It was almost seven years ago that Pearl Jam released the MTV-aimed music video for "Jeremy," the last of
three such clips from their ground-breaking debut album, Ten.
Since the "Jeremy" clip, the group hasn't made another promotional clip, and for the most part, fans haven't been able to see the group outside of live performance.
Until now, that is.
On Tuesday (Aug. 4), Pearl Jam, who are currently on a nationwide tour of the U.S., released a video (excerpt of video) -- their first home video -- titled
"Single Video Theory," an intimate look at a relatively camera-shy group of musicians
discussing their music and their impressions of the business.
"We stopped doing the things we felt we were obliged to do," said guitarist Stone
Gossard, who is among the bandmembers who have spoken to the press in recent
The video is notable not only because it's the band's first in years but also because of its
length and content. No minimal, three-minute video clip, "Single Video Theory" takes 45
minutes of interviews and studio sessions from Pearl Jam's latest album, Yield,
and turns them into a surprisingly candid documentary, offering fans an exceedingly
rare, in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the band's work process and the members'
opinions on a range of topics.
In one scene, vocalist Eddie Vedder and guitarist Mike McCready share the lens for an
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Pearl_Jam/Given_To_Fly_cd.ram">"Given to Fly"
Fly"(RealAudio excerpt), Yield's first single. In a voice-over that
accompanies visuals of the handwritten lyrics for the song, McCready explains the music
behind it -- that the chords are designed to create the impression of a breaking wave.
The climax of the chorus, "Waves come crashing like a fist to the jaw" (at this point in the
video, Vedder glares evilly at the camera, snarling), represents its final crash, McCready
Pearl Jam have long been known for bucking the industry status quo. They held off on
touring while battling Ticketmaster, the ticket distributing giant, over its business
practices. They're a band that rarely talks to the media -- a quote from Vedder is,
perhaps, the rarest of all sound clips, and other members of the band have been equally
elusive. They've pretty much just said "No" to publicity -- and to videos.
Directed by Mark Pellington ("Jeremy") and produced by longtime Pearl Jam cohort Cameron
Crowe (he featured Pearl Jam as the fictional Citizen Dick in the 1993 film "Singles" and profiled them for Rollling Stone just prior to the release of Vs.),
"Single Video Theory" is a unique look at the band at work. The film takes Pearl Jam
fans into the Seattle studio where much of the songwriting and arranging for Yield
took place. These behind-the-scenes shots are scattered against a series of candid
interviews with each bandmember that touches on topics from song crafting to
superstardom to the downside of being famous.
The opening of "Single Video Theory" depicts each bandmember punching in on a time
clock at their studio door -- an image in keeping with the conception of the video
developed by Pellington, Crowe and Kelly Curtis (Pearl Jam's longtime manager, who's
given executive producer credit for the video). The idea for "Single Video Theory" was
that it should represent the work behind the work -- the labor behind Yield's pretty
packaging and sold-out tour.
There's haggling between Vedder, McCready and Yield producer Brendan
O'Brien. There's drummer Jack Irons, his face in his hands, exhausted after numerous
takes of a particular song. There's the band working on songs such as "All Those
Yesterdays" and "M.F.C.," both from Yield, and stopping midway to work out a
small glitch in a guitar riff.
"A bunch of people have been asking for it, and we have 90 copies on order," according
to Tika, an assistant manager at a Tower Records outlet in Pearl Jam's hometown of
Seattle. "There's been some attention around it, but not as much as there was for, say,
the new Madonna single. Music videos don't tend to sell that well here."
But what sets "Single Video Theory" apart from many other home-video releases are the
individual vignettes from each bandmember, who, throughout the video, paint a picture
of a band in trouble. Yield, it's concluded, brought Pearl Jam back together.
Among the tasks the band felt obliged to do in its career -- and therefore didn't -- was
touring, says guitarist Stone Gossard in the video. "Like, we had to go tour. So we
started basing decisions based on whether we wanted to do stuff. Which was good -- it
had its ups and downs and ultimately it kind-of left us faced with ourselves. So any
problems within the band after that point was like, OK, then it's not just that stuff -- it's us,
"Well, if I was the problem, I certainly wasn't going to admit it," Vedder chuckles in the
next shot. "But I really don't think it ... well ... Stone was the problem. It was Stone."
Bassist Jeff Ament offers his take on the sales for Vs., the band's second album,
which sold more than 850,000 copies when it was released in 1992.
"I remember with our second record, we sold something like almost 1 million records in a
week," Ament says. "And that really freaked me out, because I had no perception of what
that was. Like, what is a million people listening to your music? I couldn't envision it."
"Single Video Theory" includes plenty of jerky camera movements, giving the
film a homemade feel. Cigarettes and candles burn throughout the film, and
bandmembers chatter continuously with album producer Brendan O'Brien.
The closing scene of the video, which displays a closed door and a voice calling out for
drummer Irons, proves that the band still has a sense of humor. Irons dropped out of
Pearl Jam's tour in April, citing stress and health problems.
"This is really the first I've even heard about a Pearl Jam home video," said Chris
Conway, an assistant manager at a Blockbuster Video in Seattle. "I'm sure there will be
some buzz about it. But right now, it doesn't even look like we're going to have it
available to rent. But that doesn't mean we won't have it."