Artist: Pearl Jam
Director: Mark Pellington
*tap*tap* Hey, does this thing still work? (And is anyone still reading?) I'm so sorry there's been such a long lag time, but first the holidays threw me off, and then a very busy January, and then a whole lot of inertia. It's all the more frustrating knowing that there's only eight more of these to go. Whad'ya say we plow forward through this last bit, eh?
When I originally assembled this list ages ago, I made a deliberate effort to highlight videos that weren't necessarily going to turn up on the major media lists; in other words, I didn't want reader reaction to be, "Oh, gee, 'Thriller' at number 1. I'm so, um, surprised, or something." That said, there are some videos that are best-of list clichés for a damn good reason: they really are that good. Frankly, I couldn't even conceive of putting forth such a list that didn't include "Jeremy." It's one of those videos that I started hearing about well before I saw it, and yet even knowing what I was about to see, it was still a kick to the gut that still resonates 16 years later. It's simply perfection, from concept to cinematography to art direction to editing—especially the editing—right down to (and this is something I don't think I've ever said about a lip-sync video shoot) an amazing performance by Eddie Vedder. I am, however, breaking with a small behind-the-scenes tradition: every time I've posted one of these things, I've searched for the highest-quality copy of the clip in question on YouTube, in terms of both sound and image. There is, indeed, a gorgeous, pristine version posted by the folks at Sony, but I'm not using that one, because someone was good enough to post the unedited version, aired outside the U.S. but not seen by most Americans. It's mostly the same, with two crucial differences. One, the quick flash of the classroom full of kids giving the Nazi salute is lingered on for several seconds in a long pan, ending with a shirtless Jeremy in the back. And two, where the American ending went to static-filled TV fade-out, the complete version shows him placing the barrel of a handgun in his mouth, his eyes clamping shut as he pulls the trigger. Small differences, but if you thought the video was disturbing and deeply unsettling before, you don't know just how disturbing it can get. As I said, 16 years after the fact, it still makes me lose sleep.