Pearl Jam took part in the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Show's “Pink Floyd Week” event of September 26th through the 30th 2011 that was designed to bring attention to the recently re-mastered and re-issued classic Pink Floyd albums. Many bands, along with Roger Waters himself, made appearances that week on the show. Pearl Jam appeared on the Friday night show of the week and covered “Mother” from Pink Floyd’s magnum opus The Wall. Of all the songs played by all the bands that appeared, Pearl Jam’s choice of “Mother” was the most significant, and historically and personally (to Pearl Jam) synchronic. Besides being a powerful and moving performance, as most Pearl Jam performances are, Pearl Jam’s chosen performance of “Mother” thematically matched the band’s overall thematic message and lyrical interests as well as bringing to light the band’s political message. A message that is a spiritual inheritor of Roger Waters’ original political and lyrical message that infuses The Wall with important meaning. Like nearly everything that Pearl Jam does, composes, and plays, their performance of “Mother” was an intelligent statement on where society in general, and the band personally, have been and are potentially going.
Eddie Vedder is renowned for writing lyrics that are convincing, moving, and intelligently crafted from another’s personal point of view, including from a female perspective. Vedder took on the role of abused or neglected daughter quite movingly in the famous Pearl Jam song “Daughter” from Vs. He also deftly crafted a song from the point of view of his mother employing the perceived attitude that she held toward his step father, an attitude that is indicative of many loveless relationships, with “Betterman” from Vitalogy. In “Jeremy” he took on the persona of the astounded classmate who contributed to the bullying, which contributed to the suicide, of the song’s namesake. When it came time for Pearl Jam, as a group, to pick a Pink Floyd song to cover, “Mother” made perfect sense for these, but not only for these, reasons.
Musically, it might strike one as odd for Pearl Jam to be involved in a tribute to Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd, while definitely employing some serious guitar riffing and soloing in their music, often is defined as pre-prog rock. Many bands, such as Dream Theatre and their ilk owe much to the ground that Pink Floyd broke by taking the early concept album idea, the likes of which were pioneered by The Beatles with Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and expanding and building upon it musically and thematically. Pearl Jam though, with their stripped down sound and production, doesn’t fit the prog-rock model. Or do they? When one considers Pearl Jam songs like “Nothing As It Seems” from Binaural with its near psychedelic guitar riffing and soloing, coupled with its dreamy point of view lyrics about a man who doesn’t recognize the world around him, or better yet recognizes the oddness in the world around him that he takes for granted, leans precariously close to the prog-rock model, sans the lush keyboards. Pearl Jam has also flirted with experimentation on songs like “You Are” from Riot Act where Mike McCready runs his guitar through a bass amp and conjures up some strange feedback. Couple the more experimental sonic aspects of Pearl Jam with their leader’s penchant for lyrics based from a multitude of perspectives and one has the potential makings of a potential Pearl Jam prog-rock album.
That’s getting ahead of myself though, and is pure fanboy speculation on my behalf. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Pearl Jam pull off something akin to The Wall, Quadrophenia, or Tommy though? The idea is tantalizingly seductive…and if Green Day can do it, and do it well, then why not Pearl Jam? Pearl Jam’s cover of “Mother” was fitting for reasons beyond Vedder’s lyrical tendencies and Pearl Jam’s sound though. The album The Wall, taken as a whole, is a very powerful commentary on societal isolation, the tendencies of the modern experience to influence madness, how our modern institutions and experiences shape our psychological make up (each is a “brick in the wall”) and presents a plethora of ant-fascist ideas. These themes are explored in much more detail and in a very intelligent and enlightening way here, and we won’t get into them, but many of these themes are synonymous with the themes of the majority of Pearl Jam’s work. Pearl Jam might not be the spiritual inheritor of Pink Floyd’s experimental rock sound, but they are one of Pink Floyd’s spiritual children as far as their message is concerned. This alone puts Pearl Jam in the same realm of importance as Pink Floyd, and made them an excellent choice for inclusion in the Pink Floyd Week tribute.