"That was a really old song of Stone's from his days in Mother Love Bone. It was just another chance for me to do a lot of leads. The song was kind of cool at the time because it reminded me of performing. For me, it was about playing live.""Breath". The song of the sign brigades on the West Leg. The song that consistently places in the top 10 songs of diehard PJ fans. And, the song least played live out of all of that top ten.
--Mike McCready, Guitar School 5/95
The last time "Breath" was played was at the 4/11/94 Boston Garden show, shortly after the death of kurt Cobain, and shortly before PJ practically stopped touring for quite a while. Why hasn't it surfaced since?
GW: Describe the new tracks, "Breath" and "State of Love and Trust", included on the "Singles" movie soundtrack.In the written (and recorded) annals of Pearl Jam, there is very little to be found about "Breath." It turned up on the Singles soundtrack, was a popular live number for a while, but aside from the above two mentions in interviews - nothing. No one ever asked, and no one in the band ever mentioned it unprompted.
Stone: "Breath" and "State of Love and Trust" were recorded last February in Seattle, and are just a couple of songs that we thought would be good for the soundtrack. Not much of a story, is it? (laughs) They're older songs. "Breath" is on the first demo we did as a band. I used a Les Paul and Marshall on that track. We didn't really have time to mess around and bring in my Vox AC30 and my Steinberger! (laughs) We had a day-and-a half to do it, so I just played through my normal setup.
Guitar World, 9/92
However, that hasn't stopped the fans from loving this song. "Breath" consistently places in the top ten songs in any random survey of fans; check amp-j posts from three years ago (as far back as the archive goes) and it's there. And this year, it was as strong as ever, winning the Synergy song poll by a wide margin.
We know we love the song, but we wanted to know why other fans felt so strongly about this random, almost-lost track, so we asked. Not surprisingly, although there were many passionate and personal interpretations, almost all of them mentioned the same thing: that to them, the song was about hope. That "Breath" got them through bad times (and many of the situations described were strikingly similar). And, that it rocked.=)
Here's what some of you said:
| breath is a favorite
of mine. i'm one of those that thinks it's about birth of some sort. 'shaft
of light, one breath and a scream.' the rest is about life, living up
to your potential, going beyond greed, finding your own answers before
you die. one of my favorite lines is, 'if i knew where it was, i would
take you there. there's much more than this.' it speaks of so much hope.
i've never listened to this song without wondering what event inspired
the lyrics...witnessing a birth, some heavy acid trip, a book or a poem,
maybe just a long day thinking about stuff. without the powerful music
in this song, the lyrics sure wouldn't have the same impact. the music
soars and mentally takes you to another level.
| If only I could see Breath live... if only. This
song to me is all about emotion. Every PJ song is obviously very much
from the heart and soul, but for some reason this song to me embodies
everything about PJ and their heart. I see it as being a song about music
and the emotions that you get from not just playing, but also creating
music. It speaks of that thing that fills the void and makes you happy
and how untouchable it is sometimes to get a hold of. This song makes
my heart soar and remember what freedom is about, and how to stay young
and enjoy life always. Even for the small things... like a breath.
--posted by "gods green" on MFC
when i first really got into pearl jam, i was going through a difficult period in my life, but knew i was too strong to give up. consequently, i clung to songs that acknowledged pain but insisted on hopeful perseverance -- such as "oceans," "leash," "rearviewmirror," and, most of all, "porch." when i first heard "breath" i was floored. i heard it as a beautiful anthem of hope and courage and love -- a song that had the same beloved theme as "porch" but that presented it in a more moving, less rough and confrontational, way.
to me, the porch -- the actual object; the front part of a house -- is the threshold between past pain and future hope and joy. leaving the porch is leaving behind all the shit that has gotten to you in the past (especially if your troubles are family- or home-related), and moving forward into a unknown, sometimes perilous, but beautiful future nonetheless because you have decided to survive. in "breath," i hear ed's insistent encouragement to just "reach the door" as a passionate charge to me to learn from the past's pain, however terrible it may be, so that i can move on. and, right beyond the door is the porch, the first marker i'll come across that proves i've made it. "i suggest you step out on the porch...run away my son, see it all, oh see the world."
i love "breath" because it is beautiful, soaring, powerful, inspirational. it's a celebration of reaching the porch, and a glorious reminder of the beauty of existence.
"Breath" was the first track on the Singles soundtrack that really jumped
out at me. It's difficult to describe why a song is scintillating (i.e. why it makes one's nipples hard), but here are a few hypotheses I've tossed around for a little bit - in no particular order of importance:
1) The Ament Fretless Groove - Lots of slipping and sliding here, and very, very smooth. Almost - yikes! - jazzy.
