VHC Starter Kit – Five items for fan growth

by Jessica Letkemann on July 3, 2007

A curiously cool collection of No-codery appeared in the late 1996 and 1997 issues of the Ten Club newsletter and other mailings under the appealing rubrick of the VHC Starter Kit.

Mailed in a custom-printed red and white cardboard carton about the size of cigar box, the Starter Kit hooked fan club members who shelled out $15 up with nine PJ goodies: a sheet of four Big Daddy Roth style illustrated Red Mosquito and Gremmie window decals, a No Code iron-on adapted from some of the Polaroids of the coverart, an assemble-it-yourself 1X2″ flipbook of Jack Irons drumming, a rubber stamp featuring the No Code circle/square/triangle logo, a small white magnet of the VHC Ambulance drawing, and a random PJ single (often “Go”).

These nine items were cool in and of themselves, but it was the box they came in that make them work as a real set. Ten Club took care in designing the container.

The Box

According to merch brochures from circa 1997 (see photo), the kit once came in a faux-woodgrain cardboard box. By July of 1997, however, the box was red and adorned with little drawings. The top of the box is emblazoned with the black and white “Vitalogy Health Club Starter Kit” logo, a direct adaptation of the VHC Ambulance logo often used at the time. In the upper left of the top, a tiny devil in a white jacket stands next to a white starburst that says “100% Guaranteed.

The design on the side of the box functions as a mini table of contents, advertising that the “Complete Kit includes: iron on, stamp, decal, magnet,” and “flipbook.” “No assembly required!” That last bit wasn’t quite true — the flipbook needed some kindergarten level tearing and collating and both the iron on and decals involved a process to get them adhered to your surface of choice — but hey, whose counting?

The bottom of the box sports a VHC Ambulance logo return address and is dominated by a white rectangle for filling in mailing information.

Flipbook

The included flipbook came as a sheet of perforated paper that had several stills excerpted at two to six second intervals from a videotape of Jack Irons drumming at a 1995 PJ concert. Tearing the sheet, assembling the numbered stills, and fastening it all with the two included brads turned it into a super low-fi DIY video clip – see the video below!

Curiously, the titles from the camera on the stills identify the show as being on February 27, 1995, and – as far as we know – there was no show on that date. PJ played Manila in the Philippines on 2/26 and Bangkok, Thailand on 2/28, the timestamp of a little after 9:04pm rules out being able to chalk the date mystery up to cameras being set for a different time zone.

Decals

Included in the kit were not one but four decals, all of them unfortunately permanent and necessitate a soak in water.

Two (top row) are mirror images of a diabolical red mosquito — heh heh heh — complete with pointy tail and pitchfork. (Sing along now, “I was bitten, must have been the devil….”)

The third decal (bottom right) is a Vitalogy Health Club logo and ambulance.

The fourth (bottom left) and final one is a gremmie surfer, ostensibly out of control. His eyes are buggin’ out and his vintage woody station wagon — a classic surfer vehicle — is speeding down the road with a checkered Pearl Jam flag and a finned surfboard hanging out of the back window.

Iron On

The iron on that came in the kit features six of the 144 Polaroids that comprised the cover of No Code, plus the words “Pearl Jam” in the familiar, smudgy typewriter font.

The six Polaroids are: Dennis Rodman’s eye, a sliver of flesh cut from Eddie Vedder’s foot after he was stung by a sting ray (no lie!), the circle/triangle/square No Code logo, a dog’s incisor teeth, the tuning peg of an instrument, and the bulls eye of a dartboard.

Magnet

The magnet included is an approximately two-and-a-half by one-and-a-half inch black and white rendering of the VHC logo and ambulance that emblazoned fan club mailings during this era.

Most folks remember it best as a punch-out-and-assemble-it cardboard structure that formed the cover of Newsletter 11, which was mailed in June 1997. If you look reeeeaaaal close, you can see that the model of the car, which is written on the front fender near the tire, is “Pearl Jam.”

Rubber Stamp

The No Code logo rubber stamp that was included in the starter kit doesn’t need much explanation. It’s simply a three by four inch rendering of the circle/triange/square No Code logo mounted on a wooden base.

Rubber stamps generally don’t work very well without ink. Although most off-the-shelf stamps come with ink pads or built in ink feed, this one did not. Remember, it is a starter kit.

Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media (Fuse.tv) and was previously managing editor of Billboard.com. She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.

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