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Jun 082020

With it being Monday and the recent release of Pearl Jam’s long-suppressed uncensored version of the “Jeremy” video, this could be a good time to compare “Jeremy” with another similarly themed song and video, The Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays.” Just trying to get the new week off on an upbeat note!

  • Which song do you like better?
  • Which video, overall, to you prefer?
  • Who’s the better actor among lead singers, Bob Geldof or Eddie Vedder?
  • Who’s the better supporting actor in these videos: the kid who plays Jeremy, the piano player, or someone else?
  • Does Eddie’s hair actually grow as the video progresses, or is it unleashed by the fury of the subject matter?
  • Describe the function of Bob’s hair.

  6 Responses to “Monday”

  1. Always liked “Mondays,” even–or maybe especially–the version from The Secret Policeman’s Ball:

    And props to it/them for writing about something so harrowing while it was still so fresh and doing so in a way that’s, to my ears, sensitive and doesn’t go for the easy out in any way. I wonder about the arrangement: there seems to be a bit of a piss-take about it, which could be like the Rolling Stones adding the choir to the beginning of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in that it deflates the artist themselves, or it could be an honest attempt at being Artsy, or it could be them backing off the emotional intensity a bit. I like it…but I’m not sure it was the best way to go. Although, hey, it gave them their first and only hit, so what the hell do I know? 

    What’s more, the video has a surprisingly lasting power to it, given its relative antiquity. But I feel it loses the courage of its own convictions in the final third, perhaps due to record label restrictions—that’s entirely speculation on my part—as it starts to verge on almost goofy (Geldof does a surprisingly good but entirely inapt Mick Jagger impersonation and the interpretive dance in the background is a resounding failure) where earlier it had felt significantly more earnest. 

    Meanwhile, being earnest has obviously never been an issue for heart-on-their-sleeves-no-matter-what Pearl Jam. And this finds them absolutely firing on all cylinders–the lyric is outstanding in the way it’s simultaneously sparse and yet filled with snippets of details which tell so much. Musically, it’s an unimpeachable slab of rock and roll, with its slow build giving a tiny hint of what’s to come but not really preparing the listener for the relentless onslaught approaching. I’m unfortunately not a fan of vibrato, which means there’s only so much I can love Eddie Vedder’s vocals, but here they do nothing but work 100%. And of course, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready are one of the great guitar duos of all time—if they’re never going to threaten Duane Allman and Dickie Betts, I’d certainly MUCH rather hear them play than Keef and Woody. (If perhaps not quite as much as Keef and Mick Taylor and not nearly as much as Paul Westerberg and Bob Stinson.) Most of all, Pearl Jam was kicked along by Dave Krusen, who just absolutely rips it up on this song. (Matt Cameron is an excellent drummer and Pearl Jam has said that without him joining they wouldn’t have been able to keep going so I’m glad he’s a member but to my ears he’s by a huge margin their least good fit musically.) 

    And where the earlier video is surprisingly effective, the latter has the benefit of a decade of advancement in video technology and understanding of the medium and while it can perhaps seem a bit overly emo from this much later vantage point, that’s not taking into account how devastating it was at the time. So I’d argue it’s leagues better, especially since, unlike the Rats, PJ doesn’t back down at the song’s climax…and that’s putting it mildly. Also, Eddie Vedder looks like an answer to the question no one ever asked: what if they Joker had pinkish skin and was possessed by the devil? Not sure if that’s what ol’ Ed was going for but, again, damn sam, is it effective. So I’d say the video is a decisive win for Pearl Jam, while the song is a draw. So I’d say the video is a decisive win for Pearl Jam, while the song is a draw. 

    I lived in San Diego for about a dozen years. And my last year there, I suddenly thought, hey, I wonder where the inspiration for “I Don’t Like Mondays” happened. Surprisingly hard to find the exact address—not impossible, but five years ago, surprisingly difficult. And it turns out not only was it about a mile from where I lived, but the street was one I’d pass on at least a weekly basis on my way to the grocery store, meaning I’d driven by it hundreds of times. I haven’t been there in three or four years now, I guess, and Google Maps seems to indicate they’ve finally torn it down and put up nice new houses. Life moves on. 

  2. Great stuff, (…other one)! I was fascinated by this song when it came out. I usually don’t go for the melodramatic (at least I think I don’t), but they didn’t overplay their hand here. It probably tops the list of Songs Armed Forces-era Elvis Costello Wishes He Would Have Written.

    Very good call on the “I Don’t Like Mondays” video falling apart a bit when they come out in pastel ’80s shirts and Trevor Horn sunglasses. Listening to the song this morning, it struck me how similar the opening piano crescendo is to the opening of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Everybody.” I guess a piano player running his or hear knuckles up and down the keys can only sound so distinct.

    I still don’t like Pearl Jam after all these years – Vedder’s voice and the whole ’70s ROCK structure in which they traffic is a serious rate-limiting factor, but those guitar players are always good. For me, their work is similar to the work of the guitarist and other musicians in Jethro Tull: I wish I could strip out the singer and his melodies and add something less ponderous atop the music.

    The “Jeremy” song and video, while completely over the top, work for me as much as any packaging of their music I’ve ever been delivered.

  3. “I still don’t like Pearl Jam after all these years – Vedder’s voice and the whole ’70s ROCK structure in which they traffic is a serious rate-limiting factor”

    Ah, see, that’s one of the things I think I responded to. I liked that Pearl Jam didn’t really want to be the Pistols or the Clash or Black Flag, tearing down what came before. They basically wanted to be 70s Aerosmith, but singing about, you know, important stuff, real stuff, and not just sex, and really truly caring about the lyrics and the music with every bit of their soul. (Meaning, I guess, maybe what they really wanted to be was arena rock-era/early to mid-70s Who.)

    “For me, their work is similar to the work of the guitarist and other musicians in Jethro Tull: I wish I could strip out the singer and his melodies and add something less ponderous atop the music.”

    Oh, GREAT call. I’m a fan of prog, in theory, in that there’s a handful of prog I adore beyond reason, but the overwhelming majority just does nothing for me (and not only because it sucks). Tull is one of those—such a talented band, and I can barely stand to listen to any of it, because of Ian Anderson.

  4. For the record, what I liked about punk rock was the music more than any “tearing down.” It was nice to dream that they could tear anything down, but it was pretty much a failure, at least stylistically.

    What I didn’t like about too much ’70s rock, like Aerosmith, was the music, not their evolution into dinosaurs. I do not hate Aerosmith or Bad Company and other artless blues rockers, but they’re like a cheeseburger for me. Three bites in and I’m like, “Why am I eating this? It’s OK. I can finish it in two more bites – and I will – but the damage has been done.” I do appreciate the fact that Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden et al tried to put some brains in those tight bell-bottoms. I just listened to a great interview with the founders of Sub-Pop on Guy Raz’ podcast.

  5. No.
    Screen test for “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”

  6. 2000 Man

    The Boomtown Rats and Pearl Jam. To me that’s like “I don’t like to be cold.” Or, “I don’t like to be wet.” However, I hate being cold and wet, and that’s how this makes me feel.

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