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March 25, 2020 45 mins

At the height of Nirvana’s success in the early ‘90s, Kurt Cobain slammed fellow Seattle grunge gods Pearl Jam in the press, labeling them bandwagon-jumping “corporate puppets” who aped his band’s style in the vapid pursuit of fame. Eddie Vedder, a great admirer of Kurt’s, never retaliated publicly, but their relationship grew strained as Pearl Jam’s popularity eclipsed Nirvana’s. Before the two could settle their differences, Cobain took his own life — leaving Eddie to simultaneously mourn the loss of his hero and make sense of their complex, adversarial bond.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Rivals as a production of I Heart Radio. All Right,
Welcome to Rivals, the show about music rivalries, feuds, beefs,

(00:20):
simmering tensions between pop stars, flannel grunge, at least in
this episode. My name is Stephen Hydn. My name is
Jordan run Tak. Thank you for listening to this episode.
This episode means a lot to me because I'm a
man in my early forties. There was a time in
my life where I listened to a lot of grunge
music when I was a youth, and you were like

(00:41):
a fetus. I think at this time I was trying
to master solid foods. Yes, I in the early nineties,
I would have been yet three or four. We're gonna
be talking about Nirvana versus Pearl Jam. This was like
the first rivalry in my life that I really really
cared about. And this doesn't register for you at all. No.
I mean, by the time, you know, in mid delate nineties,
when I was kind of becoming aware of popular music,

(01:03):
the battle was kind of over. Kurt had already died,
and Nirvana were obviously iconic, but they were static. They
were kind of locked in time and sort of exempt
from any kind of rivalry. They just that they were.
They were Nirvana period. They had already kind of entered
like Bob Marley, John Lennon, Jimmy Hendrix, Janice Choplin, Cannon
and as one of these millennials that I keep reading

(01:24):
about in the media. What is your feeling about Pearl
Jam Pearl Jam, I mean less strong, I mean that
they were a good band that kind of carried the
torch on from Nirvana in the whole Seattle scene. A
good band, a good band. Well, my first impressions of

(01:44):
Nirvana Pearl Jam, I know, I just stand up. I
thought you were going to flip the table. But my
first charitable of you, by the way to call Pearl
Jam good band were good? My no, I thought you
meant at the time. At the time, my first impresses
them were the Last Kiss. I just thought it was,
which I know, which is again completely excused my entire

(02:05):
take on Jimmy Mythology's an incredible album, you know versus
ten I mean good luck, just that came away. You
see my cane shaking at the mention of Last Kiss.
My al on right now, I would get off my
dentures just felt clean out of my mouth. At that. Well, well, Sunny,
take a seat on my lap, because we're gonna teach me.
Teach me in a little grunge history for you. Let's

(02:27):
dive into this mess. Okay, Nirvana, we'll start with them.
They form seven, put out their first record in nine
It's called Bleach. It's on the Subpop label sub Pop,
of course, the label most associated with the early kind
of days of grunge in music in Seattle. And then

(02:50):
the year after that they hire a guy named Dave Girl.
Have you heard of Dave Girl? Dave Girl, you have,
I've never interview Dave I'd love to be interview Dave
Girls sometimes to teach you about that. The band that
he was there before the Food Fighters, was Nirvana. He
joins Nirvana and they become the sort of Nirvana of
myth at that point, and he joins in time for

(03:13):
the recording of never Mind, which of course comes out
in September, proceeds to take over the culture a decent.
It's pretty solid kind of you know I record. Yeah,
that becomes sort of a mythic album. It seems like
in the moment like it's one of those records that
people are talking about. There's a symbolic thing that happens

(03:35):
at the end of nineteen one, where Michael Jackson's Dangerous
is like the number one record in the country, and
then it's supplanted by Nevermind. And again that's like this
symbolic passing up the torch moment from sort of imperialist
pop music, dominant forces of mainstream culture being overthrown by
this upstart underground band that is transforming the culture. And

(04:00):
I don't want to sound like some gen x documentary here,
because this is a cliche of documentaries, but genuinely a
transformative record, a record that ushers in all these other bands,
all this underground culture, and really the nineties as we
know them kind of begin at that moment. Ask your
question as somebody I I don't remember the first time
I heard never Mind. It's just one of those things

(04:20):
that just always sort of to me. I was gonna
ask you, what was that like for you? I remember
hearing smells like teen spirit. I was at home. I
was at home for lunch from eighth grade went home
for lunch. I went home. I lived in a small town.
You could you could go home for lunch. I was
also a nerd, so I had no one to sit
with that lunch. So I was in the target audience
for a record like never Mind, and I turned on

(04:41):
the TV and there's this video. It's like a PEP
rally at a school, but it's like a Pep rally
from hell. And you have this blonde guy mumbling lyrics
that you can't understand, and then he hits the chorus
and he's screaming and like the drummer's going crazy, and
I remember thinking, like this was the novelty song, Like
it seemed like such a weird song to see on

(05:03):
MTV because at that point, like the only rock bands
you saw on MTV were like Guns and Roses, Motley, Crewe, Poison,
all these guys from Los Angeles who looked amazing, and
you know, we're getting chicks and like doing drugs and
like that's what a rock star was, and like these
guys clearly were not rock stars. They were losers, like
they were outsiders, and there was like, man, I don't

