Vinyl Blog #12. Pearl Jam -Vitalogy
This is my second feature on Pearl Jam. I bought this copy of Vitalogy the day it came out on November 22nd 1994. Recently I put it on for a spin, and it sounded tremendous. This album, record and jacket, is in mint condition. I was a huge fan back in the day, and I have all of their 90's albums on vinyl. So it probably won't be the last blog on this band. At some point I will absolutely need to write on their influential and amazing debut album. But Vitalogy is an important album. I believe it helped keep the format of vinyl alive in the 90's, back when the CD format reigned supreme.
Vitalogy was mostly recorded on the road in 1994, while the band was on tour in support of their second album Vs. Recording sessions took place in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Seattle with Brendan O'Brian producing again. Although the personnel was the same for the Vitalogy sessions, the sound of the band during this time had changed. By all accounts, it seemed to be that there was inner turmoil within the band, and this was obvious in the new music. Brendan O'Brien weighed in on those sessions. "Vitalogy was a little strained. I'm being polite—there was some imploding going on." The weight of mega fame began to take its toll.
Sadly, this would be drummer Dave Abbruzzese last recorded appearance with the band. As a fan of Dave's drumming, this was a sad revelation to hear. That guy was a fucking beast behind the drums. I sometimes wonder what Pearl Jam would sound like today, if Dave would have stayed with the band? Pearl Jam would definitely sound and feel completely different. Abbruzzese's exit would come before the album was even done being recorded. Jack Irons would take his place, and ultimately would help finish the recording sessions. He would appear on the final track of the album-the bizarre, "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me", also known as, "Stupid Mop".
Respectfully, I do enjoy an occasional bizarre song. As a hardcore fan of early Pearl Jam, this is something that I really appreciated about Vitalogy. It was a strange piece of music, from one of biggest bands in the country at the time. I have no doubt that Eddie Vedder sincerely enjoyed the look on a record executives face when he debuted a song like "Bugs" or "Ay Davnita" to them. In retrospect, the record label had nothing to worry about in terms of the commercial viability of the third Pearl Jam record. Combined with all of the formats of this album, it went on to sell over 5 million copies.
This brings me back to my original statement that Vitalogy was important for keeping the interest in the vinyl record format. Ultimately, Pearl Jam decided that the initial release of Vitalogy would be released on vinyl only. No one else in the music industry was pulling this off in 1994. Shockingly, no one else in the mainstream had an interest in doing this. This would make it necessary to have TWO release dates for the album. The first release date was on November 22, 1994 for the vinyl. The CD and cassette would be released two weeks later. The exclusive vinyl release would break records, by selling over 34,000 copies. This record was kept until very recently, when Jack White's 2014 album "Lazaretto" surpassed the vinyl sales record with 45,OOO copies sold.
This is a testament to the invigorated surge in the interest of actual albums. I think Pearl Jam was a band that cared enough about the over all quality of the listener experience, that they were willing to take a gamble, and potentially sacrifice popularity to make a solid point. After all, it could have been career suicide to have two separate release dates for one album. It also speaks volumes to the fact, that some people still care about the quality of music-both musically and sonically. Lets keep spreading the word on audio superiority of analog music.