Across the Margin: The Podcast
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!