The Real Story Behind Eddie
BACK in 1990:
Eddie Vedder was working the night shift at
a service station in San Diego, sometimes telling people he
was a security guard to impress them. That was before Jack
Irons, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (and later Pearl Jam's third
drummer), gave Vedder, a struggling singer-songwriter, the demo tape
from a Seattle musician named Stone Gossard. Gossard was looking for
a vocalist for the band he had recently formed. Vedder listened to
Gossard's tape and was impressed by what he heard. The music stayed
with him, and a few days later, while surfing, he came up with the lyrics
for the song "Dollar Short." He ran back to his apartment, and recorded
himself singing over the instrumentals. He sent the tape back to Seattle,
Gossard liked what he heard, and within a couple weeks, Vedder had
moved to Seattle and Pearl Jam (originally called Mookie Blaylock,
after the professional basketball star of the same name) was born.
The band's first album, titled Ten (the album was supposedly
named after the number Blaylock wore), was a smash; it became one of
the biggest hits of the 1991 and helped earn Seattle the dubious honor of
grunge capital of the world. Pearl Jam was called "the next Seattle band"
(after Nirvana), and Vedder found that he was now the next big teen
idol--a title he neither sought nor wanted. Their follow-up, Vs., was
darker, harder, but no less successful. Newsweek accurately summed
up Pearl Jam's appeal in a review of their next release, Vitalogy, saying
the album was "so unbearably grim, yet so simultaneously exhilarating,
that it's hard to know whether to call it a masterpiece or slam the C.D.
case shut and walk away." Despite any mixed emotions the album
incited, the band won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for
the Vitalogy track "Spin The Black Circle." In 1994, Pearl Jam entered
into a well-publicized fight with Ticketmaster. The band claimed that the
ticketing service charged too much and that it held a monopoly over
concert venues around the country. The Justice Department investigated,
and found no wrong-doing on the part of Ticketmaster.
Vedder was born Edward Louis Seversen III in Evanston,
Illinois. He came from a broken home (his parents divorced before his
second birthday) and he grew up believing that his stepfather was his
real father (Vedder has claimed that the song "Alive," which many
believe is based on this experience, is not autobiographical; he says it is
actually the story of a mother being sexually drawn to her teenage son
because she sees traces of her late husband in him). By the time he was
fifteen, Vedder's parents had split up and he was living on his own.
Vedder has admitted that he had a difficult time in high school, frequently
falling asleep in class because he was working nights trying to pay his
bills, and eventually dropped out altogether (he would later get his
G.E.D.). He moved to Chicago, then to San Diego, accompanied by
girlfriend, now wife, Beth Liebling.
Four albums later (Pearl Jam released No Code in 1996),
Vedder is still trying to deal with the trappings of fame.