Pearl Jam Vitalogy
An interesting departure from Ten and Versus, Pearl Jam's third studio album unpackages the straightfoward rock song approach of the former two albums for a more nuanced collection of aggressive punk songs, heartfelt ballads, and genuine experimentation. On the flipside, Vitalogy features Pearl Jam's most obvious radio friendly hit in Better Man.
Pearl Jam's Vitalogy represents a change in the band's sound
Anyway, I remember sitting outside of a Newbury Comics in the Fall of 1994, listening to WAAF do a live first week broadcast, playing all of the tracks from the album and discussing it's significance. Pearl Jam's third album, Vitalogy, was written, recorded, and released at a time when the band wanted to get their music out to the masses at a rate of an album every two years. It's amazing that Vitalogy even got made, considering that Pearl Jam in and out of the United States court system for their Ticketmaster legal battle.
I'd like to imagine that Pearl Jam was finally facing their fame when creating Vitalogy. Guitar legend Mike McCready was staring down some substance abuse issues. Stone was thinking of leaving. Drummer Dave Abbruzzese was unknowingly on his way out of the band. Ament was making art. And Eddie Vedder was acquiring a majority stake of control in the band.
You have to wonder if the good songs were an extension of writing for the prior albums, sound checks, and random jam sessions from 1990-1993, and that the others on Vitalogy were the result of a label-mandated album release date. That would be an easy explanation for the inclusion of Pry, To, Bugs, Aye Davanita, and Hey Foxymophandlemama on Vitalogy.
Producer Brendan O'Brien is to Pearl Jam what Mutt Lange is to Def Leppard. Might be partly responsible for their sound. Hard to Imagine was left off the album because it didn't fit, which is interesting, because it's hard to place the song among their catalog.
Back to Dave Abbruzzese, he didn't finish the year with the band. Jack Irons, who would appear on Pearl Jam's 4th studio release, No Code, took over on the kit. Irons, who helped found the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was a friend of Ed's (the guy responsible for helping him get into the band), and was called in to finish off Vitalogy, which he did on the final track, Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me.
Beyond being one of the best rock albums of 1994, Vitalogy is the second of Pearl Jam's three #1 acheiving albums on the Billboard Top 200, along with VS and No Code. Ten and Yield each made it to #2, respectively.
Speaking of 1994, Pearl Jam also had to cope with the death of Kurt Cobain.
Corduroy from Pearl Jam Let's Play Two
From their baseball stadium shows.
The Vitalogy booklet
The Vitalogy CD booklet was literally a work of art. It contained writings about life, death, health, and well-being.
Per Eric Weisbard of Spin, Bassist Jeff Ament said, "We tried really hard, to make it like a book, kind of tipped it so it opened horizontally, which pissed off record stores: they had to put it in sideways."
Plus, the Vitalogy booklet added $0.50 per album.
According to bassist Jeff Ament in a Spin interview, "Vitalogy, Ed brought in that book, and we said man that would make a great album cover. We tried really hard, to make it like a book, kind of tipped it so it opened horizontally, which pissed off record stores: they had to put it in sideways. With the packaging, from Vs. on, we were trying to create something a bit more unique. It ended up costing us 50 cents or something, which we were so headstrong at the time on. I don't know if I'd do that again: give the record company 50 cents of my $1.50! ANTHONY: Eddie had been carrying this book around with him; a self-help book from the '20s. What to do to be healthier. He loved this. We thought great: public domain book. No problem. We sent it down to our legal department and it turns out there are two or three different versions of Vitalogy, one of which was copyrighted. Now we had, in this war room, the two different Vitalogy versions printed out, the portions that the band wanted to use versus the two original texts. Lawyers reading over all three versions."
Nothing will ever be Ten. (Almost) nothing will ever be Vs.
Vitalogy would easily be anyone else's best album. For PJ, it sits alone in third place ... which is really astounding considering it has a few throwaway tracks.
But hey, they survived long enough to make it to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Here is the Betterman video from the induction ceremony.
Vitalogy song notes
Better Man, Immortality, Nothingman, and Corduroy are the stars of Pearl Jam's third album - Vitalogy. Last Exit and Whipping are underrated.
Awesome, non-standard rhythm rock song. The opening drum beat falsely suggests this album is a continuation of the tight-knit, succinct Versus, an album that pounds from beginning to end, excepting the song: Elderly Woman Behind A Counter In A Small Town - which is some Tikki Tikki Tembo naming for ya.
If not for Whipping, Last Exit would be the unsung hero of the album. I don't use the word Kudos, but if I did, which I won't, the song doesn't have enough of the fictional non-sense that is kudos. Damn, I used kudos.
