Album: Vitalogy (1994)
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  • Eddie Vedder wrote this after seeing a corduroy jacket for a few hundred dollars that looked a lot like one he got years ago at a thrift store. He wore the jacket on the MTV Video Music Awards when he performed "Rockin' In The Free World" with Neil Young.

    Vedder explained in a 2002 interview with The Onion A.V. Club: "That song was based on a remake of the brown corduroy jacket that I wore. I think I got mine for 12 bucks, and it was being sold for like $650. The ultimate one as far as being co-opted was that there was a guy on TV, predictably patterned, I guess, after the way I was looking those days, with long hair and an Army T-shirt. They put this new character on a soap opera, so there was a guy, more handsome than I, parading around on General Hospital. And the funny thing is, that guy was Ricky Martin."
  • Some lyric analysis:

    He waiting drove me mad, you're finally here and I'm a mess
    I take your entrance back, can't let you roam Inside my head

    Eddie wanted to be in a famous rock band his whole life, now that he has the fame he wants it to go away.

    I don't want to take what you can give
    I would rather starve than eat your bread
    I would rather run but I can't walk
    guess I'll lie alone just like before

    Like Kurt Cobain, Eddie would rather go back to the way things were before he was famous. He wants to be normal again.

    I don't want to hear from those who know
    They can buy, but can't put on my clothes

    This is the line that gives the song its name. People try to be like Eddie by buying similar clothes, specifically a corduroy jacket he got cheap, but people spent a lot of money to buy similar jackets. No matter how much these fans dress like him, they will never actually be like Eddie or feel what he is feeling.

    I don't want to limp for them to walk
    Never would have known of me before

    Fans expect Pearl Jam to give autographs and do things that hinder their daily lives just so these fans can say they met Pearl Jam, even though they never would have looked at Pearl Jam if it wasn't for their songs.

    I'll end up alone like I began
    I don't want to take what you can give
    I would rather starve than eat your breast
    All the things that others want for me
    can't buy what I want because it's free

    This section of the song is Eddie explaining that however wonderful it seems to be rich and famous, they are nonetheless frivolous things - he would much prefer a significant other to money. Also, money can get you just about anything except the one thing that matters: Love.
  • Another interpretation: Vedder had a girlfriend before Pearl Jam became famous. He chose Pearl Jam over her, and he now regrets his decision and wishes he could change it.
  • The album was released on vinyl two weeks before it came out on CD.
  • The mumbling at the end is Vedder saying, "It's your move now. I thought you were a friend, but I guess, I guess I hate you."
  • During a September 2004 show in Boston, Vedder mentioned that this was Johnny Ramone's favorite Pearl Jam tune. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Glenn - Kingston, NH
  • In a 1994 interview with the Los Angeles Time, Eddie Vedder said: "It is about a relationship but not between two people. It's more one person's relationship with a million people. In fact, that song's almost a little too obvious for me. That's why instead of a lyric sheet we put in an X-ray of my teeth from last January and they are all in very bad shape, which was analogous to my head at the time." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Martin - Rostock, Germany

Comments: 16

  • Brian from IllinoisMy interpretation and this is just me. What I get is that this is about a visit to a therapist. "You're finally here and I'm a mess. Can't let you roam inside my head". Next "I don't want to take what you can give" is a clear explanation that not wanting to take a counselors advice. I have problems but don't want to resolve them in someone else's way. "They can buy, but can't put on my clothes" - no one understands me as I do. "I don't want to limp for them to walk" - I have to pay them to listen to me. I walk away slowly while they can run a marathon just for listening to me.

    I'll end up alone like I began
    I don't want to take what you can give
    I would rather starve than eat your breast
    All the things that others want for me
    can't buy what I want because it's free

    "I''ll end up like I began" - no faith in counseling. Hopeless.
    "I don't want to take what you can give" - I don't want counseling.
    "I would rather starve..." - Hopelessness. Your help can't help me.
    "Can't but what I want because it's free" - I want peace of mind and just to feel OK.

