I’ll ride the wave where it takes me

My love for Pearl Jam is no secret, not least because I’ve written about it before, so when I was recently challenged to put together a PJ starter mix I jumped at the chance. It’s not been an easy task, though, with 20 years and 9 studio albums to choose from. And that’s before taking into account b-sides, live albums etc.

Anyhow, I’ve managed to narrow things down to 16 tracks (I was aiming for 15, but didn’t quite make it) which I thought I’d share here – after all, I was going to write the notes anyway.

1. Release (live)
Pearl Jam’s reputation as a live band is formidable, so it makes sense to feature a few live tracks here. Release, often used as a show opener, was never a favourite song of mine, until I saw the performance in the recent Pearl Jam 20 movie. The setting (the stunning Arena di Verona), the lighting, the performance and even the rain all combined to make me really take notice of the song. It’s a favourite now.

2. Alive
An obvious choice, but how could I not include this? Semi-autobiographical (Eddie Vedder really did find out, in his teens, that “what [he] thought was [his] daddy” wasn’t) and with an anthemic chorus that’s not really as euphoric as it sounds, this is probably the song most folk think of when you mention Pearl Jam.

3. Daughter
Believe it or not, Ten (PJ’s debut album) kind of passed me by. Shocking I know. This, the lead single from second album Vs., was what hooked me first time around.

4. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
One of my absolute favourite PJ songs, and one I’ve written about before. The wordy title was a reaction to criticism of the titles given to other early songs, which were mostly single words.

5. Last Kiss
Originally a fan club single, this 1950s teen tragedy cover became PJ’s biggest mainstream success to date , reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1999. Proceeds from the single went to a charity for Kosovan refugees.

6. Spin the Black Circle
Highlighting the band’s punk roots and love of vinyl, this is the band’s highest charting single in the UK to date, reaching #10 in 1994. The album from which it’s taken, Vitalogy, is a real mixed bag, containing not only some of my favourite PJ tracks, but some that are just unlistenable (I’m talking to you, Hey Foxymophandlemama!)

7. Given To Fly (live)
Another live version, this time from my first PJ show, Glasgow SECC in 2000. Midway through, Eddie can be heard asking if everyone is alright – a section of the crowd near the front (including me) had been knocked to the floor in a big pile of bodies. Weeks later, 9 fans died in a similar incident at Roskilde Festival. Chilling.

8. Do The Evolution
Following their initial rapid rise to fame, Pearl Jam made a concerted effort to drop back out of the limelight. Part of that was stopping making music videos in 1992. So it was a big deal when, six years later, they produced one for this song, working with comic book artist Todd McFarlane.

9. Wishlist
I imagine for a lot of people this is a throwaway piece of nothing, but I love the imagery employed. “I wish I was the souvenir you kept your house-keys on” is just beautiful, as far as I’m concerned.

10. Life Wasted
Never a band to shy away from politics, the George W Bush presidency provided a lot of fuel to PJ’s creative fire. It’s pretty obvious what this one, the opener to 2006’s self-titled “comeback” album, was about.

11. Just Breathe
Similar to a track from Eddie’s solo Into The Wild soundtrack album, this is another one of those tender moments that seem a million miles away from the early days. I think I’m right in saying that this is the first time a PJ song has featured strings.

12. Unthought Known
Something Pearl Jam does well is write songs that build and build… and something I really like is songs that build and build. Coincidence?

13. Jeremy
If this was a live set, we’d now be entering the encore(s). Another obvious choice, but one that simply couldn’t be excluded. Best 12-string bass intro ever?

14. Black (live, MTV Unplugged)
One of Ten’s many highlights, this was a song the band fought with their record company NOT to release as a single – and won! A gut-wrenching breakup song which is usually given a slightly stalker-ish edge live, with the addition of the “We belong together” tag.

15. Better Man
Eddie wrote this song when he was 15, and had performed it with an earlier band, but wasn’t convinced it was any good. Fortunately the rest of the band persuaded him that it was, and it became a fan favourite, with the opening verse often being sung just by the crowd.

16. Yellow Ledbetter (live)
Almost every show closes with this early b-side, so it seems appropriate to close this mix with a live version. If you can’t make out the words don’t worry – with the exception of “I don’t know if I was the boxer or the bag” (and even that’s changed at times) they’re rarely the same twice, and the official site says that lyrics are “Not available“.

 And that’s yer lot!

I shied away from including any songs from solo albums (Eddie’s Into the Wild soundtrack is definitely worth checking out) or side projects (Temple of the Dog being, perhaps, the most obvious) because it was hard enough picking 15 16 songs from the band’s own back catalogue that represent the breadth of their output. And hopefully one that leads to further investigation :)

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Happy birthday to me!

Cake

A cake - not actually birthday related

Believe it or not, it’s just over a year since Lunch Hour Waffle started – a year and seven days to be exact. Which means I should probably have written this post seven days ago, but never mind, it’s here now.

It’s been an interesting year, and I’ve learned a lot – about myself as much as anything else. If nothing else I’ve learned that there are some things I can write well about – family for example. The flip side of that, of course, is that there are some things I feel I’m less good at expressing in words. Music, in particular, is something I feel I struggle with. But I’ll persevere, and hopefully get a bit better.

