My music is Grunge because that was the music that found me, in 1991, when I was 14. Music was life then: it spoke to me, moved me, rocked me like it never had before or has since. My humongous stacked music system was on whenever I was in my bedroom providing music for me to sing to, scream to, dance to, mosh to, be exhilarated by and cry to, fall asleep and wake to. Supporting acts were Stone Temple Pilots, The Breeders, The Lemonheads, Poison, Bon Jovi, Metallica, Blind Melon, Jane’s Addiction and REM. My headliners were Nirvana, Faith No More, Guns n Roses and Pearl Jam, most especially Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder with that startling hair was gorgeous and mesmerising when he performed; and that voice! That distinctive growl of emotion would rise in his throat and break over my heart! That was and still is, the music that reverberates inside me and cyclones around me so completely it fills my consciousness. I am that music, it is in me.
It all started when Alive seeped out of the ITV Chart Show and into my soul. The lyrics, the rhythm, the accents, the pauses, the breathing pattern of that song became muscle memory. I knew it was a great song at the time but I didn’t analyse it then, it just was. It wasn’t until years later that I truly felt the power within Alive. In my early 30s, when I found myself singing this song out with old school friends for the first time in years, the muscle memory kicked in and we became the music. In perfect unison, we experienced the beautiful ease of it and the exquisite pleasure of knowing the next lyric, note and beat. An explosion of nostalgia and joy burst through our hearts bringing a new understanding of the power within the song: Alive is strength. It’s owning your identity however broken. It’s snarling at anybody who dares to challenge this and as such Alive was more empowering at that moment to those girl-women than any Beyonce anthem.
Black was the song I played the most in the days of Ten when my life was a chaos of unrequited love. The pain and frustration in the lyrics was so tangible it was my biggest comfort. It opens with a gentle acoustic guitar and Eddie’s caressing lyrics are a hand reaching out to gently, gradually, lead you into his story. By the time the song climaxes and you are in the eye of the storm, you are immersed in the bittersweet wave, tumbling over and over on the haunting cyclical melody. Your soul sings and you absolutely feel: “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life, I know you’ll be a sun….In somebody else’s sky but why, why why can’t it be, can’t it be mine?”
I watched Pearl Jam Twenty sitting on a sofa in the house I was sharing with my then boyfriend. He was gaming and even if he hadn’t been this wasn’t his music: I was feeling this alone. By the end, I’d finished a bottle of red and was crying drunk for the girl I used to be: the teenager who’d been inspired not just by the music but by Pearl Jam’s energy. When Eddie had clambered up stage rigging, the sense of heady isolation, adventure and freedom in these actions made me want to get out there, taste new air, explore, experiment, conquer the world and in the years between Ten and Twenty I’d done it! Now though, I was trying to ground myself and so was pitifully clinging on to a toxic relationship whilst crying at the recognition of how different we were and how far apart we had become. I wept as I realised how removed I was from the kick ass teenager who never would have loitered in a bad place, grasping at the life she thought she ought to have.
Now thankfully, I’m free of that relationship and I’ve found Pearl Jam again on twitter (@PearlJam). Discovering Lighting Bolt and especially Sirens is like coming home. As I did with Black I play Sirens before sleeping because as timely as Black was then it gives me the comfort and hope I need now. For all it expresses worry and fear for the future, Sirens is a love song and it gives me hope that one day I’ll find someone who’ll love me like that.