Song of the Day – “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam

So… what the fuck is this song about anyway?

Here are the lyrics:

Unsealed, on a porch a letter sat
Then you said, ‘I wanna leave it again’
Once I saw her on a beach of weathered sand
And on the sand I wanna leave it again, yeah
On a weekend, I wanna wish it all away, yeah
And they called and I said that I want what I said
And then I call out again
And the reason, oughta’ leave her calm, I know
I said, ‘I know what I wear, not a boxer or the bag’
Ah yeah…can you see them?
Out on the porch, yeah, but they don’t wave
I see them, round the front way, yeah
And I know and I know I don’t want to stay
Make me cry
I see, ooh…I don’t know why there’s something else
I wanna drum it all away
Oh, I said, I don’t, I don’t know a-where there’s a boxer or the bag’
Ah yeah, can you see them?
Out on the porch, yeah, but they don’t wave
I see them, round the front way, yeah
And I know, and I know, I don’t wanna stay alone
I don’t wanna stay
I don’t, don’t wanna

And I guess that’s what Eddie Vedder is singing.  Let’s check Wikipedia.

Okay, now I know:

The song title “Yellow Ledbetter” is derived from the actual name of an old friend of Vedder from Chicago, named Tim Ledbetter.[2] The lyrics of “Yellow Ledbetter” have proven indecipherable when heard live and even on the recorded version, as Vedder mumbles through much of the song with only certain parts being heard prominently, such as the famous line at the end of each verse “I said, I don’t know whether I was the boxer or the bag,” with these parts of the song heard on almost every live rendition of the song. There are many unofficial lyrics on various websites.

Although many fans have made their own interpretations of the song, a common theory has been that the song is about someone receiving a letter and finding his or her brother had died overseas in war,[6] cited from the lyrics in the Live at the Garden version “I don’t know whether my brother will be coming home in a box or a bag”.[7] On the official bootleg release of 5/3/03 – State College, Pennsylvania, Vedder sings “I’d like to wish this war away, and I tried but it just, just don’t happen, don’t happen that way/And my brother…they sent him off to fight for the flag, I just, I don’t hope he comes home in a box or a bag”, and “And I know that he’s just following his path, as long, as long as it’s not a box or a bag.”[8] On the official bootleg release of 7/11/03 – Mansfield, Massachusetts, Vedder sings in the first verse “I think of him when I go to bed, and he’s coming home in a box or a bag.”[9]

Regarding the song, Vedder said in an online chat that it was written around the time of the Gulf War, and added that “it’s an anti-patriotic song, actually.”[10] On August 7, 2008, at a solo performance in Newark, New Jersey at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Vedder took a question from the audience requesting that he explain the meaning of “Yellow Ledbetter”. At first, Vedder joked, saying, “Wait…you mean there’s lyrics?” He went on to talk about how the song took as its subject a friend of his from Seattle whose brother served in the first Gulf War. His friend received a “yellow letter” in the mail informing him that his brother had died in the war. Vedder and his friend then went for a walk. On this walk, the friend, whom Vedder described as “alternative-looking,” happened by a house with an American flag flying, and people on the porch. He stopped and gestured to the flag, as if to salute it, however the people on the porch glared at him disapprovingly due to his appearance.[11]

Hm.  Deep stuff.  And I guess those lyrics I found on some random website aren’t correct.  I was gonna make some jokes about the lyrics, and be all goofy and make up different lyrics of my own, but now I just couldn’t.  Someone’s brother dying in a war isn’t a laughing matter.

So now I’ll talk about how I made this excellent Pearl Jam B-Sides mix tape that I listened to over and over and over and over again when I was living with my ex, and especially when she left.  I compiled it from actual CD singles that I actually bought.  This song was on it, as were many of the songs that later got compiled on the “Stray Dogs” 2CD release.

I should totally reconstruct that B-Sides tape.  Actually, I have the cassette still, so maybe I should give it a listen.

Nah.  Tape hiss is old news.

So, I’m coming out of this song of the day a lot less jovial and a lot more pensive that I was at the start.   So I’ll finish up by not making any more stupid jokes today.