"He's taught us a lot as a band about dignity and commitment and playing in the moment..."
--EV, inducting Neil Young into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1/12/95
Every Pearl Jam fan knows of the band's long-standing love affair with legendary rock genius Neil Young. But how did this start, how did they get to the point where they recorded an album together (and toured with Neil as his backing band)? In honor of the Bridge School Benefit shows this coming weekend, this month's Song X briefly revisits PJ's history with Young Neil....
"After Pearl Jam covered "Rockin' In The Free World" on the Lollapalooza 92 tour, Young invited the group to open for him during a stint in Europe..." [Spin, September 1995] Of course, it starts earlier than that, when PJ were invited to perform at their first Bridge School Benefit concert, on 11/1/92:
11/01/92 - Shoreline Amphitheatre: Mountain View, CA (Bridge School Benefit) (acoustic) [35m]
set: Footsteps, Jeremy, Black, Alive, Daughter, Angel, I Am a Patriot
notes: This benefit for the Bridge School, a program for communicative and educational development of severely physically challenged non-speaking children, also featured Neil Young, Elton John, James Taylor, Shawn Colvin and Sammy Hagar. PJ plays revised versions of 'Jeremy' and 'Black,' premiers 'Daughter' and performs Steven Van Zandt's 'I Am a Patriot.' 'Angel' is particularly sweet and has only been played live once before.
Then we move on to the European dates supporting Neil mentioned above:
- 06/27/93 - Oslo, Norway: Isle of Calf Festival
- 06/28/93 - Sjöhistoriska Museet: Stockholm, Sweden
- 06/30/93 - Ishallen: Helsinki, Finland
- 07/10/93 - Slane Castle: Slane, Ireland
- 07/11/93 - Finsbury Park: London, England
- 08/18/93 - Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) Grandstand: Toronto, Ontario
[See the 1993 Concert Chronology for more details of those shows]
Then, who could forget:
- 09/02/93 - MTV Video Awards: Neil joins PJ for "Rockin' In The Free World".
That awesome event was followed with three more dates:
- 09/04/93 - B.C. Place Stadium: Vancouver, BC
- 09/05/93 - Gorge Amphitheater: George, WA
- 09/06/93 - Portland Meadows Race Track: Portland, OR
[Again, see the 1993 Concert Chronology for more details]
In 1994, PJ were once again invited to appear at Bridge (now in its 8th year, and the first year it moved from one night to two) on 10/1/94 and 10/2/94. This is a particularly star-studded year, with Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers) joining the band on piano for "Footsteps" (night one) and "Black" (night two). "Let Me Sleep" is also played for the first and only time the first night, with "Bee Girl" making its second appearance ever night two. And, in a foreshadowing of things to come, Jack Irons accompanies the band on drums.
[1994 Concert Chronology and Video Guide]
January 95, the seeds of what would become Mirror Ball were sown:
- 1/12/95: Ed inducts Neil into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- 1/14-15/95: First Voters for Choice show. "Act Of Love" was allegedly written the night before, and debuts here. It's played with just the band and Neil, no Ed.
Inspired by the performance, Young suggested recording the song, and flew soon after to Seattle. He brought three more tunes as well: "Song X," another rumination on abortion that deals with the murder of Dr. David Gunn; "Peace and Love," an elegy for dead rock stars and dying rock dreams with some unfinished lyrics that Young asked Vedder to supply; and "Downtown," a romping hippie fantasy of the ultimate club show.... All four tracks were recorded in just two days, with Pearl Jam producer Brendan O'Brien orchestrating the sessions. [Spin, September 95]
- 1/26-27/95: first Mirror Ball recording session.
Jazzed by how well things were going, Young started writing furiously back at his ranch. 'I called back, and I said, "Well, you know, how about if we just get together for a day?'" He flew back up for what would be two more days of sessions that essentially completed the album. The first night, [5h note; this is wrong, it was actually the second night, see below] Young played with Pearl Jam at a special small concert held for the group's fan club. "The audience enjoyed the generation thing," he says. "We were rocking together, and it was real. Not like, here's this guy we think this cool or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame jam. When I play with them, they feel like my band."
- 2/5-2/6 : Moore Theater fan club only shows ("Piss Bottle Men") Neil joins PJ on 2/6 for "Act Of Love" encore
- 2/7 & 2/10/95 - Final MB recording sessions
- 6/7/95: MB release party, invite-only, held at Moe's (now ARO.space), Seattle. Ed is in the audience except for his vocals on "Peace and Love"
- 6/24/95 - The now-infamous Polo Grounds, San Francisco
- 6/26/95: 1995 tour canceled
- A few days later: Milwaukee (Summerfest) and Chicago (Soldier Field) are rescheduled
- 6/27/95 - Mirror Ball released
- 7/9/95: Summerfest, second night: PJ opens with (a very rare) "Act Of Love"
- Act of Love, from 8/9/95 at Marcus Amphitheatre, Milwaukee, WI [mp3 - 4,712K]
"Act of Love" has continued to make very rare appearances in Pearl Jam's setlist, and it's a shame: it's a great, underrated way rockin', bouncy song, with a total Stone/Jeff groove. It was last performed on 9/19/98, appropriately before the second Voters For Choice show.
Mirror Ball continues to be an album that grows on us, even four years later. It's one of our favorites, and with the forthcoming Bridge shows, and the substantial role Neil Young has had in Pearl Jam's history, thought it was fun and appropriate to revisit it briefly now!
footnote one: why aren't pj listed on mirror ball as 'pearl jam'?
This was due to legal bullshit from their record company (who obviously weren't very happy that PJ weren't working on their own album, but instead were running into the studio to record with Neil, an artist on a competing label!). Some of thee individual musicians are listed in the credits, but it really is a "Neil Young" album (since he wrote the all the songs). There was a fairly substantiated rumor circulating at the time that Sony/Epic's 'payback' for 'letting' PJ play on the record was that they would have the rights to release a live "Neil Jam" album from one of the European dates (see below). Obviously, this never happened; however, there are many excellent recordings of these shows available, should one choose to go looking for them.
footnote two: neil jam europe 95
Please note that this was Neil, with Stone, Mike, Jeff and Jack as his backing band. No Pearl Jam material was performed, nor was Ed present.
- 08/12/1995 - Sjöhistoriska Muséet: Stockholm, Sweden
- 08/13/1995 - Heyday 2: Roskilde, Denmark
- 08/14/1995 - Waldbuehne: Berlin, Germany
- 08/16/1995 - Czechoslavakia Sports Palace: Prague, Czech Republic
- 08/18/1995 - Residenplatz: Salzburg, Austria
- 08/19/1995 - Gampel Festival: Hasselt, Switzerland
- 08/22/1995 - Sultan's Pool: Jerusalem, Israel
- 08/23/1995 - The Royal Amphitheater: Caesaria, Israel
- 08/25/1995 - Pucklepop Festival: Pucklepop Festival, Belgium
- 08/26/1995 - Royal Dublin Showgrounds: Dublin, Ireland
- 08/27/1995 - Reading Festival: Reading, Great Britain