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Elephant by the White Stripes

In the beginning of the summer of 1991, as I played a session of Call of Chthulu, the game master, a bartender…

In the beginning of the summer of 1991, as I played a session of Call of Chthulu, the game master, a bartender at the restaurant where I worked, played a particular CD softly in the background. There was something familiar about the music, but it was a bit low to make out. The melodies stuck with me, subconsciously, for the next week, until, at the next game session, when he played the CD again, I asked him what we were listening to. He handed me the case, a bright red image forever since burned in my memory. He told me a story of how his friend was a rep for Sony Music, and this was a band that Sony was very excited about. His copy was a prerelease, and sure enough there was bold type on the back of the CD about how this copy was not for sale and other legalese. The music, the deep baritone vocals, the sheer power of it all, was apparent at low volume in the background of a role-playing game. He played the CD twice that day, and the song “Evenflow” found its way into my humming and whistling repertoire while at work the next week. It was a great album. I couldn’t wait to buy it when it came out. What a funny name for a band, I thought, Pearl Jam. It would be cool if they caught on, though. A cusp in music existed at that time. Pearl Jam’s Ten was just a small part of it. (Okay, commercially, it was a huge part of it.) But the album was a wonderful example of what would be called Grunge, and what would dominate the radio and MTV for the next couple of years. It was a happy time for me, audio-wise. Hearing the album, then, I knew something was changing within the music world. The album had longevity written all over it. It happens rarely—the instant classic in everyone’s music collection. Boy bands, Britney, and Beyonc