The plan was to hold off for a few more weeks to make this more of a Christmas present but, well, I failed to contain my joy. Today as we decorated our full and lovely Christmas tree that makes the whole house smell fabulous, I pulled out my entire complete collection of vinyl Pearl Jam Christmas singles from the inaugural year (1991) until the 2005 edition to listen to on the old record player. I am expecting the 15th vinyl single for 2006 to grace my mailbox — well, sometime between now and Valentine’s Day. Maybe Easter. Punctuality has never been on the list of reasons to appreciate this divine collection.
But turning these fine specimens over in my hands and reading the labels, looking at the album art, slowly lowering the needle and spinning the black circle gives me a deep happiness every time. The fact that Pearl Jam sends one of these (almost) every year to their fanclub is just awesome. From the earliest one, which started with Beatles-like Christmas greetings and some ramblings, through various live gems and little studio recordings just for the fan club, there is always a fantastic variety from year to year, a small and welcome surprise in the mailbox.
Every once in a while they’ll toss in an actual Christmas song (1991, 2002, 2004), and there are some wonderful covers (1992, 1998, and 2000 are favorites). If I had to pick just one song from this bunch for the rest of my life, it would probably be “Angel,” which is stunning in its wavering purity, and inspired by a poem called The Eloping Angels: A Caprice. I love it fiercely and thoroughly.
I was going to try and walk you through the rest of my favorites, but as I looked over each record, I realized there is no way I could. I’ve written this paragraph 4 times and keep deleting it because it’s getting too long. So just listen to them all — I know not of a better way to spread Christmas cheer (than singing these loud, for all to hear).
PEARL JAM CHRISTMAS SINGLES
History Never Repeats (Split Enz cover, live in Auckland with Neil & Tim Finn)
Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover, live in New Orleans with Joey Ramone)
Swallow My Pride (Green River cover, live in Las Vegas)
My Way (Elvis cover with Elvis’ cousin Terry, live @ The Aladdin in Vegas)
Last Soldier (live @ Bridge School 10/21/2001)
Indifference (with Ben Harper, live @ Bridge School 10/21/2001)
Gimme Some Truth (Lennon cover, live @ Groundwork Benefit, Seattle 10/22/2001)
I Just Want To Have Something To Do (Ramones cover)
And yes, I actually do own a Pearl Jam stickman Christmas ornament, an internet purchase circa 1995. Rock on.