Friday, October 22, 2010

Watch Pearl Jam’s first show: 20 yrs ago today

October 22, 1990. Seattle. The Off-Ramp Café.

20 years ago, today: Pearl Jam played their first show at this small club, setting the stage for a musical joyride for fans around the world.

Pearl Jam was formed from the ashes of another legendary Seattle act, Mother Love Bone. When lead singer Andy Wood died of a heroin overdose just days before the band’s debut, “Apple,” could be released, it left quite an aftershock in the city.

MLB members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament took a short break from music, and then worked on writing some new tunes; they brought in Mike McCready to join them.

Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell had shared an apartment with Wood and connected with Gossard, Ament and McCready…as well as Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron…to write and record some songs as a tribute to his late friend.

While working on the songs for what would eventually become known as Temple Of The Dog, Stone and Jeff recorded some instrumental tracks with Cameron on drums.

Gossard made a second tape of the best songs from the sessions, and sent it around to various contacts in the hope of finding a singer and a drummer. One of these contacts was Jack Irons, who passed on the drum gig himself, but gave the tape on to a pal of his, Eddie Vedder.

At the time, Vedder was doing dual-duty with two gigs in San Diego: one, at a gas station; the other, as singer in “Bad Radio.” Legend has it that Vedder listened to the demos while working the night shift at the gas station, and then went surfing the next morning.

While surfing, Vedder was inspired to create words and melodies to the songs he’d heard, and returned home to capture things on tape. Singing his ideas over the instrumentals, Vedder recorded his vocals to one cassette player while using another to play the tracks themselves. (Live mixing with cassettes in 1990 – who knew?)

Vedder then sent his tape to Ament back in Seattle, who was blown away by the results.

October 7, 1990: Vedder flies to Seattle, connects with the guys at their rehearsal space, and the magic begins to happen. Songs are created, shaped, re-shaped and put down on tape – labeled “First Week Rehearsal Demo.”
October 13, 1990: “First Week Rehearsal Demo”

Even Flow
Improv (Yellow Ledbetter)

(also included some covers and other jams)
The band is so psyched that they want to take their new music out of the rehearsal space and to the people. They book a last-minute show at The Off Ramp Café.

At the time, they were billed as “Mookie Blaylock,” after one of their favorite NBA players (he was with the New Jersey Nets at the time); they’d eventually change it to Pearl Jam, but named their debut “Ten” in honor of Blaylock’s jersey number.

Legend has it that the doors to the Off Ramp were opened even as the band was doing soundcheck.

Fortunately, someone filmed the show.

It’s been reported that the man behind the camera has commented on a few of these videos. Here's what he said about the show: "This was months before they took on the Mookie Blaylock moniker. I labeled the video tape as: 'Stone Gossard/Jeff Ament Post Love Bone Project - Off Ramp Cafe, Seattle WA 10/22/90' ... it was apparent during the show that this new "project" of theirs was certainly something special - during one of the songs you can hear me and Mike (the guy who's band played after them) talking and saying something to the effect of 'this is f**king beautiful...!'"

The video quality is definitely 1990: poor club lighting (for video, anyway) makes things look darker than they may have been in the room, but the audio quality is actually pretty solid.

Just a heads up for PJ fans: check out our 2-part "Pearl Jam rocks The Bridge School" special this weekend at hennemusic.

Now, let's hit the time machine and go back to 1990 for the first-ever Pearl Jam gig…