(05:28):
know if I liked this song, but I can't take
my eyes off of it. And then, you know, I
don't know how many times it took me for me
to play that video because it was one of those
videos that just seemed to be everywhere instantly, and I
was too young to know about Bleach, but Bleach I
kind of primed the pump I think in the underground
for never Mind and never Mind just kind of blew

(05:48):
them up. And I think people that were in the
know knew about Nirvana. But I lived in a small
town in the Midwest, not really any independent record stores,
no real kind of college radio to speak of, So
I was like a sheltered kid, and this was like
kicking the door down to a world that I had
no idea existed. And it's really hard to talk about
this stuff again without sounding like the most generic gen

(06:11):
X documentary ever, because all these things are now cliches.
You know, we've heard this spield that I'm giving right
now a million times, and there's probably people listening to
this gone yeah, yeah, yeah, Like okay, I've heard this
from you and other graying beard dudes many many times.
All I can say is that I'm telling the truth,
Like that's what it felt like. It was amazing. I

(06:32):
was the perfect age for that to happen, and I'm
really glad I was. I was fourteen. I had just
turned fourteen when that record comes out. So anyway, that's Nirvana,
big big band. Let's go to the Pearl Jam. Side
Pearl Jam, they have their roots in a band called
Mother Love Bone. Okay. Mother Love Bone is this sort
of glamy rock band that was in Seattle that was

(06:54):
like sort of a thinking man's hair metal band essentially,
like sort of like an alternative rock hair metal band
in the same way that like Jane's Addiction was at
that time. And the core of that band, the musical core,
is a guitarist named Stone Gossard and a bass player
called Jeff Ament or maybe it's a meant. I've never
been able to pronounce his name correctly, but it's something

(07:15):
like that. The lead singer of Mother Love Bone passes away,
Andrew Wood, of a drug overdose. So Stone and Jeff
are like screwed. They think their chances to have a
big music career over but they continue to write songs together.
They hook up with this guy that they know locally

(07:35):
named Mike McCready, who wears many blouses and and do rags,
kind of looks like Stevie Rayvan at that time, kind
of a bluesy type guitar player, or maybe like Richie
Sambora little Sambora asked Sambora, and you know, they started
making music together and they're looking for a lead singer,
and they hear about this guy who lives in San Diego,
is a surfer. I think he was working at a

(07:57):
gas station at the time. Name is Edward Vetter. He
gets up demo tape of this. I think Jack Irons,
the drummer from Red had Chili Peppers and later joined
Pearl Jam later on. I think he was the one
that kind of hooked up the Pearl Jam guys with
Eddie Vetter. But he records vocals on this demo tape
and it turns out to be these iconic songs on
that tape, songs like a live other songs that are

(08:19):
classics that ended up on an album called Ten, which
came out in August, couple of weeks before never Mind,
And unlike never Mind, Ten doesn't immediately take over the culture.
Kind of takes a while for that to take hold.
But by the end of two Pearl Jam is starting
to kind of overshadow Nirvana at that point. And I

(08:43):
know at my school around this time, because you know,
Pearl Jam they had Ten, which ended up just being
a g enormous record. Do you Know ten? You Know ten?
And the Temple of the Dog, which also comes out
at this time. The supergroup with Chris Cornell Alright p
and some other guys from Sound Garden Matt Cameron who
later joined Pearl Jam as well as the Pearl Jam

(09:06):
guys is a supergroup record. So that's a big record.
Pearl Jam ten is a big record. The singles soundtrack
the movie singles the Cameron Crow movie that comes out
in ninety two. That's a big hit. So Pearl Jams everywhere.
And Kurt Cobain of course notices this. And like Pearl Jam,
unlike Nirvana, they didn't have roots in the eighties underground scene.

(09:26):
They were a new band. They were kind of an
upstart band. People are starting to ask Kurt Cobain about
Pearl Jam and he starts giving interviews, and he was
not very charitable to Pearl Jam. For instance, there's an
interview in Chicago Tribune from two where he says, I
find it offensive to be lumped in with bands like
Pearl Jam. Then he said that, gives another interview where
he calls Pearl Jam quote a corporate alternative and cock

(09:49):
rock fusion, I'll say that again, a corporate alternative and
cock rock fusion, which sounds like a lost Nirvana album title.
Kind of could be, could definitely be. And then there's
an another interview in Rolling Stone where Kurt Cobain accuses
Pearl Jam of jumping on the alternative bandwagon. This is
all happening in It's in the wake Up never Mind.

