Across the Margin: The Podcast

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Episode 149: Pearl Jam's Long Road with Steven Hyden

In this episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast, host Michael Shields interviews music critic and journalist Steven Hyden, the author of This Isn’t Happening, Twilight of the Gods, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me, and (with Steve Gorman) Hard to Handle. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Billboard, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Grantland, The A.V. Club, Slate, and Salon. He is currently the cultural critic at UPROXX. Hyden’s latest book, Long Road: Pearl Jam and the Soundtrack Of A Generation, the focus of this episode, Hyden celebrates the life, career, and music of Pearl Jam, widely considered to be one of the greatest American rock bands of all time. Much like the generation it emerged from, Pearl Jam is a mass of contradictions. They were an enormously successful mainstream rock band who felt deeply uncomfortable with the pursuit of capitalistic spoils. They were progressive activists who spoke in favor of abortion rights and against the Ticketmaster monopoly, and yet they epitomized the sound of traditional, male-dominated rock ‘n’ roll. They were looked at as spokesmen for their generation, even though they ultimately projected profound confusion and alienation. They triumphed, and failed, in equal doses — the quintessential Gen-X tale. Impressive as their stats, accolades, and longevity may be, Hyden also argues that Pearl Jam’s most definitive accomplishment lies in the impact their music had on Generation X as a whole. Pearl Jam’s music helped an entire generation of listeners connect with the glory of bygone rock mythology, and made it relevant during a period in which tremendous American economic prosperity belied a darkness at the heart of American youth. More than just a chronicle of the band’s career, this book is also a story about Gen-X itself, who like Pearl Jam came from angsty, outspoken roots and then evolved into an establishment institution, without ever fully shaking off their uncertain, outsider past. For so many Gen-Xers growing up at the time, Pearl Jam’s music was a beacon that offered both solace and guidance. They taught an entire generation how to grow up without losing the purest and most essential parts of themselves. In this episode host Michael Shields and Steven Hyden discuss the unique way in which Hyden decided to organize the book and what a cassette known as the “Momma-Son Tape” meant to the genesis of Pearl Jam. They talk about how a fateful night at Red Rocks Amphitheater in June of 1995 helped shape the band's identity and how the Grateful Dead influenced Pearl Jam in the later stages of their career. They explore Hyden’s love for guitarist Mark McGrady, the singular way in which Gen-X often turns on their childhood musical heroes, how Pearl Jam found a way to survive and thrive well into their middle ages when so many of their peers crashed and burned, and so much more.


Grab a copy of Long Road: Pearl jam and the Soundtrack of a Generation by Steven Hyden here!

 


More Episodes

11/4/2022

Episode 148: Tom Waits and the Spirit of Los Angeles with Alex Harvey

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with the author of Song Noir: Tom Waits and the Spirit of Los Angeles, Alex Harvey. Alex Harvey is a producer and director of programs including Panorama and The Late Show for the BBC. His films include The Lives of Animals and Enter the Jungle. Based in Los Angeles, he regularly writes on literature, film, and music for the London Review of Books and Los Angeles Review of Books. His book, Song Noir, examines the formative first decade of Tom Waits’s career, when he lived, wrote, and recorded nine albums in Los Angeles: from his soft, folk-inflected debut, Closing Time in 1973, to the abrasive, surreal Swordfishtrombones in 1983. Starting his songwriting career in the seventies, Waits absorbed Los Angeles’s wealth of cultural influences. Combining the spoken idioms of writers like Kerouac and Bukowski with jazz-blues rhythms, he explored the city’s literary and film noir traditions to create hallucinatory dreamscapes. Waits mined a rich seam of the city’s low-life locations and characters, letting the place feed his dark imagination. Mixing the domestic with the mythic, Waits turned quotidian, autobiographical details into something more disturbing and emblematic, a vision of Los Angeles as the warped, narcotic heart of his nocturnal explorations. In this episode host Michael Shields and Alex Harvey discuss what Tom Wait’s Los Angeles of the 1970s was actually like, a LA that doesn’t exist today. They explore how the Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski influenced Waits’ songwriting and how the city eventually became more of a trap than means of escape for Waits. The expound upon the character of Frank that Waits brought to life over a trilogy of albums, his highly accomplished acting career, and so much more.
10/7/2022

