February 3, 2006

Behind the Music: Eddie Vedder, Bad Radio & early Pearl Jam

Look closely at the ’80s photo above and you may recognize now famous Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder sporting some extremely questionable fashion choices in 1989 with his band Bad Radio. While living and working in San Diego (as a gas station attendant), Ed was a driven songwriter on a passionate quest to be heard and have his music heard. The early Vedder/Bad Radio recordings are still floating around, both demos and live performances. I think it is interesting to hear that same awesome voice, albeit over some music that sounds pretty, well, 1989. But it is a hell of a lot better than most of the other top albums of 1989 (to refresh your memory, Bobby Brown, Debbie Gibson, Milli Vanilli, and everyone’s favorite saccharine American Idol judge, Paula Abdul. That is the year my fifth-grade classmate Carl Harris promised me tickets to the New Kids on the Block concert, and I was sorely disheartened when they did not materialize. Ah, 1989.).

Believe You Me” – Bad Radio
In 1990, Bad Radio won the battle of the bands (San Diego) contest at Rio’s using this song.

Homeless” – Bad Radio
Interesting to me how the subject matter here is strongly reminiscent of Even Flow. I also love the way his voice soars on the final verse, “Look me in the eye just this one time I mean it, I won’t be here tomorrow, there’s only one place left to go…”

Betterman” – Bad Radio
(did you know this was a Bad Radio song? Kind of scratchy live recording, but cool)

While doin’ his thing in San Diego, the roots of PJ were beginning to form further up the coast in Seattle. The story is full of kismet: Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Mike McCready were already playing together, working on stuff for Temple of the Dog. They had just finished a three-song instrumental demo with Matt Cameron (Soundgarden) on drums. This cassette tape demo found its way down to Vedder via ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, who passed it along to Ed during a hiking trip together.

When Vedder got this instrumental demo tape, he listened to it several times, and then headed out to the companionship of the waves for an afternoon of surfing. Amisdt the solitude of the ocean, lyrics began to percolate. Vedder then dubbed these lyrics as vocals over the cassette tape and called it the Mamasan Trilogy: Part One – Alive, Part Two – Once, and Part 3 – Footsteps. It tells a story which Vedder calls a sort of mini-opera.

Well, the guys in Seattle liked what they heard when the tape was returned to them, and Vedder flew up to Seattle at the end of October 1990 to test the waters musically together. They clicked. That first week of rehearsals (10/23/90) and some of the demo versions of songs that they laid down are still extant, and today you get to hear ‘em too:

PEARL JAM: FIRST WEEK REHEARSALS/DEMOS

Even Flow
Once
Breath
Release
Girl
Goat
Alive
Alone
Oceans
Black
Improv
(will later become one of my favorite songs, Yellow Ledbetter)
Weird A
Daddy Could Swear I Declare

*ZIP FILE OF ALL SONGS*

Vedder, Ament, McCready, and Gossard (with the addition of Dave Krusen on drums) called their new band Mookie Blaylock, in reference the pro-basketball point guard of the same name (pictured right….uh, jersey number Ten). This name was changed (legal trademark concerns) in favor of Pearl Jam, after briefly considering the name Reenk Roink, and the band was solidified. And fifteen years later, we all still reap the benefits.

Thanks, as always, to The Sky I Scrape for some of the PJ history.

NOTE: If you dig the “remember when” music history like I do, also jet on over to the featurette that (superfan) Chad put together on Elliott Smith back when he was just a young-un, fronting a band called Stranger Than Fiction. The high school photo is priceless.

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31 Comments »

  • Don’t forget Malfunkshun,Green River, Mr. Epp…and MOTHER LOVE BONE…Mudhoney…
    Some classic early Grunge history…as you listen to the bands progress…it’s simply amazing….
    It’s easy to see why PJ is the most famous…it’s the most radio friendly….and you can not blam them one bit….and it’s still good music…

    SINEDDIE — August 29, 2006 @ 5:00 pm

  • Thank you so much for enlightning me.. not easy finding hidden gems from eddie vedder in Norway.. just wanted you to know

    Ivers — October 23, 2006 @ 5:17 pm

  • kick-ass.

    ive been rather nostalgic for some Pearl Jam lately, so it was quite nice to stumble across this little bit of history. some of it i knew, but not the details or tracks themselves.

    im surprised how strong and distinct Eddie’s voice sounded even back then.

    btw – Yellow Ledbetter is my favorite song period. what a kick to hear it in its infancy. i love that its taken on so many different incarnations – ever-changing, and yet… you can always sing along to it with a little Eddie mumble.

    Brett
    http://www.myspace.com/excitableboy

    Anonymous — November 15, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

  • Heather, what a fool I was thinking I could hook someone like you up with something rare you didn’t already have (with better sound, no less). Sigh. One day, I will. Thanks, as always.
    DaddyRich

    DaddyRich — January 6, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

  • Tremendous…. I did not have any of their first week demos’s. Thanks!!!

