To whet your appetite for our upcoming massive, original, super-special TwoFeetThick production about Pearl Jam’s origins as the exact 20th anniversary of the band’s first show (Oct. 22) approaches, we present this detailed look at Stone Gossard’s Summer 1990 instrumental demos. These are the vocal-less tracks that snared him a singer named Eddie and that later formed the basis of Ten. Stone Gossard himself talked to us about the making of the tape, and you’ll notice pretty fast that Stone was a huge fan of the key of E back in the day.
Within months of the death of Mother Love Bone’s Andy Wood in 1990, Stone forged ahead creating a new band. By the late summer, he had Mike McCready and Jeff Ament in place. They gathered at Reciprocal recording studio in Seattle to record Stone’s music. The idea was that, in addition to getting the new music recorded, the resulting tracks would help land them a singer and drummer to complete a new band. Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron and Chris Friel (from McCready’s old band Shadow) sat in on drums.
Often dubbed “The Gossman Project,” Stone told us it was the bootleggers that labeled it that way, “it didn’t have any working name. Nope. It was just, ‘New Stuff.’”
Rather than giving the unfinished songs generic titles, Stone tells TwoFeetThick that it was important for him to give them evocative names. “It’s better to put a name on a song than it is to not,” Stone says. “If you want it to actually be a song, you can’t name it something like ‘Riff 2.’ I’ve got tapes and tapes and tapes of things just named ‘Riff 1,’Riff 2′ which I’ll never look at again because I need to remember. I need the name to remind me of it. So [the '90 demo song titles] were just a loose association thing.”
With Stone’s help, let’s dive into the tape, track-by-track, explaining the riff titles, the sound, and what song(s) the riff ultimately became. Click the “play” buttons next to the song title to hear the audio, courtesy of Gremmie.net!
“The King” is the musical foundation of “Even Flow” from Pearl Jam’s Ten. This demo track is interesting in that it is one of the few whose structure and style changed drastically when it was finally arranged and recorded. The opening and core riff of the song is similar but not identical to the swinging “Even Flow” riff. While the style of the verses are similar, the bridge and chorus did not materialize into any future arrangement. The fascinating part though, is that riffs from “The King” popped up in future jams in Pearl Jam’s early years.
“Dollar Short” is the musical foundation of the song “Alive” from Pearl Jam’s Ten. “Alive” was the band’s first promo and radio single, and it became the first signature song for the band. At just a slightly slower pace than the record, the demo is very similar to the final song – from Stone’s trademark riff, Mike’s clean-channel A-Asus2 chord progression, Jeff’s complementary bass and Matt’s simple accompaniment. “Dollar Short” includes a prominent acoustic rhythm guitar track for each chorus. Entering the bridge (which lyrically became “Is something wrong she said…”), the arrangement is note-for-note, and as the band would normally start the final chorus, Mike’s solo kicks in. The solo has a somewhat conservative approach, with Mike trying to find a way to complement the song but not ready to put his trademark style on it just yet. Unlike future demos, rough tracks and renditions today, the demo contains none of the identifying trademarks that we air-guitar to today. At 4:32, the track void of Ed’s lyrics starts to fade and eventually comes to a hard stop much like it does live today. As a side note, this is labeled on some early bootlegs as “New God”.
Stone reveals that “Richard E,” the musical foundation of the Pearl Jam song “Alone,” was named that, because “something about it reminded me of Keith Richards.” The finished song “Alone” later appeared as a b-side to the “Go” single and on the b-side collection Lost Dogs. As Stone’s reasoning for the riff’s name indicates, the instrumental is similar in style to the riffs of The Rolling Stones’ guitarist. Once again, the structure resembles the ultimate structure of the Pearl Jam song, complete with another untamed Mike McCready solo. “Alone” is the career minor-leaguer in Pearl Jam’s catalog by missing two cuts – it didn’t make Ten and then didn’t make Vs., before being relegated to b-side status.
“E Ballad,” which is literally a ballad in the key of E, is the musical foundation of the song “Black” on Pearl Jam’s Ten. Like “7-Up”, the musical arrangement of this track is so similar to the final product, it’s amazing. With its familiar clean-channel intro, both guitars, the bass, and the simple drum track are all almost identical in performance. Mike clearly found his way with his accompaniment during the verses, and his wah-wah feedback solo centering on a high-E note is immediately familiar. Like “Dollar Short”, an acoustic guitar accompanies all the choruses. The trademark “do-do”s are present during each chorus and throughout the ending sequence. Further making the title “E Ballad” an apt one, it alternates between E-major and E-minor chord progressions.
