Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

by Kathy Davis on April 5, 2003

Rock’s most beloved collectible, the band T-shirt. It’s a simple, effective way of pledging your allegiance or proving you were there. Thanks to the creative forces at work in the PJ camp (namely Jeff and Ed), the band T-shirt has long been a blank canvas riddled with inside references and celebrating everything from attending a single concert, to working on the crew, to the sheer existence of the band — and all points in between. Here’s a selection of some of the more interesting and unique PJ related collectible t-shirts we’ve seen. Please note: most of the images below are links larger images of the t-shirts

In The Beginning.

We all know there was life before PJ. Here’s proof in fabric!

Green River: This single-color gem (above, front/back) features the band members on the front with “Death on Ten Legs” on the bottom. It is an accurate count of legs in the band, but the phrase is actually an homage to the legendary band Queen’s Night At The Opera album opener “Death On Two Legs.” The reverse, “Ride the fucking six pack” features not washboard abs, but a sixer of the infamous soft drink Green River. The shirt’s ink is the same color as the neon green sugar water itself.

Mother Love Bone: Our model Jeff Ament is wearing what we’ll call the Central Tavern T-shirt (above left). The silk-screened image includes the listing for two MLB shows on February 10th and 11th 1988 at Seattle’s Central Tavern (Alice In Chains opened on the 11th!). Though we’ve got no proof, it’s likely that a small run of these were made by frequent T-shirt/handbill designer Jeff.

The front of a circa 1989-90 shirt (above center) features an orange caricature of the band that we suspect Jeff Ament drew. The reverse (above right) is a Love Bone letter/poem/stream-of-consciousness, hand-lettered by Jeff, and chock full of MLB lyric and band references. In full, it reads:

“Good Evening Stardogs! Tis the boys who defy all. (Butterfly of Desmond) Landrew the Love Child and his holy rollers meet the Loin Queen Parader 4 Smell. Sassparila. Stone & Bruce giggle and wail while Greg & Jeff shake and pound their way 2 the faraway quarters of the Queen’s Jezebel Hounds. These stories of our image ain’t up ta par. I give to you my blue-eyed soul. You can hold my hand (and together we shall) fall in love with music. It’s time 2 doo some butt shakin’, peoples. The backdoor-baby. We can now cease to pretend. Clearing the way for love. And when the children sing (you may ask yourself) “What song did I sing?” (girl you know it’s true) Who cares ‘cuz Mr. Faded Glory is on the rebound. Catch a slice o’pie a la mode with the lady with the witch hazel eyes to that place where Mother Love Bone waits for you. Beware ego dogs. Capricorn Sister has risen.”

Fixing to achieve Holy Grail-like status among legit PJ wearables is the “Mookie Blaylock” t (above left). You likely know the pre-PJ lore about the band calling themselves this in honor of basketball player Daron O’Shea “Mookie” Blaylock, who at the time of the band’s formation was a Guard for the New Jersey Nets. Mookie didn’t clear the use of his name, so the band became Pearl Jam, but the newly renamed group put Mookie’s image on this shirt anyway. It is not only the first official Pearl Jam shirt, but it was also the first offering to mention the newly named Ten Club, who is name-checked on the shirt’s back. If you’ve got eagle eyes, you might have noticed that Eric Stoltz’s pissed off mime character wears this shirt backwards (“Ten Club” side to the front) in the movie Singles (which featured members of PJ among the cast).

An equally rare Temple Of The Dog t (above right) is a simple A & M promo shirt that says it all!

On the front of the Citizen Dick shirt (above left) are bassist Jeff Ament, lead singer Cliff Poncier (alias Matt Dillon), drummer Eddie Vedder, and guitarist Stoney Gossard of the fictitious Singles band Citizen Dick. The back (above right) is the made-up track listing of the made-up Citizen Dick album Smarter than You. “Louder Than Larry (Steiner)” is a multilevel inside joke. First it’s a wink at Soundgarden’s album Louder than Love. It’s also a reference to late 80s/early90s Seattle music superfan and sometimes musician Larry Steiner, who fronted the novelty band El Steiner (which was also his nickname). A ton of local names have jammed with El Steiner at one time or another, reportedly including Mike McCready. Larry Steiner also makes a memorable appearance in the video for Pearl Jam’s “Alive”: he’s the haunted looking, long-haired guy surfing the crowd in a, er, Jesus Christ pose. You know the one. “Touch Me I’m Dick” is a direct pun on the Mudhoney single “Touch Me, I’m Sick”

This next shirt (above left/right) was made for the film crew on the movie Singles for the two-month long early 1991 shoot in Seattle. The style of the sword bears a strong stylistic resemblance to the drawing on the back of the Citizen Dick shirt, so it’s likely that the same artist is responsible for both shirts. And is it just us, or does the handle of that sword appear to include the initials”PJ”?

Nexd is “Drop In The Park” (above). This shirt commemorates the free concert organized by Pearl Jam on September 20, 1992 at Seattle’s Magnuson Park (misspelled”Magnusson” on this shirt). The reverse of the shirt displays the bill for the day: Pearl Jam, Cypress Hill, Seaweed, Pete Droge, Lazy Susan and Jim Rose. The front of the shirt features then PJ tour manager Eric Johnson, mostly nude save the pants around his ankles, taking, well, a dump in the park. The photo was taken by Jeff Ament along a stretch of forest off of a highway somewhere outside Seattle, and we’re told the two had to scramble to avoid law enforcement officers heard in the distance while the photo was being staged. They didn’t want to have to explain one half-nude man squatting in the woods, and another taking a picture of him..

