Becoming a man with Pearl Jam

By Tim Benjamin (11-17-09)

Pearl Jam's 1991 debut album Ten

Pearl Jam's 1991 debut album Ten

Growing up in the nineties as a teenager with no real moral compass to direct me I did have a few in the music world.  After my father left three days before Christmas of 1991, the following Christmas was a cold bitter after glow of the shattering of my family and what I had thought to be normal.  The following Christmas of 1992, my brother gave me the cassette of Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten.  This gritty and studio based beat rumble and rattle album shot through my ears as I drove the dark streets with my brother to and from my father’s homes.  Forever, Ten will be the soundtrack album of my family’s destruction.  The aftermath of my father leaving left my mother forever damaged and the track “Why Go” was in my mind the song of my mother battling the world. It was later revealed that Vedder’s lyrics were inspired by his long-held hurt in discovering at age 17 that the man he thought was his father was not, and that his real father had already died.  I had another male leave me in 1993 and that left me with Kurt Cobain who died the following year.  The absence of a male role model and the vacuum of how to feel or how to deal were left to what was left of the grunge movement.

"Kurt Cobain's Primal Scream"

"Kurt Cobain's Primal Scream"

The importance of the influence of Kurt Cobain’s primal scream of anguish cannot be under or over stated as my loyalty to him.  Thus, the dilemma of the death of the last of the men of my early teenage years.  Cobain’s and his widow’s criticism of Pearl Jam did not help matters in what I should do with myself. .  Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain angrily attacked Pearl Jam, claiming the band were commercial sellouts, and argued Ten was not a true alternative album because it had so many prominent guitar leads. The collaboration of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament and Soundgarden’s singer Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron in the formation of Temple of the Dog in 1990 would of proved that since Chris Cornell, a mentor to Cobain of Vedder’s promise and worth.  Cobain later reconciled with Vedder, and they reportedly were on amicable terms before Cobain’s death in 1994.  At a concert following Cobain’s death, Vedder stated that he and his band would not be here if not for Kurt.

"Not For You" CD single art

"Not For You" CD single art

As my personal heartbreak in my freshmen year around Christmas of 1993 took affect, the Pearl Jam album Vitalogy (1994) was released and the track “Not for You” was a secret yell at the person that broke my heart.  The song with or with out its true meaning were both wrong with what I felt but I had something to scream with.   Many evening I spent running in the cold night air listening to the album as loud as possible as my breath was seen in the streetlights.

1996's No Code

1996's No Code

As my senior year rolled around, I had my brother leaving to join the Coast Guard.  As friends went, I had a good friend in my older brother.  Always busy and had great friends that took me in as one of their own, and in the end I had another male leave me.  The same year Pearl Jam released my personal favorite album of theirs, No Code.  Poignantly was the track “Off He Goes” in which Vedder wrote about himself “being a shit friend. I’ll show up and everything’s great and then all of the sudden I’m outta there…”

"Off He Goes" CD-Single art

"Off He Goes" CD-Single art

This fleeting relationship more than a shit friend is how I felt about my brother and many other men in my life that I feel I scare away or they have better things to do than hang out with me.  The double side is those that I wish to be better acquainted with some but I can only muster enough courage to talk briefly talk with them than I have to run away.