2) Gossard Grinds Good - Gotta wonder how many gorgeous riffs Mr. Gossard has accidentally flushed down the toilet. We should be thankful he caught this one before it found the ballcock.
3) Eddie Talks To Himself! - Love the way he repeats his lines on this one. And the chorus is charmed: "Ohh-ho-ho reach the doooor..." How can you not sing along?
4) What Neil Young Meant When He Said Pearl Jam Knew "When Not To Play" - They sort of let the groove guide them after the initial riff lead-in. Stone and Mike back off and let Eddie fill in the quiet parts, to great effect, and then...
5) EVERYBODY LOCKS AND KICKS IT at the culmination, when McMeathead does his thing. In my opinion, this song features one of Mike's most SPECTACULAR solos. His wailing literally makes me weak, here - I have to sit down or grab something to make sure I don't endanger myself or my plants. You're just headbanging by the time this tune goes away. You weren't when it started.
Brilliant. PLAY IT, ALREADY!!!! :)
First and foremost, Breath is an anthem of hope, a beacon of light
for PJ fans. It is unique because it was the basically the first PJ song
that wasn't based somewhat on Ed's anger. Many songs on Ten (Alive,
Jeremy, Black) are filled with rage at someone or something. In Breath,
on the other hand, Eddie focuses on the good parts of life and what we
should look forward to...
... Breath is not necessarily the best PJ song ever, but I think it provides the fans with some insight into Eddie Vedder's mindset then and now. I think one can see the toll of fame on Eddie. Breath was likely written at the beginning of their ascent to fame; Eddie had a great deal of hope for the future. On Yield, however, he seems much more subdued and realistic about his chances and the chances for mankind. There are so many interesting parallels that can be drawn.
Finally, Breath just rocks, pure and simple!
There was a period in the early '90's where I was truly unhappy with almost every aspect of my life. Since I was able to turn everything around, my life has been steadily improving ever since. I was becoming familiar with the Singles movie and soundtrack when these positive changes first began happening. Each ensuing major life change prompted me to either re-watch the movie or listen to the soundtrack often. Whether that change be ending a bad relationship, leaving my friends and family in California, or getting back into school, the songs have all been there, Breath in particular. Breath reminds me of where I've been and how I've grown. It gives me an incredible sense of hope. It makes me smile, grit my teeth, and want to walk down a city street in the pouring rain while crying my eyes out. In my deranged rock n roll fantasies, I'm up on stage (or maybe just in the front row) jumping up and down in time singing "...here it comes, here it comes, there it goes.....etc". Unlike most of my favorite songs, it isn't the lyrics, it's just the sound. Breath is the soundtrack to my happiness.
Breath, to me, is someone looking in from the outside on someone they care about and this person is in trouble. Breath becomes the story of life beyond the trouble. "Get out, live your life," it says. Reach the door. Leave while you still can. If I knew where it was, I would take you there. There's much more than this. Breath rips. Live, it is a powerhouse, a catharsis, and it personifies the meaning of the song as I see it. This is why I hope for it. Because there is hope. There really IS so much more than this.
Its about hope, and not losing sight of the possibilities out there in the world. To me, its always been one of my favorite PJ songs that I go back to a rediscover all over again. Ironically, the attitude of the song fits in nicely with the attitude of Yield, like in All those yesterdays. Maybe they've come full circle. Or maybe this attitude has always been there.
why it's special? these words...
"if i knew where it was...i would take you there..there's much more than this."
hope. fuel of life.
So there you have it. If you're a fan of this track, view this as yet another sign in the crowd for you. If you're not, maybe this will get you thinking about it. If we had one request to make, ever, this would be the song we would ask to see live, for all of the reasons listed above. It rocks, it soars, it's a McCready showcase, it's the rhythm section at its finest, it's an incredible vocal showcase -- to us it is essentially Pearl Jam, and it's the first song one of us plays every new year.
- Breath, live from 3/14/94 [mp3 - 6,859K]
Special note: The source recording this mp3 derived from is what tapers refer to as a "hot" recording; in other words, there is some distortion in the louder portions. This is not a function of bad encoding, but rather due to the actual source. However, due to the rarity of this show, and the stellar quality of this performance (including an unusual, extended jam at the end - the song is almost 7 minutes long!), we felt it was worth featuring.
--Dedicated to the HOV Whores--
Copyright © 2004 Five Horizons