As a creature of the '90s, this one is very hard for me to believe. When Pearl Jam broke, it was incredibly important to me. I'd grown up idolizing the Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd. Not only was Pearl Jam the first band I loved that was of my generation, but I could relate to them personally. I wasn't gonna put on Aladdin Sane makeup and go down to the mall or walk around with my own laser light show, but I already dressed just like the Pearl Jam guys. I was happy to be called a "grunger" because I didn't have to be a poseur to fit in. That was already me.
Me being grungy.
So when Stone Temple Pilots scored a huge hit with "Plush" in 1992, everyone I knew hated it. Everyone called STP a bunch of obvious Pearl Jam clones who were merely aping a proven formula for success. Here's Pearl Jam doing "Jeremy," and here's STP doing "Plush":
But for some terrible, terrible people, that parlor trick of musical impersonation is enough to cause confusion, I guess.
Some people have tried to make a point by saying, "Well, of course it came up wrong -- you searched 'Pearl Jam' and 'Plush.'" Good point. Do me a favor and Google "David Bowie" and "Stairway to Heaven." Whaddya get? Oh, nothing? Thanks.
How Did This Happen? Well, as I expressed above, it seems to have happened by design, and shame on anyone who fell for it. I do have to drop one important postscript, however, and note that despite their early lack of individuality and integrity, STP arguably grew into the better band. That started to become clear to me during MTV Unplugged. Pearl Jam simply played their hits on acoustic guitars and basses. STP, however, showed greater musical depth, debuting one of their best songs, "Big Empty," and completely reinventing "Sex Type Thing," delivering it with a muted swing. STP continued to experiment (also with way too many drugs, unfortunately), while Pearl Jam seems hell-bent on delivering increasingly less sonically interesting albums in some bizarre misconception of integrity.
When I was a tiny little boy learning about comedy and satire from old repeats of All in the Family, M*A*S*H and The Jeffersons, the go-to joke for racism was that whites thought all blacks looked alike. You don't really hear that too often anymore. Instead, it seems the closest we come to that is thinking that any reggae song whatsoever must have been sung by Bob Marley. In the first of these columns, I showed you the shocking number of people who apparently believed Bob Marley did Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy," but it doesn't end there.
Everyone who has ever seen the show Cops knows its theme song is "Bad Boys." You might not know that song is by Inner Circle, and that's OK. We all forgive you. But why would anyone automatically assume it's by Bob Marley?
How Did This Happen? Well, sometimes when one mental deficient figures out how to have sex with a tone-deaf person after countless failed trial and error attempts, they have a baby. A senseless baby with absolutely no ear for music. That's the only explanation I got. Or just people thinking that Bob Marley sang every single reggae song that ever existed. That's my other theory. Thinking that Bob Marley sang "Bad Boys" is like thinking that Elvis Presley sang "Life Is a Highway" because they're both rock. (Oh, BTW, that's also not a Tom Petty song, as some people seem to think. It's by Tom Cochrane, but that's not important because it's one of the worst songs ever written.) Not many of you probably realize this, but in 2009, as part of a bill to rebuild our nation's infrastructure, President Obama included a proviso, allowing any black citizen the right to bitch-slap (once) anyone who mistakenly states that Bob Marley sang "Bad Boys." Twice, if the person making the mistake is a white guy with dreads.
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For more from Gladstone, check out 5 Gay Guys Who Got More Women Than Most Straight Men and 5 People Cheated Out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.