(10:10):
Never Mind is still selling a lot of records. Nirvana
is still a really big band, but the sort of
momentum from all these things happening with Pearl Jam are
really kind of getting big. And there's even like a
quote from Kurt Cobain's own journals, like Cobain, even when
he's not talking to a reporter, he's still thinking about
Pearl Jam, thinking about how much I hate Pearl Jam.
And he writes in his journals that he wishes that

(10:31):
Nirvana could be erased from their association with Pearl Jam.
And that's pretty damning. I mean. There have been theories,
especially one from Kurt Cobain's biographer, Charles Cross wrote Heavier
than Heaven, where that he started that Kurt started talking
about the Pearl Jam rivalry and just started trashing them
interviews to basically throw journalists off the scent of asking
him about his own personal problems. This journals are starting

(10:53):
ask him about, you know, drug addiction at that point
and and things like that, and basically to throw red
meat at a rap a dogs chasing them, which I
gotta say, if that was the strategy didn't work because
people were still doing that. There was the famous Lynn
Hirshberg profile and Vanity Fair that was more targeted to corner,
but it was definitely some residual damage was done to

(11:16):
Kurt Cobain in that we're gonna take a quick break
to get a word from our sponsor before we get
to more rivals. This is all building up to the
Video Music Awards, which I had to say, Yeah, I

(11:38):
think when you think about great events in American history,
obviously the moon landing, the moon landing at the Senate
Decoration of Independence, and then you have the MTV Video
of Music Awards, just an incredible assemblage of nineties rock stars.
You know, you've got guns and roses. Is that when
the fight happened with with guns and roses? Or was that? Yeah,
that's a different story. At some point, we're gonna talk

(12:00):
about guns and Roses in Nirvana because very busy m
is for Nirvana exactly because you had, because you'd Axel
and Kurt almost coming to blows backstage, Chris and his
base coming to blows. I believe too that the one
exactly Chris novoselica hit in the face while they played
um in Bloom. But no, while they played Lithium on stage.
You had you had Axel, you had your guns and

(12:22):
Roses and Nelton John playing November Rain of per fourmants
that lasted approximately fourteen hours exactly. But keep it going forever,
I mean not long. You could never make that song
long enough as far as I'm concerned. Just a beautiful
piece of music. Um, you have end Vogue. There, you
have Brian Adams, you have you two coming in via

(12:43):
satellite and like Dana Carvey as Garth Algar playing drums
on even better than the real thing. And if you
remember that, I don't remember that. Wow, I'm telling you
just the greatest hits album of like awesome award show
performances on this show, but maybe the most important event
other than the Axle Kurt fight, which wasn't broadcast. I
believe that what you're about to say this was a

(13:06):
broadcast either. No, there was a moment that happened backstage
while Eric Clapton is on stage playing Tears in Heaven,
the lovely tribute that he wrote for his for his
late son, and Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vetter, and I
believe Courtney love our backstage, and I think it's Courtney
love like pushes Kurt and Eddie together and they start dancing,

(13:29):
like slow dancing with each other, which I feel like
they're probably taking the piss out of Eric class to
dancing here. I don't think they genuinely felt moved by
this song, which is it's a lovely song. I'm not
gonna diss Deers in Heaven. I feel a lot of
people dissed Tears in Heaven. You're gonna be silent, It's okay,
you don't need to. I'll go on this line by myself. Well,
I think it's a great sign, a lovely soft rock favorite.

(13:53):
They're dancing to it, and this is a moment that
actually ends up being immortalized. I feel like someone who's
maybe shooting on video or something on a cam qorder
and the general public doesn't actually see this moment until
twenty years later in the Cameron Crow documentary Pearl Jam twenty,
which came out in two thousand and eleven, and this
clip was kind of like the way that they sold

(14:14):
this documentary. It was kind of like one of the
most famous because they've never been this holy Grail moment
that fans had talked about, and at least Pearl Jam
fans had talked about exactly. And you know, when this
movie came out, it was presented as you know, this
this moment, this scene was presented as they were Okay, yeah,
this is like we're this is like gorbat Choff and Reagan,

(14:36):
you know, shaking hands in the eighties at the summit,
you know, like we're signing a nuclear disarmament deal, but
for rock stars, you know, like we have come together.
And there's this part in the movie where Eddie Betters
talking about this and he's talking about how he's imagining
like if Kirko Bank were still alive, and he's like,
I think he would have said he did. Okay, man,
it's this beautiful fantasy around a campfire, a beautiful moment

(15:00):
it and it's well. Eddie Vetter did another interview right
after Kurt Cobain died with Spin where we talked about
wait no, wait, the campfire the documentary isn't the documentary
because there's another story. Right after Kurt Cobain died that
that Eddie Better talked to Craig Marks of Spin where
he said, like around and play some stupid songs. I
want to hang out. I wish we could just hung out, man,

(15:21):
and like you know, jammed and like, you know, talked
about how hard it is, you know, this this rock
star life, and then yeah, and the Pearl Jam twenty
talks about like, man, like whenever I have a campfire,
would be nice if Kurt Cobain were here and we
could just talk about everything. But if you did see me,
you'd say you're okay, You're okay, kid. Which is interesting
because because as they're slow dancing, Kurt tells him something,

(15:45):
Eddie something, Why does he tell exactly? And you know, again, like, man,
that's such a great scene in Pearl Jam twenty, by
the way, and like I don't doubt Eddie Vetter's sincerity.
I think he like because the thing about this, this
whole thing, you know, I think one thing that's been
consistent so far is that there's nothing coming from Pearl
Jam side. Eddie Vetter never Eddie. Eddie Vetterer never said

(16:06):
Kurt Cobain is a punk ass, you know, poser man,
like tell him to get off my ship. Like he
never said that. It was always Kurt Cobain dissing Pearl Jam,
and Pearl Jam never said anything about Nirvana ever, and
after Kurt Cobain died, whenever Eddie Vetter would talk about
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, it was always very respectful and