Dirty Frank, from 1992, was hand lettered by Eddie. The front (above left) may or may not actually picture the shady 1991 PJ tour bus driver that inspired the song “Dirty Frank.” The back of the t (above right) is clearly a joke: Stone Gossard literally turning up his nose at a, uh, well, dirty frank.

The “Tree of Life” shirt was offered by the Ten Club in 1992-1993. The front (above left), hand drawn and lettered by Jeff Ament, depicts an actual spiritual diagram known as The Tree of Life, which is a blueprint for study of principles in many branches of mysticism and the occult, including the Kabbalah and Tarot. The Tree outlines man’s relationship with the divine, using spherical diagrams and geometric paths as illustration. (We’re no religious scholars, so you can find more information here ) The reverse of the shirt (above right), “Love is the law, love under will” is a phrase taken from renowned occultist Aleister Crowley’s Book Of The Law and is one of the main precepts of the text and his religion. The passage from whence it came: “Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well!” Legis 1:57 It’s worth noting that Jeff, among the many interviews he did for his side band Three Fish in 1996, has mentioned an interest in Crowley more than once.

“Don’t Give Up” was issued for the European 1992 summer tour. The front (above left) has simple hand-drawn graphic, reverse features a hand-written list of venues, mostly festivals, at which the band was scheduled to appear from June 5 through July 5 of that year. As we know, the last seven appearances of this tour were cancelled.

The Boundless shirt (above left/right) is from early/mid 1993. It was also produced in white with black print. The drawing and hand-lettering is by Jeff Ament. “Marriage of the elusive ones” refers to one of Jeff’s favorite Rumi poems, “Elusive Ones.” Remember, Rumi is the ancient middle-eastern poet that partially inspired Jeff’s band Three Fish. Jeff even recites this poem on the first (eponymous) Three Fish album. The drawing is of a pantsless man weighing an encircled question mark in one hand and an encircled exclamation point in the other. The question mark bubble reads: “good, black, sugar, water, you, sun, death, vertical, boy, boundless”. The exclamation point bubble reads: “evil, white, milk, oil, me, moon, life, horizontal, girl and slave”. The pantsless man also resembles a self-portrait Jeff did for an American Music Club fan newsletter around the same time.

The Little White Lies shirt (above left/right) was made to commemorate the “Don’t Re-elect Jesse Helms” Pearl Jam concert on October 4, 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The infamously racist, anti-Choice, anti-arts Republican Helms was running for yet another term as a North Carolina senator. He’d been in the senate since 1972 and he was re-elected in the November elections that year.

Monkeywrench Pirate Radio: Issued in ’95-96, this is a Fan Club only basic white tee (example seven) giving a shout out to PJ’s on-the-fly pirate radio station which was born with the Jan 8. 1995 Seattle broadcast of the same name and became an actual station for that summer and fall’s PJ shows. Ed and two other guys basically lived in a silver van, played punk rock records, and interviewed friends and passer’s by (the whole tale is expertly chronicled here by TFT’s own JR). The front of the shirt was actually a black bullseye, in homage one of the more famous logos of Eddie’s favorite band, The Who.

Special PJ crew-only shirts have been regularly produced throughout the years, as shown above. Ed recently wore a PJ Maui Crew ’98 tour on stage in ’03 (couldn’t snap a picture in time, sorry). One of the more unique crew shirts is this Vs. crew t from 1993. The front (above left) says: “crew too lieu zoo new stew moo sue flew true flu knew cue do slew two who goo glue due”. The emaciated boys on the back of the shirt (above right) are the same design as a t-shirt onsale to the general public at this time, only the boy has been repeated five times and his face has been replaced with the faces of Pearl Jam’s members (look real close). And you can’t see them here, but the sleeves also had some designs on them: five nuts (as in nuts and bolts) on the right sleeve, and an encircled number five on the left sleeve. We have a feeling there’s a “five against one” reference in there somewhere, or are they trying to say they’re “five nuts”? The shirt was hand lettered by Eddie.

The shark shirt (above left) is a 1998 Yield tour crew t, and the last one (above right), with the welder, is a simple crew t from the current Riot Act tour.

-Kathy Davis / Two Feet Thick

See something here you know something more about? Caught an error? Have some other off-the-beaten path Pearl Jam or PJ-related t-shirt you’d like to see written about here? Please email us and let us know! We’ll post the updates right here.

Special thanks to Rob Davis and Laurie Hester for their invaluable help with this Artifactor.

**MotherLove Bone cartoon t deconstructed: Stardog, as in the song Stardog Champion. L’Andrew the Love Child was MLB frontman Andy Wood’s actual pre-MLB stage name.Holy Roller is another MLB song. “Stone & Bruce” are MLB guitarists Stone Gossard (you know him) and Bruce Fairweather. “Greg & Jeff” are MLB’s drummer Greg Gilmore and bassist Jeff Ament (you know him too). “blue-eyed soul” is a line from the MLB song Capricorn Sister. “the children sing” is a line from Stardog Champion. “What song did I sing?” is a line from Come Bite The Apple. “Mr. Faded Glory” is from Crown of Thorns

Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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