’…
He floated back down ’cause he wanted to share
His key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere
But first he was stripped and then he was stabbed
By faceless men, well, fuckers
He still stands… (have to love to injection of ‘we’ to replace ‘he’ in current renditions… after 27 years strong)…
The love he receives is the love that is saved
I wish I was the evidence, I wish I was the grounds
For 50 million hands upraised and open toward the sky…
I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good
I wish I was the full moon shining off your Camaro’s hood
Stunned by my own reflection
It’s looking back, sees me too clearly
And I swore I’d never go there again
They said… timing was everything, made him
Want to be everywhere, there’s a
Lot to be said for nowhere
I need the light
I’ll find my way from wrong, what’s real?
Your dream I see
It’s funny when things change so much
It’s all state of mind…
I surfaced and all around me was enlightened
“Push Me, Pull Me”
Like a cloud dropping rain
I’m discarding all thought
I’ll dry up, leaving puddles on the ground
I’m like an opening band for the sun
“All Those Yesterdays”
There’s time enough for you to lay your head down,
Let it wash away
All those yesterdays
Jeff Gorra’s Pearl Jam Catalog:
How “Sirens” Changed My Life
Interview with Danny Clinch, the Making of ‘Let’s Play Two’
Pearl Jam’s 25th Year in 10 Stunning Photos
Tattooed Everything: A tribute to Black
Given to Fly — Artists, Athletes & Personalities Pay Tribute to Pearl Jam
17 Years Ago Today I Told The Greatest Lie of My Life
Tower Records. Midnight. ‘Riot Act’
The In Between is Mine. I Am Mine
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