(16:29):
he loved and I think he genuinely loved Nirvana. I
think he respected them. I think he recognized that. Like
if not for Nirvana's success, I don't know if we
would have had the career that we did in Pearl Jam.
Like they said that, that's true, always giving it up,
given dap dapping up Kurt Cobain whenever he can, but
also kind of creating this narrative that, yeah, that that

(16:52):
the rivalry between Pearl Jam and Nirvana wasn't genuine, that
was press create That's what they all said, and laid
all this revisionism about creative but if it were real,
they made up at the MTV Video Music Awards and
it was all good. However, this idea of this narrative
that's very cozy and warm and I wish we're true,
it falls apart when you actually read Kirk Cobain's own words, like,

(17:15):
that's the problem with this theory. As their arms were
around each other dancing the tears in heaven, yes, exactly,
so it looked in the Eddie's eyes. Yeah, well yeah,
because Kirk Cobain, he doesn't interview with Michael Azarrod. And
I don't know if this was Income As You Are,
which is the book that Azarrod wrote about Nirvana and
ninety three, or if this came out later, but he
talked about this slow dance with Eddie Vedder and this

(17:36):
is what he said. Quote. I stared into his eyes
and I told him that I thought he was a
respectable human. So far, so good, A bare minimum compliment,
but you know your compliment. You're respectable person with human
blood cells and hair and car based life, your carbon
based life form. And I did tell him straight out

(17:56):
that I still think his band sucks. Left turned while
you're while you're slow dancing kind of a weird, you know.
I don't know if they were still dancing at this point,
or if they kind of stopped and I said, after
watching you perform, I realized that you are a person
that does have some passion. It's not a fully contrived thing.

(18:17):
There are plenty of other more evil people out in
the world than him, and he doesn't deserve to be
scapegoated like that end quote. So you know, let's review
he's saying, basically, uh, your band sucks, but you know
it's it's cute that you care. Yeah, it's cute that
you care, and it's not totally bullshit. You know, it's
like bullshit. You know, it's like contrived. And look, there

(18:40):
are way worse people than you in the world, Like,
you know, you can do way worse than you. So
you know, I'm gonna lay off of you. I'm gonna
leave you alone. Yeah, your band sucks, but you know
it's okay, You're you're an okay dude. But then he
didn't leave, he didn't lay off a pearl jam after that. Well,
he always been trying to be diplomatic after that, but

(19:01):
always try. I know, it's like, you know, I don't
know how hard he actually was trying, but he kind
of puts up the appearance that he's trying to be
nice to Pearl Jam, but you know he Kirk Cobain
does another interview with Rolling Stone, talking to David Frick
for a cover story that runs three months before Kurt
Cobain died, so this would have been like early and

(19:24):
he says, quote, one of the things I've learned is
that slagging off people just doesn't do me any good.
I hadn't met Eddie at the time. It was my fault.
I should have been slagging off the record company instead
of them. They were marketed, not probably against their will,
but without them realizing that they were being pushed into
the grunge bandwagon. So again, like, I don't blame Eddie

(19:46):
Better for Pearl Jam being terrible. I blame the record
company for Pearl Jam being terrible. And uh, you know,
they probably didn't realize that they were being marketed as
a sellout band. I mean, they were, obviously, but it's
not their fault. That's a translation there, the slightly less
charitable translation. And then Frick asks him in the follow
up question like if he feels any empathy for Pearl Jam,

(20:09):
and Cobain says, quote, yeah, I do. Now he could
have stopped there. I could have just said, yeah, I do, right,
that sounds pretty good. Hey, Kurt, do you feel empathy
for Pearl Jam? Yeah? Next question, but no, he he
can't resist getting one last job, and he says, except,
I'm pretty sure that they didn't go out of their

(20:30):
way to challenge their audience as much as we did
with this record. They're a safe rock band. There are
pleasant rock band that everyone likes. God, I've had much
better quotes in my head about this. I love that moment.
I love that thing in the moment where he's like, oh,
I can see what this is gonna look, I can thread.
It's like I've already I'm screwed already, one of the

(20:51):
better backwards and backhanded compliments, and it's like, why did
I just stop at yeah I do? Why did I
have to add this? This is just going to create
more headaches for me. So the record at the time,
by the way, in Utero. Yeah exactly, so yeah ninety three. Uh.
In September of eighty three, Nirvana put out in Utero,
which are not to be their final studio record. I

(21:12):
think one of the great albums of the nineties, one
of the greatest albums of all time. I think that's
just such a classic masterpiece record. That record comes out,
it sells about a hundred eighty thousand copies in its
first week, which is really impressive when you consider the
fact that Kurt Cobain insisted on putting fetuses all over
the back cover of that record. So Walmart and and

(21:36):
and Kmart, I believe, like refused to sell the record.
So two of the biggest retailers in America weren't selling
in Utero, and you feel like if they had been
selling it, maybe that album sells two or three times
more records. I mean, like there's a lot of places
in the country we can't even buy it at that point.

