Paul McCartney is a master at crafting a hook, but you’d imagine that he’d not be quite as effective at landing one on somebody’s jaw. As it happens, gravel-voiced Pearl Jam rocker, Eddie Vedder, can compare his hitmaking ability in both its guises after Macca ditched his ‘All You Need Is Love’ vibe and went all ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ and jabbed him in the mouth.
Fortunately, McCartney’s accidental blow to Vedder’s mush didn’t impact his love for ‘Macca’ or The Beatles. In fact, he took it as a point of pride. As it happens, Vedder is a huge fan of The Beatles, and he has performed live covers on at least nine occasions which are compiled in the live YouTube video featured at the bottom of this piece.
Although on the surface Pearl Jam are wrapped up in the notion of being progenitors of the Seattle sound, Vedder asserts that The Beatles were certainly in the welter of their unique sonic wave. While picking his 13 favourite albums, he told Discogs: “Our influences are who we are. It’s rare that anything is an absolutely pure vision; even Daniel Johnston sounds like the Beatles.” He added: “That’s the problem with the bands I’m always asked about, the ones derivative of the early Seattle sound. They don’t dilute their influences enough.”
Despite Vedder’s frequent covers of The Beatles focusing on their early years, it would seem this is probably just due to the simpler arrangements suiting his solo style because his favourite record actually comes from 1968 in the form of the famed White Album. Speaking about the album with Spin Magazine, Vedder ventured to say: “This is almost a textbook for someone born in 1964.”
Going on to add: “I had a tape that was called ‘Revolver White Album.’ I didn’t find out they were two separate albums until years later. ‘The White Album’ has songs that appeal to little kids, like ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,’ Then, if you get into it, you’re listening to ‘Revolution 9.’ I mean, that stuff opens you up. It’s where you first get comfortable with ‘difficult’ listening.”
This is a notion shared by so many musicians including Ozzy Osbourne who poetically stated that when he first heard the ‘Fab Four’, “When I heard the Beatles. I knew what I wanted to do,” when speaking to Blabbermouth in 2019. “My son says to me, Dad, I like the Beatles, but why do you go so crazy? The only way I can describe it, is like this, ‘Imagine you go to bed today and the world is black and white and then you wake up, and everything’s in colour. That’s what it was like!’ That’s the profound effect it had on me.”
Fellow Seattle scene hero Kurt Cobain is likewise a huge fan of The Beatles proving the often-neglected point of just how melody-centric grunge was beneath the scratchy surface. “My parents were never music lovers.” Kurt Cobain begins and, like so many, he was simply raised on the sounds of the Top 40 in America. But thanks to the all-conquering ubiquity of The Beatles, they even nudge into that scene. “At a really early age, I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. Ever since I got my first Beatles record, I wanted to play drums. I wanted to have the adoration of John Lennon but have the anonymity of Ringo Starr. I didn’t want to be a frontman, I just wanted to be back there at the same time.”
Just as Vedder stated, a lot of the bands in the grunge scene had been raised on the sound of The Beatles, encouraging them to push their new sound forward. As Cobain once said, “I want [Nirvana] to progress. I really want to change our style of music. I want to do something different, really different. And I want to have enough guts to do that, and if it alienates people that’s too bad.” Adding, “Not to compare us to The Beatles, but they went from ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ to Sgt. Pepper y’know and that was a massive progression, and I just want to experiment.”