It’s not every day that Cameron Crowe makes a movie about the band you love. And not every day he makes a two-disc soundtrack you know you’ll be reaching for for years. To dive as deeply into the PJ20 soundtrack as possible, we present an essay, a video look inside, and, very proudly, an interactive Google map of most of the places and moments Crowe has captured among these 29 songs — complete with video.
Inside the PJ20 Package
My look through the actual pages of the book of words and carefully images carefully chosen by director Cameron Crowe, set to “Acoustic #1,” a wistful demo from 1991 on disc two of the soundtrack.
After combing through 1200 hours of archival footage, much of it rare and some of it never before seen, how did director Cameron Crowe go about telling the story of Pearl Jam’s first two decades in music alone? He could have gone a million ways with the original motion picture soundtrack of his full-bodied Pearl Jam Twenty documentary. Standard greatest hits package? It’s been done. Rarities and B-sides? Done. Live album? Done – hundreds of times.
Instead, Crowe took all of the live bootlegs out there (official and true bootlegs), demos the band has made available to him alone, key radio and TV broadcasts, and more and he wrote himself a setlist worthy of Pearl Jam itself, with careful attention to tempo, soar, and flow, just like any Pearl Jam show. And in case you didn’t get that that’s what he was doing, the CD package – which is almost book-like, a la Vitalogy and many subsequent PJ albums – literally sports a setlist handwritten in black Sharpie for each of the two discs, complete with songs crossed out so you can see what he thought of but felt was best omitted. [Continue reading about the soundtrack below the map]
The TFT Pj20 Soundtrack Map
We took the soundtrack and mapped it. Click on a PJ20 logo (and don’t forget to pan around the planet) to see — and HEAR — where in the world each sonic snapshot was recorded. The band has been everywhere in their 20-years-and-counting journey, and Cameron Crowe made certain to include many of the corners of the earth PJ has touched. Be sure to zoom in close on Seattle, the New York City area, and Italy, or you’ll miss something. The PJ20 Soundtrack, like PJ itself, often finds important moments in those places.
Once Upon A Time
Diehard fans, whether you go back to the days of cassette dubs passed through the mail until the hiss was unbearable or you came in during the YouTube-and-broadband-download era, will almost certainly find this Crowe-curated trove of goodies to be required listening.
What The Clock Is To Time
If you were to reorder the soundtrack according to when the songs were performed, you’d get a very different running order. And like the crossouts on Crowe’s setlists, you’d see what was here as well as what was interestingly left out of the rotation.
KEY: T- Ten, Vi-Vitalogy, D-demo, Bs-Backspacer, Vs-Vs., Y-Yield, RA-RiotAct, Bi-Binaural
But one of the coolest things about it is that it’s not just for us. All 29 of these songs instantly turn any listener into a superfan, letting every single person hear the band’s range of music through the years from the roughest of sound quality (the newly uncovered “Alive” from PJ’s third show ever 12/22/90 Seattle; ’92 European jams with loud crowds, Temple of the Dog demos) to latter-day live gems with perfect EQ (emotional mega-singalong on “Better Man,” New York 5/21/2010), as if they’d been collecting it themselves for years. Glimpses of everything we love about Pearl Jam’s music, with a heavy emphasis on live music, is here, sometimes raw and always real, as amassed by a fellow fan named Cameron Crowe.
Disc One is literally listed as being “From The Film ‘PJ20′” and it hews to the present/past/present push-and-pull narrative that Crowe sets up for the film itself, rather than straight chronology.
We begin in 2006 Verona, Italy with “Release,” a fitting show opener, which, if you listen close finds Ed singing out to his dear friend, the then-recently departed Johnny Ramone (“Oh Dear John, can you see this now?”). Then we jump, as the film does, back to Seattle’s Moore Theater for the December 22, 199o, “Alive” that no Pearl Jam fan since has heard until now. Crowe was one of the people there, and in the liner notes, he recalls “by the time they played ‘Alive’ heads were turning… This shy new singer singing with the power of his convictions, this new band… this could all really work.”
Through “Garden” from the long lost Albani acoustic show in Zurich on Feb 19, 1992, that huge “Black” from MTV Unplugged that every fan has heard (“we belong together!”), a handful from the 1995 world tour with Jack Irons in the drum seat, and the emotional Mother Love Bone song “Crown Of Thorns” performed by Pearl Jam for the first time on their 10th anniversary in 2000, Crowe works his way through all the years and sounds and trials and triumphs, through PJ jamming with “Uncle” Neil Young at the Bridge Benefit last October.
“Porch” from the Pinkpop festival in the Netherlands (June 8, 1992), which in the film sets up an epic montage of Eddie’s early-days daredevil dives from the beams, stacks and roofs of venues around the world, has been crossed off Crowe’s disc one setlist. See the film, he seems to suggest. See the action that goes with what makes that particular version special. Vitalogy’s “Bugs,” from its only time played live, Philadelphia on Halloween 2009, doesn’t make the cut on disc two… but you’d probably rather imagine the shrieking accordion than actually hear it.
Disc Two is more esoteric. Labeled “Rarities and Inspiration,” Crowe leads us into the rare air of songs in the process of being born mixed in with more live moments (from Italy ’06, the infamous “Bu$hleaguer” from Nassau in ’03, and the New York ’10 “Better Man”).
The obviously historic Temple of the Dog offerings “Say Hello 2 Heaven” (Crowe writes that McCready found this recently in the bottom of a box) and instrumental “Times of Trouble” (which became “Footsteps” in Eddie’s hands) aside, the disc’s seven middle tracks turn the songwriting process inside out.
The 1991 Stone-strummy demo, “Acoustic #1,” like “Yellow Ledbetter,” doesn’t seem to have words as much as guttural Eddie singing (“I know the roads will lead me” are among the few decipherable lines) but it’s affecting all the same.
“It Ain’t Like That,” a rehearsal from the band’s Mookie Blaylock days, surfs a big guitar crunch over a Barney Miller-eqsue baseline (Eddie gets it right when he kids “I’m Abe Vigoda and… Alice In Chains rocks my world”).
2007′s “Need To Know” is Matt Cameron’s very Wellwater Conspiracy-like beginnings of what became 2009′s “The Fixer.” “Given To Fly” turns into something else in Mike’s hands, when stripped down to just his acoustic retake in 2010.
Only spoken of in passing in press for “Binaural,” here is Jeff Ament’s 1999 demo for “Nothing As It Seems,” complete with his own gauzy, dark vocals seeming as primal as something on Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band” – then paired back to back with the band’s take from a October 22, 2001, Seattle show, where McCready’s solo flares out into the “structural homage to Ament’s favorite Pink Floyd track ‘Comfortably Numb,’” as Crowe mentions in the liner notes.
(Not) The End
Disc One’s setlist page ends with the thick black line denoting “end of first set,” just as disc two’s ends with a thick black line denoting, “end of second set.”
But every Pearl Jam fan knows, you don’t end a set with “Rearviewmirror,” and you don’t end it after just two sets. Like the actual band, the show goes on; there’s still more to come.