"Once" as written by Stone C. Gossard and Eddie Jerome Vedder....
I admit it, what's to say
I'll relive it, without pain
Backstreet lover on the side
Of the road
I got a bomb in my temple that is gonna explode
I got a .16 gauge buried
Under my clothes, I play

Once upon a time I could control myself
Once upon a time I could lose myself
Oh try and mimic, what's insane
I am in it, where do I stand?

Indian summer I hate the heat
I got a backstreet lover on the passenger seat
I got my hand in my pocket
So determined
Discreet, I pray.

Once upon a time I could control myself
Once upon a time I could lose myself
Once upon a time I could control myself
Once upon a time I could lose myself
Once upon a time I could love myself
Once upon a time I could love you
Once
Once
Once
Once
Once
Once
Yeah yeah


Lyrics submitted by mike

"Once" as written by Stone C. Gossard Eddie Jerome Vedder

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Once song meanings
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44 Comments

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  • +5
    General CommentAs the second part of the "Mamasan" trilogy of songs created by Pearl Jam - A tragical tale of a man who's mother in his childhood starts abusing him sexually ("Alive"), followed by a inhuman outbreak of his frustration from these times that leads to a killing spree in this song, and puts an end to his sadness and anger as he waits for his execution in jail ("Footsteps") - this song deals with not being able to control your built-up anger inside, and thus, you release it on and strike everybody around you. The man in the Mamasan trilogy could ONCE control his occasional anger when it came, but after the incest by his mother, he had no other choice but to settle his destiny and go to prison by himself to get away from the nightmarish past that forever haunted him.
    Rusty Diamondson February 23, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI have a couple theories about this song, as I've been listening to the album a lot lately. First things first, why would this song be first? The opening lines indicate that the song is a confession. I imagine he's in police custody and he is confessing (I admit it...) and explaining what happened (I'll relive it...). Like many others have said, the back seat lover is a prostitute and the 16 gauge is a literal gun. As far as the second verse goes, it's self explanatory until the last line. Like a lot of you I imagine, I thought he was either playing pocket pool or was hiding a boner or something, but he's keeping the gun in his pocket and he's waiting for the right time to kill the prostitute (or whoever). The line "You think I got my eyes closed but I've been lookin' at you the whole fucking time" could be referring to the police, in that they caught him but it was his intention to get caught and to be thrown in jail. It could be a double meaning, referring to his mother also, but I don't see why the police idea doesn't work.

    And if you know the meaning of the song I think the chorus is self explanatory.
    Boomsarson July 12, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis indeed a great song. This is the second song in the mamason trilogy. But ultimately this is about him going mad. I also agree that there are a lot of sexual references... when I first this song I also thought it was about boners...

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    BraidenJaeon April 07, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentEr, I never really said why the song was before Alive. Assuming this IS a police confession, then he describes the crime to the police and he goes to jail and all that fun stuff. However, someone like this probably would not have been thrown straight into jail and may have seen a psychiatrist or something first, and Alive is his repressed memories being brought back to him by the psychiatrist or whatever. Thus this is first, and then Alive is second on the album. Alive is the first part of the trilogy because chronologically the events in Alive happened first.
    Boomsarson July 12, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's just amazing what Eddie Vedder is capable of doing with his voice. After he says "You think I got my eyes closed but I've been lookin' at you the whole fucking time", you can hear anger, aggression and madness in his voice in the first "myself" (Ooh, once upon a time I could control myself) he sings.
    In the third "myself" (Once upon a time I could love myself) you can hear that he realises that once he used to be a normal guy and you can feel the pain he has because of this.

    Maybe it's just my imagination and nobody else hears this, but I really think you can hear it in his voice.
    Harrie2010on September 13, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning(Direct quote from Eddie in Rolling Stone about the trilogy)The story of the song is that a mother is with a father and the father dies. It's an intense thing because the son looks just like the father. The son grows up to be the father, the person that she lost. His father's dead, and now this confusion, his mother, his love, how does he love her, how does she love him? In fact, the mother, even though she marries somebody else, there's no one she's ever loved more than the father. You know how it is, first loves and stuff. And the guy dies. How could you ever get him back? But the son. He looks exactly like him. It's uncanny. So she wants him. The son is oblivious to it all. He doesn't know what the fuck is going on. He's still dealing, he's still growing up. He's still dealing with love, he's still dealing with the death of his father. All he knows is 'I'm still alive' -- those three words, that's totally out of burden.

    Now the second verse is 'Oh she walks slowly into a young man's room... I can remember to this very day... the look... the look.' And I don't say anything else. And because I'm saying, 'The look, the look' everyone thinks it goes with 'on her face.' It's not on her face. The look is between her legs. Where do you go with that? That's where you came from."

    But I'm still alive. I'm the lover that's still alive. And the whole conversation about 'You're still alive, she said' And his doubts: 'Do I deserve to be? Is that the question?' Because he's fucked up forever! So now he doesn't know how to deal with it. So what does he do, he goes out killing people -- that was 'Once.' He becomes a serial killer. And 'Footsteps,' the final song of the trilogy that's when he gets executed. That's what happens. The Green River killer... and in San Diego, there was another prostitute killer down there. Somehow I related to that. I think that happens more than we know. It's a modern way of dealing with a bad life.
    LisaKlavier1993on January 05, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI know the whole mamasan thing but I think this song is actually happy despite the angry tone. I think it's about a person that was held back by their own thoughts. (Once upon a time I could control myself.) Then they realized that there wasn't anything holding them back so they accomplished what they needed to after breaking from their own limits. So I think this song is of celebration after becoming a new more brave person.
    wbarrettm03on April 02, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General Commentas said in the comments of 'alive' on this website part of the mamasan-trilogie. This is the second song.
    flinkaflenkaflrskon January 15, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSo your saying that the guy in this song goes on a killing spree and is the same guy that found out about his father and that his mother falls for him...the same guy? I always like to know what the lines mean. They need a meaning otherwise Eddie wouldn't put it in...who is he referring to with "backstreet lover"? And at the end "you think I got my eyes closed But I'm lookin at you the whole fuckin time" what does that mean or where is the connection to the story? Please fill me in.
    Tbone732on April 01, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn my opinion, backstreet lover is a girl he has raped and killed. The eyes closed thing is him just being crazy and angry. I believe it is referring to him while he is having sex with somebody...probably that he will kill.
    wiseoneon April 19, 2002   Link

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