(21:57):
About a month later, Pearl Jam puts out Versus. That
album sells about nine fifty thou copies in about five days, so,
which is a record years. So I think that's about
five times more than when in Utero is sold. So
by ninety three, it is clear they're getting pummeled, and

(22:20):
without question, I think at that point Pearl Jam is
the biggest rock band in the world and one of
the biggest rock bands ever. For about two or three years,
because Vitology, which came after Versus, I think sold about
the same number of copies in its first week, you know,
about nine hundred thousand copies. And these are numbers by
the way that um, it's kind of impossible to even

(22:44):
conceive of a rock band being that successful in a
modern context. I mean, I think in terms of like
rock bands, I mean, maybe you could talk about Led
Zeppelin in the seventies. Certainly the Beatles sold prodigious months
of records. A little bit later on Limp Biscuit actually
was also just the sales Jugger not on like chocolate

(23:08):
chocolate starfish in the hot dog flavored water. I think
sold like a million copies in one week, which I
think is still a record for a rock band. So
I'm glad that Olympus gets placed in the history books.
I was gonna say, the great the great rock bands,
you know, Zeppelin, Pearl Jam and Olympiscuit, that's the lineage.
But just absurdly successful at that point. And you know,
it's interesting, what what's this funny O. Kurt, who you

(23:32):
know was always portrayed a sort of anti fame, you know,
turning his back on it, was very aware of this
and we're aware of the sales subscripancy and was apparently
very annoyed by even Danny Goldberg's book, Uh, Serving the
Servants came out earliest year. He says, he, you know,
we got a call from Kurt saying, like, why aren't
our videos being played in mtvs? Do we piss someone
off there? What's what's going on? And uh when Pearl

(23:54):
Jam got the cover of Time magazine, Uh, Coldey Level
later said that he was really annoyed by that, like,
really really pissed him off too. So I mean, despite
all of the you know, the views of him really
not you know, caring about playing the fame game, I mean,
this definitely did get to him. And whether or not
it was just because he was so annoyed by by
Pearl Jam. Uh, you know, if it was somebody else,

(24:16):
you know, maybe he wouldn't have I mean, I can't
imagine a scenario like where he would have liked any
band that was capable of selling that many records. I mean,
you're right to me, that's like one of the most
fascinating contradictions about Kurt Copain because he is looked at
and with justification as being this sort of anti rock
start a lot of ways that he didn't want to

(24:39):
be looked at in the same way that we look
at other rock stars. At the same time, he was
a student of rock stardom. He understood like what made
people popular, and he steered Nirvana very consciously in a
direction that sort of enabled them to become as successful
as they did. I mean, if they wanted to just

(25:00):
being underground bandy, they first of all, you don't hire
Dave Growl like a drummer of that caliber. You keep
hiring the kinds of drummers that they had before, which
were you know, very fine kind of garage rock band guys,
but like, we're not gonna hit with the kind of
precision and like arena rock power of a Dave Growl.
And then you don't like hire Butch Vig to make

(25:21):
a record as just beautiful soundings never Mind, like just
the perfect guitar, a perfect car stereo FM rock record.
And clearly, you know, Cobain had some misgivings about never
Mind in the aftermath, I mean in Utero, you know,
sort of a reaction against the sound of that record.
And there was of course so much hype about in

(25:42):
Utero leading up to it that this was like an
unlistenable record, that it was like pouring acid into your
ear drums, and that like Steve Albany had like made
them sound like, you know, a bunch of like crazy
bikers straight you know, hitting chains against like a chainsaw
or something, you know, which none of that really proved
to be true. I mean, it's like a loud, abrasive

(26:03):
kind of gregarious rock record, but like heart Shaped Box
and even the song raped Me, catchy song, very melodic,
you know, you know, as provocative as some of those
lyrics are. Well, I mean, let me ask you all
the accusations that Kurt is making, you know, is hurling
at Pearl Jam, could you say that all those same

(26:24):
things could be said about Kurt and Nirvana about how
you know, willingly signing up? I mean I feel like,
I mean, I think that Dave later said, they've girl
always said, you know, we have, we signed the paperwork.
I mean, we didn't do it with a gun to
our head. Well, I mean I do wonder to what degree,
like when he calls them like a safe mainstream band,
how much of that is just reacting to the sales
disparity between in utero in verses, and I think certainly

(26:48):
just like a defensive Yeah, I mean, and you know,
and there's some truth in and what he's saying, and
that like Pearl Jam did kind of follow the prototypical
like look of like an arena rock band. I mean
my feeling on Pearl Jam. And I mean this as
a compliment because I love Pearl Jam, but I always
felt like they had the mind of Fugazi in the
body of Errol Smith. You know, where if you could

(27:09):
have had a swaggering arena rock band that actually had
some integrity and like cared about like how they conducted
their business, like that's that's basically Pearl Jam. And you
have a guy like Eddie Vetter, who is just cut
from the cloth of like Roger Daltrey and like, you
know these sort of like huge voice arena rock singers.

