This song is about a boy who kills himself at school to get revenge on the students who tormented him. It is based on the true story of Jeremy Delle, a 16 year old who killed himself in front of his English class at Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas on January 8, 1991. Eddie Vedder found out about Jeremy when he read an article an article about the incident in the Dallas Morning News, which read: "Because he had missed class, the teacher in his second-period English class told Jeremy to get an admittance slip from the school office. Instead, he returned with the gun, police said. He walked directly to the front of the classroom. 'Miss, I got what I really went for,' he said, then placed the barrel in his mouth and fired." The article adds that three Richardson students committed suicide in 1988. (thanks, Stephanie - Ellicott City, MD)
In 1996 Barry Loukaitis, a junior-high student in Washington State, shot and killed two students and a teacher when he went to school. He claimed he was copying the video for this song.
The line in the chorus is "Jeremy spoke in class today." It is hard to understand if you don't speak Vedder.
This was the third single from the album, following "Alive" and "Even Flow." A fourth single, "Oceans," was also released, but it got very little radio play and didn't do very well. "Oceans" was the only single from Ten that was released in the UK.
The video was shot at a warehouse in a seedy section of London. In 1993, it won four MTV Video Music Awards: Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best Metal Hard Rock Video and Best Director.
The B-side of the single was "Yellow Ledbetter," a popular song not available on any of their albums.
Pearl Jam did not release another video for 6 years. They decided that videos detracted from the music, and wanted their fans to come to their shows rather than watch them on TV. They also hated the process of making the videos, which they got around by not appearing in their next one, a cartoon video for their 1998 song "Do The Evolution" that was drawn by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane.
Radio stations often play an edited version, which cleans up the line "seemed a harmless little f--k."
The intro to the song is played on Jeff Ament's special 12 string bass followed by soft harmonic notes on the guitar. The bass line continues quietly until the second chorus. They return in a fade out towards near the end. (thanks, Elliot - St. Louis, MO)
The Ten album sold over 10 million copies, which is known as "diamond" status.
If you watch the music video closely, you can spot a quick switch during the shot of the kids standing with their hands over their hearts for the pledge of allegiance, to what appears to be the kids giving a Nazi salute for less than a second before going back to the original shot. Presumably this is a commentary on the US school system, and not some kind of subliminal message in favor of Nazism. (thanks, Mike - Melrose, MA)