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:


Even Flow
(will later become one of my favorite songs, Yellow Ledbetter)
Weird A
Daddy Could Swear I Declare


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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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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