Fan Club Single #1: Band’s First Christmas

by John Reynolds on December 15, 2004

Cover to Cover

Jeff’s artwork using a Rhino photo and various shades of green paint comprise the front (top left) and rear (top right)of the sleeve. The records also have information and art on the inserts of Side A (bottom left) and Side B (bottom right)

(Click to enlarge the photos above)

Any ordinary Joe can go to a record store or go online and buy one of Pearl Jam’s albums. But if your fandom goes a little deeper, you have probably joined the Ten Club and discovered the joy that is Pearl Jam’s tradition of sending fan-club-only vinyl with unreleased material around holiday time. PJ’s first Fan Club single delivers a tender yet somber Christmas reflection on Side A, “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time)”, and a genuinely heartfelt audio letter to their fans on Side B, “Ramblings”.

The concept of sending a Christmas single to the members of a band’s fan club started with bands like the Beatles and continues with Pearl Jam and REM. The Beatles sent out six Christmas singles from 1963-1969 to members of the U.K. and American fan clubs, including a 7th record after they broke up in 1970, which was an LP of the first six records’ material. Membership skyrocketed in 1963 when the band let on that all members would receive a single – sound familiar? Lastly, the style of the singles seemed to inspire Pearl Jam, as the recordings are interspersed with John, Paul, George and Ringo thanking the fans, much like “Ramblings”.

In the summer of 1991, former Mother Love Bone fan club members were sent a letter – now “Newsletter #1″ – introducing Pearl Jam and announcing the release of Ten. Inside the liner notes of Ten were instructions for joining the “Ten Club” (for $5!), with no mention of what membership would give you. In the fall of 1991, fans received “Newsletter #2″, a ‘zine-style letter to fans. In December 1991, though, not many fan club members foresaw the arrival of a simple brown flat envelope in their mailboxes, containing a record that is still one of the most sought PJ collectibles around. Approximately 1500 singles were manufactured but it is known that approximately 200 have not circulated.

The single is on black 7″ vinyl, and although 7″ vinyls are often called “45s” for “45rpm playback speed”, this single is 33rpm. The inserts for Side A and Side B are white lettering on black, and the handwriting is Jeff’s. In the perimeter of the insert is information on each song:

(click each image below to enlarge)

Music by McCready – Lyrics by Vedder – Recorded live by Dec 1990 with Rick Parashar – Parisian Rhino Photo / Paints by Ames (no Song information at all except for five pairs of footprints)

Although the “Lyrics by Vedder” is no surprise, Mike’s music credit is his earliest. The recording date of December 1990 is really fascinating if you think of the fact that it is less than two months after Ed joined the band! Rick Parashar, who recorded and produced the Ten Sessions months later, hails from London Bridge Studios, but it’s not clear whether this was “recorded live” at the studio or in the band’s rehearsal space. Although it appears that the front cover art is just painted canvas, you can see that the Rhino head is a cutout (“Parisian Rhino Photo”) if you zoom in on the cover. The edges are clearly cut out and the photo has a specific texture. Jeff added various shades of green brush strokes around the photo and on the photo itself. The Side B insert just shows five pairs of footprints, obviously one for each member of the band.

The back of the sleeve is written in Ed’s handwriting, superimposed over a patch of Jeff’s brushstrokes in the style of the Rhino piece. Aside from the bold type face of “Let Me Sleep” and “Ramblings”, Ed pens most of the lyrics to “Let Me Sleep” in his trademark style seen in the liner notes of nearly all the band’s releases. At the bottom, Ed scrawls “Pearl Jam 91″, where the “A” in “Jam” is the common symbol for anarchy.

Ed revealed his inspiration for the song in an appearance on Radio Fritz from 1996:

“It’s a little song, I remember writing it because Jeff, I was staying with Jeff at the time in his very small apartment and he went to a Christmas party. And I didn’t want to have anything to do with any kind of party. I was too busy being depressed. So I went and had coffee, and I went back to the house, and I got locked out, and I wrote the words to this song.”

