In a holiday ritual that's become the rock equivalent of tree-trimming and eggnog guzzling, R.E.M. and Pearl Jam are shipping out their annual gift packages to fan-club members.
R.E.M.'s offering contains a colored vinyl 7-inch featuring three songs: a cover of the Beatles' "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)" and two original instrumentals, "Take Seven" and "Hastings and Main." All three songs were recorded in Vancouver in May while the band was tracking its upcoming album.
Named after a notorious skid-row intersection near Vancouver's Warehouse (where R.E.M. was working), "Hastings and Main" is a jazz-blues ditty clocking in at less than a minute and a half. The track is credited to core members Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe as well as helping hands Ken Stringfellow, Scott McCaughey and Joey Waronker. "Take Seven," a four-minute track in a more traditional pop vein, is credited solely to Buck, Mills and Stipe.
The R.E.M. holiday package also includes a mini-calendar, stickers, and other assorted goodies.
As usual, the Pearl Jam fan-club single is being kept tightly under wraps by the band neither the group's publicist nor its record label had received the package at press time. According to fan reports, the disc includes a rendition of Mother Love Bone's "Crown of Thorns" and a cover of the classic Elvis Presley hit "Can't Help Falling In Love," both recorded at the band's 10th anniversary show in Las Vegas on October 22.
The cover of "Crown of Thorns" is an event in and of itself to fans of the Seattle scene, as guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament played with Mother Love Bone prior to joining Pearl Jam. Mother Love Bone disbanded following the death of singer Andrew Wood in 1990.
The last time Pearl Jam recorded an oldie for their fans with J. Frank Wilson's "Last Kiss" in 1998 the record ended up in the hands of radio programmers and was released commercially, becoming the band's biggest pop hit to date (see "Pearl Jam To Release Benefit Single For Kosovo Refugees").
R.E.M. and Pearl Jam joined forces on past holiday gifts to fans, most notably a 1997 co-op single (see "R.E.M./Pearl Jam Single Offers Bill Berry's Last").