Play Video


  • This was one of the songs that earned Eddie Vedder the job of Pearl Jam frontman. His acquaintance Jack Irons sent him a 3-song instrumental demo recorded by Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, who were looking for a lead singer for their new band. In one day, Vedder wrote lyrics for the three songs and added his vocals using a four track recorder. The result was what Vedder called the "Momma-Son" mini opera, with the first song "Alive" telling the story of a boy who learns his dad is actually his stepfather. In "Once," the boy goes crazy and kills people. The third part of the trilogy is "Footsteps," where the boy ends up on death row and blames his mother for his problems. When the band heard the demo, they quickly offered Eddie the job, and a few weeks later he joined them in Seattle to record much of what would become the Ten album, including this song.
  • Guitarist Stone Gossard wrote the music for this track.
  • At the end of the song, Vedder does some mumbling. He's saying: "You think I've got my eyes closed, but looking at you the whole f*cking time."
  • Although Vedder conceived this song as the second part of a trilogy, it was placed first on Pearl Jam's debut album Ten, which went on to sell over 10 million copies.

Comments: 8

  • Miles from West Linn, OrYou forgot to mention that in "Alive" the mother molests him due to the resemblance of his father. THAT'S what scars him. Not the reveal. It's the molestation.
  • Anthony from Orange Park, FlEd says something bout "back street lover on the side i got a bomb in my temple and its gonna explode i got a 16 gauge buried ender my clothes i play...... i got a backstreet lover in the passenger seat" i think its about a whore, and maybe him killing whores, i think he says "I listen to you"
  • Matt from Xyz, Poland"Oh, Indian summer and I hate the heat"- maybe it refers to "Indian summer" song by The Doors.
  • Jacob from Rocky Mount, NcThe intro is part of Master/Slave, so the first part is about the master, so it can't say "I listen to your voice" that would be the slave. It acually says "I listen to no one" as in saying the master does not listen to what people say, but the slave listens to the master. Speaking of Master/Slave, I love that intro! It really starts off the cd well, and ends it well too! Besides that, I love this song too.
  • Sippe from Saskatoon, Canadawhat an f-ing amazing song. And the whole intro music on the Ten album - my God!!! It totally makes my heart pound when they first get into it everytime. There's not a better song in the world to listen to.
  • Elliot from St. Louis, MoIn the intro, Eddie is just moaning. The first 25 or so seconds are a bonus track called Master/Slave. If you notice, the bass line coems back as a reprise after Release.
  • The Jorge from Hell, Otherwhat does he say in the beginning around 0:19-0:23, i think he says "I listen to your voice." I can't hear because the instruments are much louder no matter how high I turn up the song.
  • Jason from Worcester, MaVedder speaks the lyrics "You think i've got my eyes closed, I'm looking at you the whole f*cking time" at 2:48 into the song right before the last chorus. Not at the end of the song.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Gary Louris of The Jayhawks

Gary Louris of The JayhawksSongwriter Interviews

The Jayhawks' song "Big Star" has special meaning to Gary, who explains how longevity and inspiration have trumped adulation.

Divided Souls: Musical Alter Egos

Divided Souls: Musical Alter EgosSong Writing

Long before Eminem, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj created alternate personas, David Bowie, Bono, Joni Mitchell and even Hank Williams took on characters.

Amy Grant

Amy GrantSongwriter Interviews

The top Contemporary Christian artist of all time on song inspirations and what she learned from Johnny Carson.

Supertramp founder Roger Hodgson

Supertramp founder Roger HodgsonSongwriter Interviews

Roger tells the stories behind some of his biggest hits, including "Give a Little Bit," "Take the Long Way Home" and "The Logical Song."

David Gray

David GraySongwriter Interviews

David Gray explains the significance of the word "Babylon," and talks about how songs are a form of active imagination, with lyrics that reveal what's inside us.

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete BlondeSongwriter Interviews

The singer/bassist for Concrete Blonde talks about how her songs come from clairvoyance, and takes us through the making of their hit "Joey."