I remember buying Pearl Jam’s debut album, “Ten”. It came out my freshman year of high school and for whatever reason I was early on the bandwagon. Actually, I beat the bandwagon. It was a point of pride for me. I remember a guy from school who was kind of the big man on campus (you know the type…ahead of the curve on everything, the trendsetter, the popular guy who girls loved even though he treated them badly…no bitterness on my part, though…) asking people about “this band he kept hearing about…Pearl Jam” and I’d already about worn out my “Ten” tape by that point.
I loved the general sound of that record. It had the “grungy” (forgive me for the use of the word…) sound that was new to mainstream audiences at the time, but was clearly influenced by “big” arena rock. Perfect for a 13-year old who was in the classic rock phase that all young men go through, but was developing musical tastes of my own.
I accepted that for the most part, I had outgrown much of the music of my youth – a sad but true development.
So, I didn’t get too excited when I heard that the Legacy Editions of Pearl Jam’s second and third albums were on the way (in stores March 29th). I just felt old when I heard that these two reissues were part of Pearl Jam’s celebration of their 20th anniversary as a band. I mean…I remember in 1991 that REM released their classic album, “Out of Time”, and that everyone was making a fuss about that being their tenth anniversary….But HOW has it been 20 years since Pearl Jam debuted??!?!?!
To my surprise, I found I had indeed NOT outgrown these albums. I loved the tracks I heard on the sampler – many of them, alternate versions of songs on “Vs.” and “Vitalogy”.
But most of all…I remember being amazed – even at 14 or 15, or whatever I was – that Pearl Jam had developed such a great sound. I remember thinking the sound was more “earthy” or “organic” or something. And even better than “Ten”, which I’d loved so much. I remember being blown away by how good the songs were on “Vs.”.
“Vs.” and “Vitalogy” were two great albums. I loved Pearl Jam at the time for not playing by the music industry’s rules, for refusing to release music videos, and for taking on Ticketmaster in Congressional hearings when they felt the media giant was gouging their fans for overly expensive fees attached to concert tickets.
I think those actions helped with the ubiquity factor, too. The singles from Pearl Jam’s debut album, “Ten”, (Alive, Even Flow, Jeremy) were played to death on both radio and MTV. After such a barrage, one can grow weary of any music. It sounds odd to say, but after their refusal to “play the game”, Pearl Jam in some way spared their fans from being over-exposed.
Where I loved “Vs.” and “Vitalogy”, I liked the next few Pearl Jam records. But I pretty much lost track of them at some point. Their last two records piqued my curiosity, but weren’t anything I stuck with.
"Vs.” and “Vitalogy” last, though. They are the sound of a great band in their prime, evolving almost faster than they could even keep up with.
Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio this Thursday night (March 24th) to hear the Pearl Jam “Vs./Vitalogy” radio special. We’ll be giving away nine copies of the “Vs./Vitalogy” sampler, too (Yeah…I did get ten of them…but I’m snaggin’ one for me…). We may have additional giveaways to announce shortly, as well.
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Some details on the “Vs./Vitalogy” samplers up for grabs:
Hold On (4:39) acoustic studio track
Creedy Stomp (3:21) instrumental outtake
Crazy Mary (5:38) from Sweet Relief
Better Man (guitar/organ only version) (3:54)
Nothingman (demo) (4:35)
Corduroy (alt. version) (4:43)
Live at the Orpheum (4/12/94):
Sonic Reducer (with Mark Arm on guitar) (3:55)
Yellow Ledbetter (5:30)
Self Pollution Radio:
Spin the Black Circle (2:54) live in studio