Certain Songs #1510: Pearl Jam – “I Got Id”

Album: Merkin Ball EP
Year: 1995

There literally isn’t anything about “I Got Id” that isn’t kind of weird. So let’s start with the weirdest part first: “I Got Id,” which I’m guessing that pretty much only hardcore Pearl Jam fans remember at this point, was their first bona fide top ten hit single.

Sure, they’d been alt-rock and mainstream rock radio chart toppers from the very start, but not so much with the pop charts: “Jeremy” only made it #79, “Daughter” to #97, and of course neither “Corduroy” or “Better Man” were even released as singles. That said, “Spin The Black Circle” did make it to #18, but I suspect that part of that was the novelty of the song being released as an actual 45 RPM single.

That said, I suspect that something of the same thing helped propel “I Got Id” (AKA “I Got Shit”) into the top ten: it was the first new Pearl Jam music in over a year, and it was only available on the Merkin Ball EP or single or whatever. Hell, most of Pearl Jam didn’t even play on it: just Eddie Vedder & new drummer Jack Irons. The bass was played by producer Brendan O’Brien, and the lead guitar was by some Canadian guy named Neil Young, who’d had one big hippie-dippie folk-rock hit twenty years prior and then kinda faded away from the pop charts.

Apparently, this Young character wanted to jump on the grunge bandwagon, and for some reason, Pearl Jam took pity on him and decided to spend some of their popularity boosting his career by being his backing band. Kinda like the time that Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers backed Del Shannon or Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street band backed Gary U.S. Bonds. Only, this time it kinda worked: the resulting album, called Mirror Ball, was the highest-charting album that Young had released since the early 1970s.

In any event, while Eddie Vedder wasn’t at a lot of the sessions — he claims because he had a stalker problem, but maybe he was allergic to aging hippies — Merkin Ball was a compilation of the two songs that he sang on. And even without Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, “I Got Id” is an absolutely worthy addition to the Pearl Jam canon, centered around a truly catchy and moving chorus:

Oh, I walked the line…
When you held me in at night
Oh, I walked the line…
When you held my hand and i
Oh, I walked the line…
When you held me close at night
Oh, I paid the price…
Never held you in your eyes

That chorus, combined with a couple of ferocious solos from Young — who knew the old geezer had it in him? — and “I Got Id” rocks and roars as much as any Pearl Jam song ever, which makes it even weirder that it made it all the way to #7 on the pop charts.

“I Got Id”

“I Got Id” performed live in Montreal, 2000

“I Got Id” live in San Francisco, 2006

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