With this insight, the lyrics below are given context:

Cold wind blows at the soles of my feet

Heaven knows nothing of me

Flowered winds was where I lived

Thought you burned not froze for your sins

Oh please let me sleep …

Let me dream … it’s Christmas

The B-side “Ramblings” is more of a message than a song. “Ramblings” was recorded sometime from October to December 1991 while on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and includes the band – lineup then of Eddie, Mike, Stone, Jeff and then new Dave Abbruzzese – introducing themselves, wishing fans a Merry Christmas, and singing an impomptu song. If you’ve never heard this before, online lyric sites won’t help you at all as they don’t even identify who is speaking the lines. Since some things the band members say need some explanation, below is the transcription of “Ramblings” with notes:

(Audio fades in with Stone playing a riff in open “D” tuning, Jeff playing bass. This was recorded somewhere backstage during a Red Hot Chili Peppers in Fall 1991, as you can hear the din of the Chili Peppers playing in the background.)
Dave (to Jeff, laughing) Are you out of tune?
Jeff: No, but I think your drums are. (Dave laughs)
Mike: No Cheap Ones! [see reference]
Eddie: Hey everybody, this is Eddie from Pearl Jam … and Jeff.
Jeff: And me too.
Eddie: And Mike.
Mike: And it’s me Mike.
Stone: And it’d talk to you but I … (stops playing) … fuck, see if I talk I fuck up the song, so sorry.
Jeff: And he cusses, too, every time he talks.(Dave laughs)
Mike: And Dave.
Dave: Dave’s here. I am here.
Mike: Dave’s not here.
Eddie: And Dave is in the house.
Mike: Dave is here.
Dave: “I am the chief who’ll undress, in the green prom dress, in health and woman” [see reference]
Jeff: He’s not the quiet percussive one. (Dave laughing) He’s the new, not quiet, hard-hitting one.
Mike: “I’m not the grinch ’cause I didn’t have a drink!” (Dave Laughing) [see reference]
Stone: Anyway, we thought we’d all just wish you all a Merry Christmas and we’re very happy right now because we’re on tour with the Chili Peppers, and that’s them playing in the background and we’re playing some new songs.[see reference]
Mike: And Happy New Year (in falsetto voice) “And God bless everyone … everywhere.” (everyone laughs) [see reference]
Jeff: That was Mike, he’s Tiny Tim now.
Eddie: And this is Eddie saying that … that I am a rhinoceros and my skin is two feet thick.[see reference]
Stone: So we’ll leave you up with this one and thank you again, bye! (resumes playing guitar, Jeff resumes bass and Dave sounds like he’s slapping his pants for rhythm)
Jeff: See you!
Eddie: Merry Christmas!
Mike: Merry Christmas! No Cheap Ones
Eddie: (Singing) Happiiiiiiiii … Happiness is good! (band laughs)
Mike: Yes, we like that!
Eddie: (Singing) Happi- Happi- Happi- Happi- Happi- Happiness is … good. Happiness is …
Stone: (Stops playing) Well, do you think the Slayer tour is out, or what?[see reference]
Jeff: Slayer tour’s not happening
Dave: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think we’re gonna hook up with them.
Jeff: We should probably wrap this up because ???’s real quiet. He’s being paid right now … lots of money.
Stone: (really loud) See ya!![see reference].
Eddie: Bye Slayer!
Mike: Bye … Merry Christmas. Happy New Year!
Jeff: That was meant to blow up your speakers. Ha ha ha!! (Dave groans)
Mike: And this is my …
Jeff: It’s actually the Devil in Santa Claus’s suit. After all, if you switch the letters around on “Santa” it spells (devil voice) “SATAN”!
Mike: Awww!
Eddie: Whooooaaa!
Stone: You gotta switch ‘em around and change a couple of ‘em, but … [see reference] (Dave laughs)
Jeff: I just saw that last night on the news, you know those little evangelist guys. Like I remember that, there was a kid that got arrested …
(Audio quickly fades out while Jeff is talking)

“Ramblings” references

If you were lucky enough to be in the Ten Club in 1991 and receive this gem in the mail, the single is probably the centerpiece of your Pearl Jam collection. Like every Christmas single since, it is a reminder that the band still hearts its fans – through artwork, new recordings, and the raw messages of “Ramblings”

John Reynolds ( Twitter: @jjjrrr )
A New Jersey based programmer, John handles TFT’s programming and technical aspects. He also conceives and writes his share of TFT’s articles and sections. John’s first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 12, 1992.

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