Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, for which multiple artists took to the stage to perform Dylan’s songs for the legendary singer/songwriter at Madison Square Garden, New York City on October 16, 1992.
October 13, 1990, Eddie Vedder was anonymous.
Working at a gas station, surfing and writing songs. This is the day he left San Diego and arrived in Seattle to join Pearl Jam.
On October 16, 1992, 2 years later, he was standing on stage in front of a full house at Madison Square Garden, serenading Bob Dylan.
The gods had willed Pearl Jam into existence, it was destiny.
Those early years of the band are fantastic to listen to now because while we know what comes next, we are watching five blue collar guys on stage giving everything they had every moment they could because they were thrilled it was working. They were thrilled they were able to play music for a living.
That energy is contagious. It is infectious.
It infused the youth of that era with hope.
As the they walked around shocked at their success, they felt…and we felt…anything was possible.
They weren’t interested in separating themselves from the crowd, quite the opposite.
They were the crowd they insisted.
They had no idea how I incredible they were.
They introduced the artists who inspired them to a whole new generation.
Their music was honest, enlightening…
Now within the first minute of this performance, Vedder trips a bit on vocals, finding his range for what’s to come.
But then, he locks in and takes control.
The lyrics are brought to life like you’d never heard them emphasized before, as I’m sure Dylan hadn’t.
The sentiment of the song was…and is…very real for Vedder.
He meant every word that night.
Look at him. His eyes.
What we are treated to is Eddie Vedder’s translation of Bob Dylan’s anti-war poem…
Dylan’s honest and hard-hitting lyrics, mixed through Vedder’s power and command of the room.
This was a potent, combustible combination.
At this moment in time, the war in Kuwait was behind us.
President George Bush Sr. would leave office in two months, ushering in the Clinton administration.
Hope was on the horizon.
This song called out the establishment and the ruling class…
The puppet masters.
The billionaires who “hide in their mansions” and send the country’s young man off to war to kill and to be killed, in the name of control and world domination.
Never leading the charges themselves…
Sending the poor and less privileged off.
Never their sons.
Never their own children.
As Dylan had 30 years earlier, Vedder was speaking directly to them that night.
He seized the moment.
I’ve loved and studied Vedder & Pearl Jam for more than half my life now.
They were a core part of my development as a man, as they were for many.
They united the youth of this nation at a time when I was coming into manhood.
They were a radical departure from the rock stars we had been listening to for the past decade.
They provided the soundtrack to my life, and millions of other lives, for many years to come.
Pearl Jam spent the later portion of 1991 and most of 1992 relentlessly touring to promote their debut album, Ten.
They recorded it in one month, between March and April, 1991.
They released it four months later, on August 27, 1991.
It sat, like a bomb in plain sight, on the shelves for almost a year.
Then, in the summer of 1992, it broke.
Legions of fans descended on them out of know where.
On this night in 1992, they were unknowingly at the very edge of becoming integral to millions of lives.
Cameron Crowe sits with Eddie Vedder in his 2011 documentary: “Pearl Jam: Twenty”.
He pulls out an audio cassette tape and says to Eddie:
“This is the original demo tape.”
Referring to the original cassette tape Vedder received in 1990 with 3 or 4 instrumental songs on it from Jeff Anent and Stone Gossard.
They were looking for a new vocalist after the passing of Andrew Wood.
Eddie was given the tape by mutual friend, Jack Irons.
He listened to it.
Came home “with sand still between my toes” and dubbed his vocals on the tape.
He wrote his phone number on the tape and sent it back to them.
The rest is history.
A camera conscious Vedder says:
“Ah, this is it huh? Look, this is my phone number on the back.”
Crowe gets an idea, and asks Vedder something here I absolutely love:
“What if you could call this number and the you from back then answered the phone?”
Before the question is finished, Vedder smiles and laughs, he knows where Crowe is going and he loves it.
“What would you say to yourself?”
Without hesitating, Vedder replies:
Come you masters of war.
You that build all the guns…
You that build the death planes…
You that build the big bombs…
You that hide behind walls, you that hide behind desks…
I just want you to know, I can see through your masks.
You that “Never Done Nothin’”, but build to destroy.
You play with my world…like it’s your little toy.
You put a gun in my hand…and you hide from my eyes.
And you turn and run farther when the fast bullets fly.
Like Judas of old,
You lie and deceive…
A world war can be won, you want me to believe.
But I see through your eyes…
And I see through your brain…
Like I see through the water that runs down my drain.
You that fasten all the triggers, for the others to fire.
Then you set back and watch, when the death count gets higher.
You hide in your mansions…
As young people’s blood…flows out of their bodies and is buried in the mud.
You’ve thrown the worst fear, that can ever be hurled.
Fear to bring children, into the world.
For threatening my baby, unborn and unnamed…
You ain’t worth the blood, that runs in your veins.
How much do I know, to talk out of turn?
You might say that I’m young, you might say I’m unlearned.
But there’s one thing I know, though I’m younger than you…
Even Jesus would never forgive what you do.
Let me ask you one question, is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness?
Do we you think that it could?
I think you will find, when your death takes its toll…
All the money you made, will never buy back your soul.
And I hope that you die…
And your death’ll come soon…
I will follow your casket, in the pale afternoon.
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered…down to your deathbed…
And I’ll stand over your grave
Until i’m sure that you’re dead.
Bob Dylan, 1963