“?” or “Untitled” is the other track on the demos that did not result in a future recording. In a collection of barely titled tracks, this ironically-labeled track at 4:10 is a very full arrangement similar to “Dollar Short” and “E Ballad” with its use of electric and acoustic guitars. The music itself is torn between two moods – the power of the G-major chord and optimism of the E-minor chord. Alas, nothing more became of “Untitled”, a title which grew legs in 1996 as the “title” of a Pearl Jam improv that often preceded “MFC”.
“Weird A” is the musical foundation for Pearl Jam’s “Animal“, released on Vs. Yes, that’s right, Vs. The mere fact that this demo yielded songs not just from a debut album, but carried over to the band’s sophomore effort, is true testament to the quality of these tracks. At a slower pace, the arrangement of “Weird A” is similar to “Animal” with the opening riff and the verses, but the chorus varies and even includes a bridge not found in the latter. Sounding “weird”, this song is indeed in A-major. At 4:25, the song keeps pace with the other instrumentals, eventually sped up and stripped down for “Animal”.
“7-Up” is the musical foundation of the song “Pushin’ Forwards Back” from Temple of the Dog S/T. Considering 100% of the musicians on this track eventually recorded as Temple of the Dog, you can almost call this a “Temple of the Dog Demo”. Sans Chris Cornell’s vocals, the guitar, bass, and drums work together on his 3:40 track, nearly note-for-note with the final track which ended up just four seconds longer at 3:44 on the album. The title “7-Up” refers to the 7/8 Time Signature of the rhythm, meaning that the eighth note is the steady beat seven times per measure. 7/8 is considered an “irregular” time signature and – for lack of a better word – gives the music that “herky-jerky” feel to it. As a reference, another popular song in 7/8 time is Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones.” It sounds like there is just one rhythm guitar track throughout, and unlike the final track, this demo ends by fading out the main riff of the song.
“Doobie E” is the musical foundation of the song “Breath“, ultimately released on the Singles soundtrack. The eventual track is noted for its lush guitars, and are even more prevalent here in the demo, with Stone’s Marshall sounding like a buzz-saw to start the track off. All the musical components of “Breath” are here, including the faint singing of the “do-do”s at the beginning. The verses are very stripped down and almost sound very different from “Breath”, but you eventually realize how Ed’s vocal fills that space. Instead, the verses included machine-gun soloing from Mike McCready in the vein of Hendrix and Jeff being experimental on the upper frets of his bass. As the fourth song on the demo, Stone’s arrangement style is straight out of the rock’n'roll playbook, with intro, verses, chorus, a bridge to shake things up, then doubling back to the chorus as the outro. Mike’s wah-wah makes an appearance throughout the entire solo and is a must-listen, ultimately a bit more daring and untamed than the solo eventually recorded. “Doobie E”? The song is in the key of “E”. Is there a Doobie Brothers song that may have inspired the title? Possible, that’s not known.
“Agyptian Crave,” whose title is the word “Egyptian” spelled with an “A”, was so-named, Stone says, because “it was kind of an eastern scale except it was in the key of A.” The song is the musical foundation of the song “Once” from Pearl Jam’s Ten. The guitar riffs are eerily similar to the resulting tracks on “Once”, reinforcing a theme throughout all these songs that the integrity of the riffs were maintained and respected because of their quality. Immediately following the opening riff, the main difference between “Agyptian Crave” and “Once” is clear, as the sonic level of the demo drops and a half-blues, half-jazz riff echoes over the serpentine riff that Ed eventually sang “Once” over. From the bridge (eventually with “Backseat lover…” lyrics) to the Chorus (“Once, upon a time…”), the music is nearly identical to “Once”, with Stone repeating the opening / central riff and Jeff’s fluid bass undercurrent. Matt’s drums are similar in style to Dave Krusen’s interpretation.