(27:30):
Is a very good looking guy, although Kurt Cobain is
also a great looking guy. I mean, I always thought
it was funny when people complain about this era of music,
would they say, like, well, this is the era that
rock stars died. There's no rock stars, Like grunge kind
of kicked out the traditional rock star. And I always
feel like, who's a better rock star than Kurt Cobain,

(27:50):
Like who looks better than him, who's like more iconic
than him, or like someone like Eddie Vetter, like that's
he's like he's like out of a comic book of
like of rock stars, not to mention people like Chris
Cornell and Courtney Love and p J. Harvey and Trent
Restner and Billy Corgan all these larger than life figures
that came out of alternative rock at that time. But

(28:11):
I digress. I'm gonna that's this. This is my old
man jaas guy talking about nineties rock stars. But um,
kind of getting back to to Nirvana. You know whether
that was sort of Cobain being defensive about his own
sort of mainstream rock status with that, Yeah, I wouldn't.

(28:32):
There probably was a little projection with that, I think
on some level. I also think though that I also
wonder to what degree that criticism subsequently influenced Pearl Jam's
next couple of records, Because you get to Vitology and

(28:53):
there are some just incredible, you know, traditional rock songs
on there. You have Corduroy on there, you have like
less exit and in more pality, But then you have
like Eddie Vetter strapping on an accordion and playing the
song Bugs, you know, which is like this totally weird
song that's really weirder than anything on in Utero really,

(29:13):
you know, or you have like that sound collage at
the end of the record, that hate Foxyhole Mama song,
which I don't think anyone in Pearl Jam has ever
listened to from the beginning to add the Revolution number
nine exactly, like, no one listens to that song. But
I know I appreciate the fact that they did it
as a gesture. There's many different ways to be unlistenable exactly,

(29:34):
and Utero is the safe way to be. On my
It's that's I mean, it's transgressive in its own way.
But I'm just but you know, Pearl Jam, I think
I do think that on some level they were responding
to that criticism when they make a record like that,
to say, Okay, you know, yeah, we've made ten and

(29:55):
we've made verses and these are sort of like the
biggest rock records of their era, and there's a lot
of real catchy radio songs on these albums. But now
that we're really successful, we're going to take a left
turn and we're gonna make really we're gonna mix in
these sort of crazy ideas that we have experimental ideas
and we're gonna mix it in with sort of our
standard formula. And then they make a record like No Code,

(30:18):
which is like sort of really anti commercial. And at
that point too, they had stopped making music videos. They
weren't even like touring all that much because they were
fighting Ticketmaster, you know, which is sort of an anti
corporate crusade that they went on. That Again, if you
want to compare Nirvana and Pearl Jam in terms of
sort of fighting the man, Nirvana never waged a war

(30:40):
like that, you know, they never fought the music business
in the same way that Pearl Jam did, like in
a very overt way. In the mid nineties, they wore
t shirts on Yeah they said, yeah, like yeah, you know,
with all due respect to Kurt Cobain, yeah, he wore
the shirt that said corporate magazine still suck on the
cover of Rolling Stone. But he's still you know, he's
on the cover. He had his cake and eate it two.

(31:02):
You know. I mean, he was able to work at
both ways there. So I mean, to me, when I
look at these two bands, I think, ultimately, like what
you're talking about is the idea of and this is
such a cliche thing to say again, but like the
idea of burning out versus fading away, which is like
sort of the oldest rock cliche that there is, and

(31:23):
it's a line I believe in. In Kurt's Uh Suicide
not that well, he quotes the Neil Young song Hey, Hey,
My My, which is like Neil Young kind of articulated
that idea in that song it's better to burn out
than to fade away. But I feel like that idea
already kind of existed in the ether of rock and
roll before that, you know, probably starting in the early

(31:44):
seventies when you had Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendricks and
Janis Choplin pass away at the age of you know,
the idea that in rock and roll, is it better
to like basically extinguish your flame when you're at your peak,
or is it admirable to try to find a way
to navigate your way through your art and into middle

(32:06):
age and survive and survive. And Nirvana and Pearl Jam
It's such a great metaphor for that because I think,
to get back to what you were saying at the
beginning of the episode, I think, now when we think
about Nirvana. You know, they've crossed over I think too,
other generations more than Pearl Jam has. I think like
millennials and Generation Z and like you know, probably teenagers

(32:30):
now are much more likely to get into Nirvana than
they are like to gravitate to Kurt Cobain as an
icon than they aren't like Pearl Jam and Eddie Vetter.
I mean, because it sounds like that's kind of the
case for you, right, like kind of coming up. They
never they never diminished, you know. I mean it's the
kind of thing where it's like, you know, Kirk Cobain
is always gonna be twenty seven, but like Eddie Vetter

(32:51):
might be forty or he might be fifty like you.
And the sample size was smaller too. I mean you say,
everything Nirvana did was at their peak for them, you know,
for all tense purposes, whereas Pearl Jam he kind of
got a little money. These are good then, and they
lived like a real life and think, yeah, exactly, I
mean they were real people, which is I mean, now
that I'm old, there's something that I appreciate a lot
more about them too, and digging deeper into discography, but yeah, no,

(33:14):
at that time, it was it was a different sort
of rock cannon. You know. One thing that we didn't
talk about too, Like, have you heard that story about
when Pearl Jam played a show the day that Kurt Cobain,
the day his body was found. Have you heard that story? Yes, yes,
the famous the Elevations elevation speech, because you know, they

