Pearl Jam released Vitalogy 22 years ago today. It was produced by Brendan O’Brien and written on the road while the band was touring in support of Vs. During this time, the band entered a battle with Ticketmaster, fired their drummer Dave Abbruzzese, and got Mike McCready into rehab for alcohol & substance abuse. Here’s a look back at one of the band’s most challenging records.
Dave Abbruzzese Gets the Boot
While recording Vitology, the band managed to record the song “Satan’s Bed” with Dave Abbruzzese’s drum tech Jimmy Shoaf instead. There were ‘personality problems’ cited as well, so finally Jack Irons helped finish their third album behind the drum kit.
A Vinyl Sales Record
Vitalogy was released on vinyl FIRST, selling 34,000 copies its first week. That stood as the opening week record for vinyl sales until Jack White‘s Lazaretto in 2014, twenty years later.
Pearl Jam’s First Grammy
The first track on the album was the fast-paced Spin the Black Circle – although the album would be nominated for Best Rock Album and Album of the Year, and certified five times platinum, they’d recieve their first Grammy in 1996 for Best Hard Rock Performance. Eddie Vedder’s acceptance speech was…honest.
A Gift, For You Mike McCready, For Not For You
Mike McCready says he recorded this song using a gift that showed up at his door, from Tom Petty, for the first time – a 12-string Rickebacker.
Immortality Wasn’t Exactly about Kurt Cobain
The final “single” released by Pearl Jam off of Vitalogy was “Immortality,” a dark and somber track within the disc. Fans and media began to try to connect the dots between the lyrical content and the death of Kurt Cobain, who passed in the spring of 1994, but Vedder revealed that any association was not intended. “That was written while we were on tour in Atlanta. It’s not about Kurt,” he told the Los Angeles Times, adding, “Nothing on the album was written directly about Kurt, and I don’t feel like talking about him, because it [might be seen] as exploitation. But I think there might be some things in the lyrics that you could read into and maybe will answer some questions or help you understand the pressures on someone who is on a parallel train.”
Betterman Almost Released on Greenpeace
During a taping of VH1’s Storytellers, Gossard ribbed Vedder, stating, “Just think of how many songs he has hidden away.” O’Brien revealed to Spin that he felt the song was a hit, but that Vedder had wanted to give it away for a Greenpeace benefit record. He recalls, “I remember saying to the engineer, Nick [DiDia], ‘This is one of their best songs and they’re going to give it away! Can’t happen!’ And we went to record it and I’m not going to say we didn’t try very hard, but it didn’t end up sounding very good. I may have even sabotaged that version but I won’t admit to that. It took us to the next record, recording it two more times, before he became comfortable with it because it was such a blatantly great pop song.” Luckily the song stuck and has remained one of their most popular tracks.
The singer actually penned the song on a four-track in his apartment prior to joining Pearl Jam, but it didn’t become a song until the Vitalogy album. During a taping of VH1’s Storytellers, Gossard ribbed Vedder, stating, “Just think of how many songs he has hidden away.
Corduroy and the Brown Jacket
Vitalogy also yielded several other popular tracks within the band’s history. “Corduroy” dealt with the corporatization and marketing of the band’s sound, look and genre. “That song was based on a remake of the brown corduroy jacket that I wore. I think I got mine for 12 bucks, and it was being sold for like $650.
The ultimate one as far as being co-opted was that there was a guy on TV, predictably patterned, I guess, after the way I was looking those days, with long hair and an Army T-shirt. They put this new character on a soap opera, so there was a guy, more handsome than I, parading around on General Hospital. And the funny thing is, that guy was Ricky Martin,” said Vedder to AV Club.