Also, anyone know what the actual rhythm is? It's some fraction that would make for an amazing day at the plate, if I recall correctly.
Spin the Black Circle
PJ goes punk for Spin the Black Circle. Stone and Mike get to lose it in the best way possible. Has any song ever described putting on a record with such vibrance before?
The outro devolves into a vortex of notes, sounds, and beats, leaving Vedder breathless and spent.
As for riffs found on Pearl Jam albums, we are starting to see expansion. The blues-driven anthem rock of Ten and the tight, power packed punch of VS is now giving way to punk rock with StBC.
Not for You
Lookin' at you, Ten lover ... If you thought you were getting arena rock anthems like Alive and Evenflow, then this album is Not for You.
Eddie met Uncle Neil (Young) and Pearl Jam records were never the same. Moving in order from Ten to Versus to Vitalogy and including all of the B-Sides, it is here at Track 3 that we hear the beginnings of a change in Pearl Jam's direction.
They will release more stadium rock songs, like Yield's Given to Fly, but they will never return to the Ten/Vs. magic.
Is it sad? Sure.
But that's life, things grow and change over time. Their live shows would remain dominant for years.
Unsettling and a bit haunting. I've always swayed back and forth on whether or not Tremor Christ was a really good tune, or just some filler that was slightly better than Bugs.
LITTLE SECRETS TREMORS!!!
One of their best slow songs and a tour de force in songwriting. Lyrically superior to so many bands who specialized in slow, emotional tunes. Nothingman really nails the crumbling agony of a breakup. More still, the finality of it all.
"Caught a bolt of lightning, cursed the day he let it go"
Love the start of verse two with the emphasis on, "She once believed!"
Vitalogy's most underrated track. Whipping is relentless in it's quest for aural dominance. That's a verbose way of saying Whipping is hard rock.
If you actually listen to the lyrics, I think they beat Ironic (Alanis) to the punch with the point and counterpoint of the in-song actions.
- Don't need a helmet, got a hard hard head
- Don't need a raincoat, I'm already wet
- Don't need a push, when I'm being shoved
Whipping is the good advice you just didn't take.
Killer intro. Really driving home that C note. Arguably the best song on Vitalogy. Frank's favorite PJ song.
Corduroy is very cohesive, despite having several parts.
The buildup to "Everything has changed! Absolutely nothings changed!" is charged.
Remolding the intro into the outro is a great choice.
Is that an accordion?
Just under 3 minutes of Eddie mumbling about bugs.
According to Rolling Stone, Bugs was "Inspired by Vedder’s recent bout with poison oak, “Bugs” could have been a lost track on a Tom Waits album: Strapping on an accordion, Vedder sings in an increasingly freaked-out voice about insects crawling over him. “We just decided to do something that was fun to listen to and wasn’t bombastic and wasn’t everything that the band had become,” Vedder said."
Love the whip.
A lot of Pearl Jam songs thematically sound like Acts in a play. Satan's Bed always felt like the precursor to Do The Evolution. Lyrically, they may even be connected in a way. Guitarist Stone Gossard has a super fun riff to play on track 10.
Staple of PJ live sets, and perhaps the biggest hit the band ever wrote. And no, the awkward rise Last Kiss to the top of the Billboard charts doesn't count.
A Vedder penned (Bad Radio), straightforward pop rock song with a gentle acoustic intro, Better Man is Pearl Jam's version of the Fenway Pink Hat phenomenon.
Lead guitarist Mike McCready usually lets loose on Better Man live just to keep interested.
Played in the warmup at the Fenway Away Shows (2018).
If Santana came from the Pacific Northwest, he might have written Aye Davanita. One part impromptu jam, one part campfire get down, one part grunge jazz club. Aye Davanita sure is ... something.
You could probably swap Aye Davanita for No Code's I'm Open and no one would notice.
A phenomenal song. Immortality never breaks character, delivering a much needed burst of authenticity after a few out-there tracks.
The acoustic blues solo is always a strong choice. Unplugged is something that PJ does well.
The song never breaks throttles up to 11, which is a good thing. It stays in its lane from start to finish.
Interestingly enough, Immortality was recorded in Atlanta, far from their Seattle stomping grounds, and far from the Seattle recording studio where a good amount of material had already been recorded, not to mention New Orleans, Louisiana.
Played at Boston 2018 Fenway Night #2. An OG version of the song that is lyrically different and supposedly only played in Boston 20+ years prior.
Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me (Stupid Mop)
What. Is. This!?
Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me is all over the globe.
More Vitalogy Details