Certain Songs #1505: Pearl Jam – “Leash”

Album: Vs.
Year: 1993

“Leash” is probably my favorite Pearl Jam song, bar one.

Stuck way near the end, long after the singles and radio songs that dominated the front half, and sandwiched between the R.E.M. tone poem “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” and the atmospheric closer “Indifference,” the utter face-melting anthem “Leash” totally and utterly blew me away.

And so, as I listened to the CD Vs. in my little Video Zone office in the autumn of 1993, I always turned around from my desk to turn up the volume of my boombox, even if there was somebody else in there. Cos “Leash” demanded to be played at top volume.

Weirdly enough, at first, “Leash” starts a little slow: Mike McCready bouncing a wah-wah off of a slow almost-funky beat from Dave Abbruzzese, and you might be excused for not thinking it’s going anywhere, well at least until Eddie Vedder bellows:

Troubled souls, unite!
We got ourselves tonight, oh

At that point, Abbruzzese comes in with a surprise drum roll, McCready and Stone Gossard set their guitars to stun and Eddie continues, his heart right out there in the middle of the room.

I am fuel you are friends
We got the means to make amends
I am lost I’m no guide but I’m by your side
I am right by your side

Then after a second verse that essentially repeats the musical structure of the verse, the whole world explodes.

Drop the leash
Drop the leash
Get out of my fucking face!
Drop the leash
Drop the leash
Get out of my fucking face!
Drop the leash
Drop the leash
Get out of my fuckinnnnng
Face

With the rest of the gang chiming in on “DROP THE LEASH,” Eddie Vedder just kills it, screaming “get out of my fucking face!” the first two times like it’s all that has ever mattered to him, but it’s the third one, where he almost resignedly croons “get out of my fucking . . . face” like he knows it ain’t ever going gonna happen, which just utterly and totally kills me every single time.

And that’s pretty much the rest of the song: there aren’t any guitar solos or anything until the very, or even much variation in the guitars: it’s all begging pleading screaming for the leash to be dropped, and on every single level it is cathartic and transcendent, and I found myself screaming “drop the leash we are young, drop the leash” in my car or in my apartment or even on my runs.

Of course, there was one small problem with all of this: I was 30 pushing 31 when Vs. came out, so I was hardly “young” anymore, no matter how much I identified with this song. That said, it wasn’t like I had any kind of clear life path in any way, shape or form at the end of 1993, and so was pretty much the same way I was in my twenties. So that was my fucking excuse, is what I’m saying.

In any event, I loved “Leash” more than any of the other Pearl Jam songs I’d heard, and really couldn’t imagine that I would ever love any of their songs more than that one.

“Leash”

“Leash” performed live at the Cow Palace, December 31, 1991

“Leash” performed live at Pinkpop, 1992

“Leash” performed live in Boston, 2006

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