“Times of Trouble” is the musical foundation of the Temple of the Dog song of the same name, but also Pearl Jam’s b-side “Footsteps“, later released on Lost Dogs. For a demo, this instrumental track is fascinating because of its lavish arrangement. The piano accompaniment is present, as in the Temple of the Dog version. With Stone playing electric, Mike is on acoustic utilizing his slide and soloing throughout most of the demo. Jeff and Chris Friel’s drumming is simple and complementary, eventually coming together for the final recording of “Times of Trouble”. Reminding you that it’s still a demo, you can hear someone sneeze at 0:06 during the opening riff. More on that later. From other demo and early studio sessions, it doesn’t seem that “Footsteps” was ever recorded until Ed and Stone played live in studio on Rockline in 1992, from there becoming a moderate rarity having been played at less than a hundred shows. Stone says he unsure of the original name of the riff before it became “Times of Trouble.” More details of the fascinating multiple lives of this riff will be revealed soon in TwoFeetThick’s big 20th-Anniversary production.
“Evil E” is the musical foundation for the Pearl Jam song “Just A Girl“, which later appeared as one of six bonus tracks on the 2009 reissue of Ten . Since this song had such a short live lifespan (they only played it once as far as we know), the music from this demo does not stray from the full-band version recorded months later. Many of its musical traits are still intact: Jeff’s use of harmonics and slide, Mike’s use of clean-channel wah-wah. Stone’s intro riff is also similar to the Mookie Blaylock demo of “Just A Girl,” but the rest of the song is a near carbon copy musically. The key of the demo is higher-pitched than “Just A Girl”. The difference may be real, or possible due to analog tape speeds making them sound different. “Evil E”? As Stone mentioned, riffs or ideas without lyrics will just be given generic labels to set them apart as they incubate into songs. This demo evidently sounded “evil” enough, and is in the key of “E”. It also should be noted that Stone has been a big fan of hip-hop forever and “Evil E” is the name of rapper Ice T’s DJ. Discuss amongst yourselves.
“Folk D” is one of the few demo tracks that did not result in a future recording. At 3:36, it has a main riff, structure, and a pretty wicked Mike McCready solo. It is in the key of “D” and its “folk” feel is the 6/8 time signature normally associated with polkas, but maybe Stone thought it sounded more “folky”. After listening to the other instrumentals, the style and pattern of “Folk D” is very similar to other songs that eventually became legend. We all know that not all songs go from seed to tree, and “Folk D” is in this category.
Momma-Son: It’s Evolution Baby!
As we explained in our earlier special about Eddie’s “Momma-Son” cassette, Eddie turned three of the Stone Gossard demos into the earliest music that can truly be called Pearl Jam songs. “Alive” became the first song Eddie Vedder put lyrics to, and to this day, the lyrics are a 100% match to the original demo version. The vocals aren’t Ed’s full-voice singing that we’re used to, and are more intimate, made clear by the minimalist recoding done in his apartment. The chorus doesn’t yet have that anthem-like quality yet, but he’s close to finding his way singing “I … oh-oh I’m still Alive”.
This initial version of “Once” reveals the core theme of the song, with most elements of the song intact except for the dramatically different verses. Ed even maintains the exact phrasing for the final chorus that can be found on Ten and most live versions.
The lyrics Ed writes to Stone’s riff match the later released version 100%. Our favorite detail, however, is that on the Stone Gossard Demos instrumental of “Times Of Trouble,” someone sneezes at the very beginning. And on the “Momma-Son” tape’s “Footsteps,” which Eddie recorded right over top of the instrumental, Eddie quietly says “Bless you” after the sneeze.
But Wait There’s More
Lots more. We’ve detailed Stone Gossard Demos. Earlier we dove into “Momma-Son.” But as we said in the intro, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Before 10/22/2010, the band’s 20th birthday, TwoFeetThick.com will unveil a gigantic special about Pearl Jam’s beginnings complete with tons of original interviews, and every detail and artifact we could unearth. Stay tuned.
The MP3s of the Stone Gossard 1990 demos and Momma-Son songs are brought to you by the excellent Gremmie.net. Gremmie.net was developed for the purpose of bringing hard to find and out of print Pearl Jam music to the fan community, and hosts a great collection of rare material and B-sides.
We’d also like to thank Gavin Conaty (and his inherint thank you list) who created the original Early Pearl Jam Recordings History, which is currently the only known source of the original tracklist of the Stone Gossard 1990 Demos.