    Mike

    Mike S — January 14, 2007 @ 7:31 am

  • Thanks for this,it’s excellent! Eddie sounds so young but even in the early stages you can tell he and the guys were destined for great things!love the funky ‘Daddy..’!Don’t suppose you have mtv unplugged lurking anywhere…?Thats raw. Worth asking!

    purplespacecadet — February 6, 2007 @ 11:17 pm

  • I love your words talking about a good group, its my first time here but no the last time I love your Blog.

    Cheyenne — February 12, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

  • I am a long time PJ fan, and these recordings are so pure…just fantastic!
    Thanks so much for this and take care.

    Charles — February 24, 2007 @ 11:15 am

  • This is AMAZING. I have never been able to find this much great Pearl Jam audio… that is so good and so historic in one place. I just have 2 corrections to make off of both this site, and one of the comments left here. The “Eddie Vedder Home Recordings” on Hallucinogenic Recipe, are actually the original Bad Radio demos, taken from both the “Tower Records Demo” and “What The Funk?”. Also, the “Live version” of Betterman you have there is in fact not live. Vedder simply took the tape home and dubbed an audience over it. The band still does not know why to this day. You can find a lot of this information by searching for “Crossroads: The Unofficial Bad Radio Site” while it is “unofficial” it does have a lot of interviews with band members that shine light on much of this stuff. GREAT job though. I’m gonna be coming here a lot more now.

    Anonymous — February 27, 2007 @ 11:51 am

  • hi, your Bad Radio original of ‘Betterman’ isn’t working, i’d really appreciate it if you could get it up and running again :D…also thanks a lot for all the stuff, your a legend :D

    S — April 1, 2007 @ 5:48 pm

  • TODAY FOR THE FIRST TIME I HEARD THE SONG BELIEVE YOU ME, TO ME BEING A DEDICATED PJ FAN, THIS SONG BROUGHT ME TO TEARS ALMOST INSTANTLY THE SOUND OF ED’S VOICE IS SO RAW SO INNOCENT IT JUST TOUCHED ME DEEP INSIDE.

    VEDDER JUNKIE — April 26, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  • THANK YOU!!! finally i found a believe you me download.

    chaka — July 17, 2007 @ 1:36 pm

  • Thanks Heather. I had the same reaction to Believe You Me as vedder junkie. He just sounds so pure and clean – with that baby face! Wild little puppy. It’s hard to believe how well they meshed in just a week. I saw PJ for the first time in April of ’92 and I’ll never forget it.

    sexysadie68 — July 19, 2007 @ 3:40 am

  • magnificent! Ive been searching for a new “copy” of Girl since my cd with said song was stolen some 10 years ago.
    You’ve made my night.

    Anonymous — August 11, 2007 @ 10:18 pm

  • The site is really cool never heard any of bad radios stuff until now thanx for opening my ears to it homeless rocks thanx very much

    Breno — August 12, 2007 @ 8:09 am

  • Check out this site! http://boots.forum2go.nl/ LOADS of audio and video bootlegs!!! Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Korn, Deftones, SOAD…

    Anonymous — August 17, 2007 @ 9:53 am

  • Hi there. :) I love your site. :) Would there be a way for you to repost Bad Radio’s “Better Man”? I tried downloading it, but it said “Not Found.” If it’s not possible, then that’s ok too. Thanks for the songs. :)

    karina — August 19, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

  • I grew up in San Diego,although I never got a chance to hear them, My Brother played drums with the bassist from bad radio in another band called,”The Jan Brady Experience.” They never went too far, but it was during this time I was introduced to the bad radio cassette… I am so glad I can hear those tunes again.

    Anonymous — August 30, 2007 @ 8:52 pm

  • This is a superb, informative and deeply nostalgic post. Thank you.

    Anonymous — November 21, 2007 @ 1:30 am

  • This is a superb, informative and deeply nostalgic post. Thank you.

    Anonymous — November 21, 2007 @ 1:31 am

  • This is a superb, informative and deeply nostalgic post. Thank you.

    Anonymous — November 21, 2007 @ 1:31 am

  • thanks for everything
    specially the pre-pearl jam, mookie blaylock, songs

    Anonymous — November 30, 2007 @ 11:25 pm

  • You’ve officially got a new reader after finding this post.

    Ealer — January 20, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  • Superb, I once downloaded a performance from Gimli Motorsport off here. Absolutely quality, makes my life. Love the first week stuff.

    Anonymous — May 12, 2008 @ 11:33 am

  • hey, better man does not work!

    Stefanos K. — June 18, 2008 @ 11:30 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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