On The Porch A Letter Sat: Pearl Jam’s First Fan Club Newsletter

by John Reynolds on July 28, 2011

It’s 1990 and you’re a Mother Love Bone fan. Maybe you live in Seattle and have had many chances to see them live, or maybe you caught them on their only U.S. tour with Dogs D’Amour. You liked them enough to join their fan club, the “Love Bone Earth Affair”, and got some nice letters and paraphernalia from the band. Sadly that all ended on March 19, 1990 when Andrew Wood died. You picked up Apple when it came out in July, but you effectively closed the book on Mother Love Bone.

Much to your surprise, Mother Love Bone memories also resurfaced with the release of Temple of the Dog. You knew who Chris Cornell, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Matt Cameron were, but who were “Eddie Vedder” and “Mike McCready” listed in the liner notes? You were about to find out by way of a introductory letter brought to you via a $0.25 stamp, and later some music sent on the medium of the day – the cassette. Your Mother Love Bone fan club membership was about to pay dividends.

In subsequent years, Pearl Jam fans would be graced with over twenty newsletters. In this article, TwoFeetThick will take a look at the first one, and the music that followed shortly afterwards.

On The Porch A Letter Sat

Long before following a band meant going to a website and lazily clicking a “follow” button, band-to-fan communication was only possible through fan club letters. Thankfully they were usually longer than 140 characters. The good ones were usually from bands that had either a creative band member, or someone in the inner circle to assist. Pearl Jam had the former, and that was bassist Jeff Ament.

Below is a scan of a letter – widely accepted as the “Newsletter #1″ – that was sent to Love Bone Earth Affair members. We don’t know the exact date of when it was sent. The letter opens with “By late May …” and we know that “Pearl Jam” was only born in early March.

You can view the newsletter in its original size, and we’ve re-printed the contents here:

Hello Folks!!

It’s been awhile, but we’re back with a brand new thang

PEARL JAM

By late May, u should all be receiving free promo cassettes of our 1st single (Alive, Wash, + a cover of the beatles I’ve Got A Feeling). Just a little taste of what’s to come in July when our album comes out on Epic Records.  We have 3 new guys (masters one + all) – Eddie Vedder (singer, songwriter, Bulls fan from San Diego), Dave Krusen (drummer, smiler, percussive god), + Mike McCready (an Irish folkplayer who left the homeland + found Hendrix + Beck). Anyway, we’re just finishing our record + looking forward 2 playing a lot in ’91-’92.

Thanks for your patience + hope 2 see you all soon!

Jeff + Stone

Special thanks to Mookie Blaylock, The New Jersey Nets, The NBA, & all of their lawyers. For more information/t-shirts, write to: Ten Club/P.O.Box 4570/Settle, WA 98104.

Pearl Jam's First Newsletter

The "First" Newsletter

Penned by Jeff, the letter is signed by Jeff and Stone, writing in solidarity as former members of Mother Love Bone. Already labeled the “Ten Club”, fans are asked to write in for more information and merchandise to the same P.O. Box in Seattle that was used for the Love Bone Earth Affair.

Jealous Now? Jealous Again!

“Listen Up!” Special thanks to fan Kevin Miner for sending us another letter from 1991.  Kevin told us that he was never a member of the Love Bone Earth Affair, and probably received this by way of being on a mailing list from the Black Crowes. This letter has Pearl Jam letterhead and is sent from an address in Van Nuys, CA.

Early Pearl Jam Letter

Pearl Jam letter sent in 1991

The letter hypes up Pearl Jam as an exciting new act, talks about the accompanying cassette (more below), and promotes future tours and the release of Ten.

The Gift of Cassette

These letters keep mentioning a cassette, so why a cassette? Still popular in 1991, analog cassettes were a common way to distribute EPs and demos. Portraying that DIY mentality, this 3-song cassette includes songs recorded on January 29, 1991 – with the band together for only three months.

Alive – After tons of rehearsing and a few performances, “Alive” sounds pretty close to its final version.  Stone’s distorted Marshall sound is unmistakable, as well as Jeff’s complimentary bass and Dave’s rhythm track. Eddie’s vocal performance has also grown past the hesitance heard in early demos and performances of the chorus. Mike’s solo is noticeably longer and rawer. It sounds like it was a work in progress early on because he even says (Deep “Special TEN Edition”) that the solo on the album version was recorded in England during mixing. Lastly, no, your ears are not deceiving you. Mixed by Pearl Jam and Kelly Curtis(!), Stone’s guitar mix is stronger on the left, while Mike’s is stronger on the right; roles that would later reverse and stay that way both on stage and in studio.