    That is my interpretation summed up as best I can. And it is why I love this song!
  • Gary from St Peters, MoStory of Christ's temptation, at least that's what got from it since it was released in 94'. Others agreed once I pointed it out.
  • Kj from New York, NyLike many of PJs songs the lyrics are open to the interpretation of the listener, but this is most definitely a song about fame being fleeting and the masses "loving" a person that they do not know simply because that person is a celebrity. At the time Ed had people stalking him and his now former wife Beth, breaking into their house. That's pretty scary for anyone. As a long time fan I remember seeing people reaching out for Ed as if he were Jesus, they would stomp on those in front of them if they could only touch him. Back then I'd seen him actually duct tape his clothes onto his body before going out to the crowd cause they'd literally tear his clothes off. The band was under a lot of pressure to conform to the typical conduct of a record company's comodity, but they held their own. I've always interpretted the lyric "I would rather starve than eat your breast" to suckling on the breast of fame or conforming to the music industry game. "I don't want to limp for them to walk" is along the same vein, don't lose a piece of yourself so that profiteers may flourish. While Mike initially wanted to soak in that fame and fortune Ed, Stone and Jeff realized that it could eventually kill the band if not it's members. They had seen this firsthand with Mother Love Bone and Andy Woods, as well as Kurt Cobain's downward spiral. I've also heard a story that Ed went to visit one of his brothers and some friends were expected to come over. He was really looking forward to seeing them but when they arrived they treated him like a rock star instead of their old friend from the neighborhood. Hence the opening lines. In order to remain sane and not "let you roam inside my head" he didn't want his life to be absorbed by the ego of a character that just wasn't him, he stived to not lose himself.
  • Bill from Pierce , IdOne of the more awsomely powerful, haunting, spooky rockers of PJ's catalogue, this is a great freaking song!
  • Joseph from Dallas, TxI beleive this song was meant to be a poem. Musicians find themselves without words and poets without melody. The two met in this sad and twisted fate. It is in my oppinion that this is an obscure peice of music with sudden changes. I love It. It is out of the ordenary and it rings in my head. I find myself singing my daily life happenings to this outstanding mix of two worlds.
  • Natasha from Oostende, BelgiumMy sis and I got similar jackets also for few bucks(Peters), and we also shop at thrifts, but we do not think that we would be closer to him or will know what he feels, but we fans we clothe similarly to endorse to him, to show him that we are with him... And people, don't get fooled, by the eating of the breast is probably meant breastfeeding - that he will accept no mercy, even so self-sacrificing as offerning him last thing that can save him...
  • Grayson from Cleveland, Ohbest Pearl Jam song.
  • Obzcure from Auckland, New Zealandin an interview mike macready says he hates this song but eddie always forces them to play live.
  • Jon from Latrobe, PaI think this song is more boaut a homeless person...perhaps known as "quarter-roy", when slurred sounds like corduroy...this person ight be a disabled veteran of a war...this is theme is also seen somewhat in yellow ledbetters...there are many hints to this idea if you look into it:

    i would rather run but i cant walk=hadicapped

    i would rather starve than eat your bread= isnt looking for a handout

    they can buy but cant put on my clothes=reference to experience and past

    ill take the varmits path=live on the street

    i must refuse your test=politically correct view of life

    there are a ton of other references to this theme throughout the song...
  • Shannon from Mobile, Akwow its such a great song. i think it may mean that he would rather die than have anything to do with this person. like when it says i would rather starve than eat your bread. thats just me
  • Laurie from Stony Point, NyThis song is actually about a young man who wants to lose his virginity but will not give of himself to do it. the woman possibly a close friend wants it all before she will do the act which is why the song ends as it does. and the lyrics posted on this site for this song are wrong.
  • Bobby from Westchester, NyI don't agree with that explaination at all. What lyric in that song has anything to do with posers? That song clearly has a much deeper meaning than posers. I don't really know it, but I do know that it isn't about posers.
  • Elliot from St. Louis, MoLol, i thought he said breast, but i wasn't sure. Why would he eat someone's breast, though? I mean, Ozzy ate a dove's head, but Eddie eating a breast?! That is what i call Pay Per View Television. Pearl Jam rocks!
  • James from Alden, Nyif it is breast he could be talking about groupies and gold diggers
  • Glenn from Kingston, NhHe actually later sings, "I'd rather starve than eat your breast"; which leads me to believe it as about a lover.. not posuers.
  • Brian from Mayfield Heights, Ohwhen he says "i'd rather starve than eat your bread" i thought he said "i'm the star that eats your breath", so i was naturally very curious, and now im a little disappointed, because this isn't as poetic as what i thought it was.
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