My favourite Pearl Jam song of all time is called “I Got ID” which was a track that was written and recorded in 1995 as a stand-alone single / EP titled “Merkinball” which contained the equally amazing “Long Road” as the B-side. This two track single was released in-between “Vitalogy” and “No Code” and was a companion piece to the album that Pearl Jam had made with Neil Young which was called “Mirror Ball” and with hindsight it is potentially Neil Young himself that has allowed for this song to resonate with me so deeply. The strange aspect of this recording is that the bulk of Pearl Jam isn’t even on the track itself. As per the track credits the song is played by Ed Vedder (guitar and vocals), Brendan O’Brien (bass), Neil Young (guitar) and Pearl Jam’s drummer circa late 1994 to 1998 Jack Irons (drums). So realistically the only members of Pearl Jam (circa 1995) present on this track are Ed Vedder and Jack Irons, but I’m not going to let logistics get in the way of resonance.
What makes “I Got ID” such a fantastic piece of music is its delicate rage and the way the song erupts from a quiet disappointed whisper to an angry yet beautiful roar that transitions into a chorus dripping with all kinds of yearning and desire for the simplest of human needs, to be loved and to be understood. Then there is of course the soul destroying lead break from Neil Young that colours so much of the song and gives the rage of it all a wise sigh that helps elevate the track to a level of communication that only Neil Young knows how to do. If Ed Vedder is singing about the God Shaped Hole in his soul then Neil Young’s lead work on “I Got ID” tears open the fabric of the universe and lets the rush of the heavens pour down into your headphones as you try and find a way to turn the fucking thing up louder. I could spend decades speaking about the lead guitar Neil Young plays on this song because it is so important to how the song unfolds and it is the spiritual key to unlocking the pure emotional power of “I Got ID” and on a grander scale the next ten years of Pearl Jam’s career.
Lyrically, there is one line in particular during the course of “I Got ID” that hits me deep and it is as follows:
“If just once I could feel love, oh, stare back at me”
This one line, in all its simplicity sums up what Ed Vedder was and continues to search for in this life and from 1995 to 2013 it is a line that has served as my own emotional plea to the world regarding what drives me to do what I do. To sing and write a line like this you have to have had experienced a level of abandonment in your life. Those who know the Ed Vedder story will understand what that abandonment was for him and where his early emotional scars came from but throughout my life I’ve found that when I shine this line into my own life I have discovered that my own abandonment issues are deeply rooted in always feeling incredibly disconnected and misunderstood by the world. I have felt and continue to feel this deep sense of abandonment from the world around me and that somehow I am not allowed to actively participate in your species. I knew and felt that back in 1995 and I still feel it in 2013, the main difference is that I’ve learned to channel that hurt into creative expression but a lot of what I’m searching for can be hung on the above mentioned line from “I Got ID” and for the most part is a big reason why it is my favourite Pearl Jam song of all time.
What “I Got ID” also represents is the turning point for Pearl Jam and the bridge to what the band started to explore a lot deeper on “No Code,” “Yield” and “Binaural” in the following years. A lot of the imposters only focus on what Pearl Jam did on “Ten,” “VS” and “Vitalogy” and whilst these albums showcase a strong creative start point they do not illustrate the full picture of what Pearl Jam went on to achieve creatively on the albums post “Vitalogy” and with “I Got ID” they managed to balance the rage of early aspects of their sound with the more mature sounds of what was to come.
I often describe the career of Pearl Jam as having two very important eras – before Neil Young and after Neil Young, because after the band were mentored and made music and toured with Neil they all of a sudden found a way to cope and survive the success. They adopted a deeper purpose and much like Neil they have continued to thrive creatively regardless of what pop culture is demanding, never looking back, and always looking forward.
As a song, “I Got ID” sees the birth of Ed Vedder as one of the main creative drivers within Pearl Jam and after surviving the hell of hype machine pop culture explosion it was refreshing to see one of the Seattle icons break through the drama and write such a mature hit of angst as opposed to following the redundant path of self-destruction, addiction and total burnout. There was a lot changing within Pearl Jam at this point in time and although Ed was a big part of the lyrical and melodic structure of the first three albums, his songwriting didn’t really start to take over the band until this era and “I Got ID” was the first time I understood just how powerful not just his lyrics and voice were but his songwriting and the way he crafted such intense but simple rock songs that felt like they served no genre beyond Ed’s own need to express himself emotionally.
Perhaps I’m way too deep inside the Pearl Jam history but if this song doesn’t make you a believer then I guess you’ll never really understand.
So turn in, tune out and let Ed and Neil usher you into some deep spiritual places with “I Got ID” – play it fucking loud!!!!!
By: Dan Newton