Wash – Born as a “b-side”, “Wash” is a great complement to “Alive” and you know it from the opening chords. With echo, delay, and clean-channel guitar riffs, the song portrays a band wise beyond their years (or months) and showcases Eddie’s amazing range and vocal power. “Wash” turned out to be the band’s most frequent opening song in 1991, but lost the battle as the opening track on Ten with the decision to come out of the gates with the Master/Slave intro -> Once.

I’ve Got A Feeling – This Beatles track can be found on the 1969 album Let It Be.  The mix is really loose and Dave Krusen’s drumming is heavy but ultra-relaxed, making this a real easy and fun song to listen to. Ed also had fun with lyric substitutions:

Beatles: All these years I’ve been wandering around the world / Wondering how come nobody told me
Pearl Jam: And I don’t understand, how come nobody told me? / Why I’d want to sing like Milli Vanilli

Beatles: Everybody had a hard year / Everybody had a good time / Everybody had a wet dream / Everybody saw the sunshine.
Pearl Jam: Everybody had a good year / Though we never saw the sun shine / Everybody had a wet dream / Makin’ Temple was a good time

Beatles: Everybody had a good year / Everybody let their hair down / Everybody pulled their socks up. / Everybody put their foot down.
Pearl Jam: Everybody made a movie / Everybody had one line / Everybody misses Andy / We’ll be seeing him in no time

The message accompanying this tape is literary gold because it’s a reflective summary of his history with Stone, and you get the feeling of hope and powerful energy, and sheer excitement for what’s to come.

PEARL JAM
To think this all started 7 years ago…
the Stone faction
/Funny city rock guy with a Marshall/
meets the Jeff faction…
\serious Montana skate punk
with a basketball\
GREEN RIVER
3 records. 3 tours? The Seattle sound. Sub Pop. Loud. Long hair. Etc…
… mainly etc.
One thing didn’t lead to another and they left.
MOTHER LOVE BONE
2 records. 1 tour… Love rock. Lots of promise. Talk. Hype …
Then, Andy left to go do his solo record.
Once again, the Stone + Jeff faction opt out 2 do a new thang.
Mookie Blaylock … Reeenk Roink
PEARL JAM.
3 new guys. The kick ass faction
EDDIE.
/Master of words. Earth guru/
DAVE.
\Percussive God. The quiet one…watch out\
Mike /King of coffee driven guitar color, a blues mang/
PEARL JAM.
Fate. Quickness. hard work. No talk. No time 4 hype.
The coming together of 10.
… hands … eyes .. ears …
with coitus + gold-e and a deep bench in N.Y. + L.A.,
the journey begins.
Like your favorite plant. Just add water.
Watch PEARL JAM grow.

Alive / Wash / I've Got A Feeling J-Card Message

Alive / Wash / I've Got A Feeling J-Card Message

Some notes:

REEENK ROINK (Taken from “Reeeink Roink – It’s OK to Mess Up“, 2005) – Because of the “Alive” single’s liner notes, fans have long guessed that “Reeenk Roink” was a potential band name, but now we can say for sure that that’s not true. PJ fan Scott Logsden let us know that he recently lucked out and got his Reeenk Roink signed by Jeff Ament. Scott’s sleeve already contained the standard “Pearl Jam — TEN — REEENK ROINK” writing, but in addition to an autograph, Jeff added an asterisk next to “Reeenk Roink” and wrote “it’s ok to mess up.” When asked, Ament explained that back when PJ were recording Ten, when someone messed up, everyone else in the band would look at the person and make a funny face and say “reeenk roink!” It’s hard to explain in print, but what Jeff means is that “reeenk roink” is a sound spelled out, an onomatopoeia: like the sound on a game show when someone gets something wrong, or the two-tone error noise your computer might make. When they got the test discs from the record company, which lacked the name of their album and didn’t even have the band’s name printed on them, Jeff and Ed decided to write that phrase on there for when they gave them to people.

COITUS + GOLD-E – “Coitus”, ahem, is most likely a nickname for Manager (Kelly) Curtis, and “Gold-E” is the nickname for A&R Rep Michael Goldstone, who signed Mother Love Bone to Mercury and Pearl Jam to Epic Records.

Alive / Wash / I've Got A Feeling J-Card

Alive / Wash / I've Got A Feeling J-Card

Countdown to Ten

Twenty years later, the “Alive / Wash / I’ve Got A Feeling” demo is nearly perfect: combining their seminal anthem, an adored b-side, and a fun, respectable cover song.  The newsletters combined with heartfelt fan letters helped fans grasp on to their intangible energy; and with Ten and the live shows that followed, build a following that continued through 1991, 1992 and beyond.

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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