Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town" - Pearl Jam

I try quite hard not to blog about the same artist twice. Yet. But I think this doesn't really count, because the song I wrote about before, (Trouble) was a cover, and it was Eddie Vedder's solo stuff anyways. So there are two things I wanted to share with you, 1) The story I had heard about this song initially, and 2) The real story behind the song.

I initially wanted to write about this song because I had heard an amazing story behind it. I often talk about Gimli, Manitoba in my blog. At one point Gimli would host this huge outdoor music festival called Sunfest. One year Pearl Jam actually played at Sunfest. So the story goes that Vedder stopped by a gas station in Gimli, where an "elderly woman" was behind the counter. She, being old and all, had no idea who Vedder was. They chatted for a bit and Vedder was charmed by the old woman. He told her that he wanted to write a song about her and the rest is history. Apparently this story is NOT true, but I'm a bit of a romantic so I'd like to keep on thinking that's the way it happened. I even have a particular gas station in mind, an old rundown looking one right off of highway 8.


Vedder has never actually identified who the woman was that he wrote the song about. In the original lyric page for the song in the album liner notes there was a picture of an "elderly woman". The original picture was replaced because allegedly the woman in the first picture hadn't given permission for her picture to be used. The new liner notes feature a picture of a new woman with the caption "the new and improved woman behind the counter".


I think this is the "new" pic in liner notes
Now I'll get into the real story. First off - you're probably wondering about the name of the song (it's ridiculously long). Apparently the title of this song was the band's hilarious response to the comment that they only name their songs one word, (Daughter, Black, Jeremy etc.). In response to the song's meaning I'll just pull this quote from Vedder because he says it best,


"It's kind of about a lady, and she's getting on in years, and she's stuck in this small town. Small towns fascinate me: You either struggle like hell to get out, to some people want to stay 'cause then they're the big fish in the small pond, and then others just kind of get stuck there. So here she is working in this little place, and then an old flame comes in, and he's probably driving a nice car and looking kind of sharp—not a fancy car, but he's moved on. And then she sees him, and at first she doesn't even remember who he is, and then she realizes who it is. She's just too embarrassed to say 'hello."



I seem to recognize your face
Haunting, familiar, yet I can't seem to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me


All these changes taking place
I wish I'd seen the place but no one's ever taken me

Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away


I swear I recognize your breath
Memories, like fingerprints, are slowly raising
Me you wouldn't recall for I'm not my former
It's hard when your stuck upon the shelf


I've changed by not changing at all
Small town predicts my fate
Perhaps that's what no one wants to see


I just want to scream, hello
My god its been so long, never dreamed you'd return
But now here you are and here I am
Hearts and thoughts they fade away


Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away
Hearts and thoughts they fade away, yeah
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away
Hearts and thoughts they fade

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