(33:35):
were playing a show in Fairfax, Virginia that night and
Kurt's body was found. I forget what time that was.
I don't know if it was like in the morning
or like the afternoon, but like they knew about it
before they went on stage, and like Eddie Vetter later
didn't interview with the l a times where he talked
about how he just like trashed his hotel room like immediately,

(33:57):
which is like kind of like a melodrama at a
response to that kind of news, But like, again, I
feel like it was like a genuine thing, you know,
like you just trashing his room. He said, Then I
just kind of sat in the rubble, which somehow felt right.
It felt like my world at the moment. And it's
interesting because you can hear bootlegs of that show and

(34:20):
it's not like it's like it's not like they trashed
the stage on the show. It's it's not even a
show that you really would know necessarily that like something
was amiss. When you listen to it, it sounds like
a pretty kind of standard Pearl Jam show. But then
Eddie does give the elevation speech towards the end of
the show or kind of like in the middle of

(34:41):
the show, and he says, quote, there's a lot of
space between us tonight. We're not only kind of far,
you know, we're kind of elevated. I noticed a little
more than usual either that where I've gotten taller. I
don't think it's very good to elevate yourself. That can
be dangerous sometimes, whether you like it or not. People
elevate you, you you know, whether you like it or not,
it's really easy to fall. But I don't think any

(35:03):
of us would be in this room tonight if it
weren't for Kurt Copaine. So sort of like a warning
against fame in that, you know, which was a very
kind of very Eddy veteran ninety four type lesson to
take from that whole thing. But yeah, I don't know,
kind of like what you were saying before, an idea
of um kind of appreciating Pearl Jam as you get

(35:25):
older more. I think that's really true, you know, because
the idea of me like a middle aged rocker isn't
very appealing when you're a kid, but like you're and
you're more inclined to gravitate to Nirvana. But now I
feel like I'm gravitating more to Pearl Jam. Maybe in
some ways for that reason. Yeah, I mean there is
sort of more of an authenticity there, you feel just

(35:46):
just you know, as you not only just getting older,
but just seeing Yeah, I agree with that all right hand.
We'll be right back with more rivals. We've put some
of these points already. But like, if you're going to

(36:07):
make like the pro Nirvana argument like over Pearl Jam,
like what would like what would be the argument there?
You think? I think you can't argue against them being
the one who brought grunge to mainstream, brought the underground
above ground. Really, I mean from a not only musical standpoint,
but fashion. And it's just if you talk about the nineties,

(36:28):
you have to talk about Nirvana, and never mind, I
don't think you necessarily have to talk about Pearl Jam.
I know they're obviously a wonderful band, but I think
that Nirvana influenced culture in a way it was a
lot more broad than the Pearl Jam ever did. Yeah,
I mean, I think you know your point about the
nineties well, no, and certainly terms of like nineties music,
you'd have to talk about Pearl Jam. But I do

(36:49):
think you're right in that if you're gonna talk about
like nineties overall, like the overall sort of cultural arc
or like what happened in that decade, that if you're
going to talk about a rock band, it would be Nirvana,
Like they would be the one band that you would
talk about, in the same way that if you're going
to talk about the sixties, you talk about Bob Dylan.
You know, even though there's other great, wonderful singer songwriters

(37:09):
from that period, Bob Dylan had a significance that went
beyond just music. And that's certainly true of Nirvana, social
cultural just kind of influencing people, you know, like people
like Bob Dylan, not just because he made cool records,
but they feel like he sort of signified something or
signified a culture, and the same was true of Nirvana.

(37:30):
And you know, and I and I went on the
spield earlier in the episode, but It's absolutely true that
like Nirvana was a transformative band, and they were a
band that like opened the door to like lots of
other kinds of music, other kinds of film because of
the way the media was at that time, a lot
of people lived in parts of the country where there
weren't independent record stores, where you had no sort of

(37:54):
entree into alternative culture. So for a band like Nirvana
to get on MTV and then to also make it
possible for like bands like the Butthole Surfers to have
hit singles, you know, which happened in the nineties, or
the Meat Puppets, Yeah, it just opened the door to
all this stuff and it made it accessible to people

(38:15):
that would have no access to it before that. And
that was again truly transformative in that decade. So, you know,
that sort of cultural importance you can't really ascribe to
any other band. In terms of the pro Pearl Jam argument,
I would argue that what they've done in their career
is arguably harder in the long run that like what

(38:38):
Nirvana did, which is they found a way to survive
the things that killed Nirvana. You know, they went through
a period in the mid nineties where and this has
been well documented, like in that documentary Pearl Jam twenty
as well as Pearl Jam books. It's kind of part
of the mythology of the band now. But around the
time of like you know, Vitology and Code, that band

(39:02):
came very close to imploding, and Eddie Vetter himself was
I'm not really sure. I don't think he My impression
is that he wasn't necessarily suicidal. I've never heard that,
but that he was very ambivalent about where Pearl Jam
was at that at that moment, and you look at
their peers, you know, not just Nirvana, but Sound Garden,

(39:25):
Alison Chains, like a lot of those big nineties alternative
grunge bands, they all fell apart by the end of
the nineties, and many of those people also ended up
passing away in tragic circumstances. And Pearl Jam is really
unique and that they didn't, you know, they kept it
together and they were able to find a way to