Episode 147: The Border Within with Tara Watson & Kalee Thompson

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Tara Watson, professor of economics at Williams College and a co-editor of the Journal of Human Resources, the leading academic journal in labor economics, as well as Kalee Thompson, a journalist and senior editor at Wirecutter and the author of Deadliest Sea: The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Coast Guard History. Watson and Thompson are co-authors of The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear — the focus of this episode — which is a profoundly eye-opening analysis of the costs and effects of immigration and immigration policy, both on American life and on new Americans. For decades, immigration has been one of the most divisive, contentious topics in American politics. And for decades, urgent calls for its policy reform have gone mostly unanswered. As the discord surrounding the modern immigration debate has intensified, border enforcement has tightened. Crossing harsher, less porous borders makes unauthorized entry to the United States a permanent, costly undertaking. And the challenges don’t end on the other side. At once enlightening and devastating, The Border Within examines the costs and ends of America’s interior enforcement — the policies and agencies, including ICE, aimed at removing immigrants already living in the country. Economist Tara Watson and journalist Kalee Thompson pair rigorous analysis with deeply personal stories from immigrants and their families to assess immigration’s effects on every aspect of American life, from the labor force to social welfare programs to tax revenue. What emerges is a critical, utterly complete examination of what non-native Americans bring to the country, including immigration’s tendency to elevate the wages and skills of those who are native-born. In this episode, host Michael Shields, Tara Watson, and Kalee Thompson discuss the crucial focus of the book (interior immigration enforcement) while dispelling a bevy of myths surrounding immigration regarding the economic benefits of immigration, immigrants effect on crime rates, and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of enforcement by agencies such as ICE. They discuss the concept of “chilling effects” and ponder what an ideal internal enforcement approach would look like. Ultimately this episode celebrates the essential work that is The Border Within, a book with far-reaching implications for immigrants and non-immigrants alike.
9/29/2022

Episode 146: Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science with Patrick L. Schmidt

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with the author of Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science (The Rise and Fall of the Department of Social Relations), Patrick L. Schmidt. In Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science, Schmidt tells the little-known story of how some of the most renowned social scientists of the twentieth century struggled to elevate their emerging disciplines of cultural anthropology, sociology, and social and clinical psychology. Scorned and marginalized in their respective departments in the 1930s for pursuing the controversial theories of Freud and Jung, they persuaded Harvard to establish a new department, promising to create an interdisciplinary science that would surpass in importance Harvard’s “big three” disciplines of economics, government, and history. Although the Department of Social Relations failed to achieve this audacious goal, it nonetheless attracted an outstanding faculty, produced important scholarly work, and trained many notable graduates. At times, it was a wild ride. Some faculty became notorious for their questionable research: Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (reborn as Ram Dass) gave the psychedelic drug psilocybin to students, while Henry Murray traumatized undergraduate Theodore Kaczynski (later the Unabomber) in a three-year-long experiment. Central to the story is the obsessive quest of legendary sociologist Talcott Parsons for a single theory unifying the social sciences — the white whale to his Captain Ahab. All in all, Schmidt’s lively narrative is an instructive tale of academic infighting, hubris, and scandal. Patrick L. Schmidt is an attorney in Washington, D.C. He received a BA, magna cum laude, from Harvard College, a JD from Georgetown University, and an MIPP from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He first examined the history of the Department of Social Relations in his undergraduate honors thesis at Harvard, meaning that he has lived with and examined this story for many years now. In this episode host Michael Shields and Patrick L. Schmidt examine why a group of some of the most distinguished social scientists of the twentieth century embarked up the controversial yet noble endeavor of birthing the multidisciplinary, innovative Department of Social Relations at Harvard. They discuss the famed thinkers that were members of the department such as Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Henry Murray, and Talcott Parsons. They explore the exciting rise of the Department of Social Relations, it’s controversial downfall, and ultimately expound upon the legacy and lasting impact of the movement and those a part of it. Grab a copy of Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science here!