Another thing I’ve learned is that the random nature of what gets read. It was March before I added a stats plugin to the site, so I don’t have numbers for the full year, but I thought it would be interesting to summarise the year in numbers: I like facts and figures, and it will give me something to compare future years against.

  • 38 – the number of published posts (39 including this one)
  • 53 – most views on a single day, which was on Tuesday May 17th
  • 96 – approved comments. No idea how many spammy comments got deleted
  • 110 – number of views my most popular post has had (not counting the home page)
  • 130.7 – average views per month, March – December 2011 (January isn’t finished yet!)
  • 1369 – total views to date

Most folk arrive here via Facebook or Twitter, which I’m guessing means I know pretty much everyone who finds themselves here. A few have even taken the step of subscribing via the likes of Google Reader and Instapaper – I must be doing something right then!

I do get the odd random visitor, though, and WordPress stats allow me to track the search terms that lead folk here. Here, for your amusement, are the top 5 terms that landed here in the last year (note: I’ve aggregated similar terms a bit, and mentioned the most popular version below):

  1. uno dos tres cuatro cinco cinco seis
  2. bar inopia
  3. usborne computers
  4. ipad 2
  5. vintage trouble

Pretty varied, and not what I’d have expected. Some of the less popular search terms are worthy of mention too, only because they seem quite random. Honorable mention, therefore, goes to songs to do the slosh to, best song on my way to mars, i was there then hmv certificate and my favourite “good friends” + “became a couple” + uk.

I’ll finish with the top 10 most popular posts – given the search terms above, it should be no surprise to learn what came in at number 1. What’s more surprising is how far ahead of the competition it was, having been read almost twice as often as number 2!

  1. 30 songs: Uno dos tres cuatro cinco cinco seis
  2. When I wake up early in the morning…
  3. I’ve got all the riches, baby, one man can claim
  4. 30 songs: I jumped across for you
  5. Should I stay or should I go?
  6. 3 Become 4
  7. 30 songs: You gotta spread the word
  8. RIP Bar Inopia
  9. 30 songs: Writing’s on the wall
  10. 30 songs: The future is ours to find

Hmmm… 5 of those are actually music related (in theory, at least) – maybe I don’t suck at that as much as I think I do!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

The pictures have all been washed in black

New Year’s resolutions are a great idea, but following up on them is kinda difficult. Which is why I haven’t written about mine, here or anywhere else: private failure is one thing, public failure is something quite different, and not something I’m going to invite on myself.

However, in amongst all the usual “lose weight, exercise more, budget better…” resolutions, I also planned to write here more. As you can see, it hasn’t happened. Oh, I’ve had ideas, just not at a convenient time to follow up on them. Damn my self-imposed rule about only writing on my lunch hour (although tbh it’s really the best time anyway).

So what’s motivated me today? Well, as anyone who is remotely interested in tech news (and countless others who were oblivious until today) will know, today is a day of action against two bills currently going through the US Congress, SOPA and PIPA. These bills have the potential to change the internet forever – and not in a good way.

Presented under the guise of improving copyright protection online, and thus safeguarding American jobs in the TV/movie/music industries, at first glance it would seem a fairly reasonable piece of legislation – online piracy is widespread, it is diverting money from creative industries (although how much money is debatable) and there is a chance that future output will be affected. So far so good. But that’s only half the story.

The trouble is that the wording of these bills is a bit woolly to say the least, and people far cleverer than me, with the time to read, digest and understand legalese are worried that it puts too much power in the hands of the US court system (and thus those people/entities with the money to make use of the US court system), and that it will lead to internet censorship, not just for protection of copyright.

You might ask why someone in the UK should care about a piece of legislation being enacted thousands of miles away. Well, off the top of my head:

  • As a fan of American sports, a lot of the content I read comes from the US, and a lot of it comes from blogs and fan sites, y’know, the little guys who can’t afford expensive lawyers when their site gets pulled because of one comment. Some of the big boys won’t even be able to afford expensive lawyers – Wikipedia is run on a relative shoe-string, yet is pretty important to millions around the world
  • The internet is a global entity – protecting your own is fine (and yes, I know it’s really about the corporations, and we shouldn’t care a rat’s ass about them) but surely that shouldn’t come at the expense of someone else? Losing a (potential) US audience could kill an internet start-up stone dead
  • It’s the top of a very slippery slope, and one that’s not even clearly defined. Today it might be about protecting copyright, but putting too much power in a few people’s hands has a nasty habit of getting out of control very quickly – who knows we could end up?
  • What happens in the US has a nasty habit of quickly spreading around the world. If these bills are passed, expect similar in your neck of the woods

So why am I writing this post? Well, the day of action is about raising awareness of the problem – that’s why the likes of Wikipedia, WordPress.com etc are blacked out. But it’s not just about the big guys – smaller sites are joining in too. I commented on Twitter that with a readership of practically zero there was no point joining in, and in response a friend pointed out he only ever visits when there’s a link to a new post. And it’s true that there’s always a spike in visitors when I actually get round to writing something. So here it is, my tiny contribution to the cause.

Shame you won’t be able to read it until tomorrow.

You can learn more about SOPA, PIPA and why Wikipedia et al are doing what they’re doing here.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!