(39:49):
fade away in a graceful way. It's kind of hard
to say that they faded away when there's still a
band that they're really one of the only rock bands
that can play stadiums at this point in their career
and certainly. You know, they've played stadiums, they play arenas,
they play huge festivals. They don't have the same kind
of pop significance that they had. I think Last Kiss,
that song you mentioned, was like the last sort of

(40:10):
chart hit, and that was like a ninety nine or so,
I think. But they found a way to kind of
conduct themselves in a way that's dignified, you know what
you would not that's not a word that you would
apply to many arena rock bands. That's like fifty year
old rock star. It's not embarrassing himself. He's not trying
to be anything other than what he is exactly. They're
not you know, yeah, you know, they're not doing the

(40:30):
U two thing where they're still trying to be a
pop band, you know, or trying to reinvent themselves in like,
you know, to court relevance. They're like, no, we're Pearl Jam.
We do what we do. You either like it or
you don't. And there's the point that you had made
where it seemed like Eddie was somebody who who sort
of looked forward to getting Well, that's the thing that's
so striking about Eddie Vetter because at the peak of
his fame, in in the nineties, like when you know,

(40:53):
Shannon Doherty like wanted to go out with Eddie Vetter
and like all these people wanted to like be with him.
He didn't seem all that happy. But now that he's
in his fifties, he seems to have aged into the
rock star that he always wanted to be, you know,
because like when he was in his twenties and early thirties,
he gravitated to like Neil Young and like Mike Watt
and Pete Townsend like these you know, life for musicians

(41:17):
who had been around the block many times. And he
always got the sense from him that he wished that
he could have more miles on the tires, you know,
that he could be what that he could kind of
almost you know that he could have been like a
blue singer or something, you know what I mean, like
kind of like like a lot of the young blue
singers like they want to be older, so they had
that kind of weathered quality to their voice, or that

(41:38):
they had the gravitas of like an older musician. And
you always feel like Eddie Better yearned for that as
a younger man, and now he has it, you know,
Now he is like the Pete Townsend for like, younger
musicians that would still kind of look up to bands
in that classic rock lineage. And it's really inspiring. You know.

(41:59):
I'm really glad that, you know, as much as I
left Kurt Cobain in Nirvana, you know, it's really nice
to have the counter example of someone who was able
to weather that storm, you know that that that's tumultuous
storm of your twenties and and pull through, you know, um,
and that is inspiring, you know for all of us
as we get older. You know, I think we all

(42:21):
aspire to the kind of life, you know, where you
can get older and and still be happy, you know,
as you get in the middle age and beyond. So
that seems to be how they fit together ultimately, Pearl
Jam and Nirvana. You know, it's kind of like two
sides of the same coin in a way. Or here's
the classic hypothetical. What do you think Kurt would have
been like had he lived? What do you think the
Nirvana trajectory would have been, and what their relationship would

(42:43):
have been. I think Nirvana would have probably broken up
pretty I think if they had stayed together, I think
they would have broken up because I think it just
seemed like things weren't very good in that band, and
that I think Kurt Cobain probably would have wanted to
do his own thing, if you, like Dave Role eventually
would have wanted to launch a side project, you know,

(43:04):
food Fighters are I mean, it's interesting to think about,
like whether like those early food Fighter songs would have
ended up on Nirvana records. You know, like if this
is a call would have been the Dave Groll track,
Like like he would have been like George Harrison getting
like two songs on a Nirvana record, and like this
is a call and alone and easy Target or something

(43:27):
end up on the next Nirvana record. Or if Kurt
Cobain would have just said, screw that noise, I write
the songs in Nirvana, you can do a side project,
because I mean, Dave Grohl, I can't imagine that he
just would have been the drummer in a band forever,
So I think they probably would have broken up. I
think Kabay would have probably done his own thing. And

(43:50):
I just wonder if he would have like just been
sort of like an esoteric solo artist more than like
a guy that courted mainstream acceptance. Maybe he would have
been like maybe he would have records that sounded like
sonic Youth, like they're more kind of already records that
they made in the late nineties and early two thousand's.
I wish I could have found out. I wish we

(44:10):
could have heard those records. That would have been amazing
to have heard Kurt Comain as an older man and
to see how he would have progressed. But I think
Nirvana would have been finished either way, I really do.
But who knows. One of the mysteries of history right there,
I think. On that note, I'm gonna start crying here
talking about my grunge, rocky youth. But I hope you

(44:33):
hope you enjoyed this journey into the nineties Jordan's I
absolutely love that. Thank you. I learned, I learned a lot,
and we had a good time. We did had a
good time. Alright, guys, Well, hey, thanks to everyone for listening.
We'll be back again next week with more Rivals. Take Care.

(44:57):
Rivals is a production of My Heart Radio Get. The
producers are Shawn Tytone and Noel Brown. The supervising producers
are Taylor Chicogne and Tristan McNeil. I'm Jordan's Run Talk.
I'm Stephen Hyden. If you like what you heard, please
subscribe to leave us a review. For more podcast for
my Heart Radio, visit the i heart Radio app, Apple Podcasts,
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