Discography: Fugazi, Part 1: 13 Songs

Pearl Jam doesn't get enough credit.

I think every generation has those bands who are immensely popular and are very open about their not so popular influences.  Nirvana did the same thing, although they were, like most of Pearl Jam, more interested in promoting their fellow Seattle bands, the ones who had played big parts in their lives but weren't getting the same attention.

Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, was vocal about his favorite bands.  He would go so far as to sing bits of their songs during concerts.

Way back in my high school days, I got my first ever bootleg.  It was a recording of Pearl Jam playing at a small club in Paard van Troje in the Netherlands.  It was, appropriately enough, called Pearl Jam: Small Club.

The 8th song of that show, after "Black" and before "Release," was a song that Pearl Jam, to my knowledge, never actually recorded, which is actually for the best, as it's not a particularly good song.  On the bootleg, it's titled "Saying No," and it's more or less about rape.  It's a four minute song and at the three minute mark, Eddie Vedder stops singing his own lyrics.  Instead, he sings the outro of a song called "Suggestion."

This was my introduction to Fugazi.

13 Songs

In the winter of '94, I had a CD player, but I didn't use it much.  I was still mostly listening to casettes, so that's what I bought: "7 Songs" (sometimes known as "Fugazi") by Fugazi which included not only the aforementioned "Suggestion," but "Waiting Room," which was, for whatever reason, Fugazi's best known song.  It was easily my favorite on that tape, although I loved "Bad Mouth" an awful lot, too.

Not long after that, I got "Margin Walker," the cassette that made up the other half of what is considered to be Fugazi's first album, "13 Songs."  "Margin Walker" solidified my enjoyment of Fugazi, as the songs began to become more complicated.  That opening to "Margin Walker" (the song), the bass line in "And the Same," the vocals in "Burning, Too" -- all great stuff.  And that's ignoring what was, I had been told, Fugazi's real classic, "Promises."

At this point in my life, I knew enough about guitar/bass/drums/vocals music to appreciate well crafted, creative songs when I heard them.  The only hesitance I really had to fully embracing Fugazi was Ian McKaye's voice.  His were not the polished vocals that I was used to.  Even the other non-mainstream bands I listened to (Jawbox, Sunny Day Real Estate, Velocity Girl) had, if not clear, than clean vocals.  McKaye sounded like he was grunting out his lyrics, which took some time for me to get used to.  Fortunately, I took to Guy Picciotto's vocals right away.

To this day, I can't hear "Waiting Room" without thinking about driving in nigh complete darkness, snow, and far below freezing temperatures to my job at a factor in Kent, Ohio. That was how I spent my winter break home from college, working the 6:00AM to 2:30PM shift on an assembly line making parts for semis. And there was something oddly appropriate about listening to Fugazi on the way there, a band which had done battle with capitalism throughout its existence, a band who most of assumed lived in squalor to stand for their beliefs.

Fugazi Margin Walker.jpg

Fugazi was working class punk rock when so many other punk rock bands seemed like they were still living off their parents.

For as liberal as they were, Fugazi spoke to my blue collar surroundings and helped me to realize that those to things were not antithetical. You could sit at a crimping machine attaching to parts together over and over again for eight hours a day, five days a week, and still believe that everyone should be treated equal, that social programs were important and should be funded, and that war was never the answer. Fugazi didn't just talk a good game, they lived it, and that came through in their music.

But as much as I liked "13 Songs," I didn't completely fall for Fugazi then.  No, that would happen when I got my hands on "Repeater."