Well, quite. Hurrah, mercifully, for sardonic humour.
Antiquiet have unearthed some Eddie Vedder demos from his Bad Radio days: the funk-rock, RHCP-influenced, sartorially-questionable-trouser-wearing San Diego band that Vedder sang in before joining Pearl Jam in late 1990.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the material is already out there on the web – pretty sure I found a stack of it on Rearviewmirror, though can’t now find the specific page; check out the Bad Radio demos page on Gremmie.net. But this find provides a couple of new songs, along with some better-quality versions of already known Bad Radio demos. So if you’re not a PJ nut who’s already tracked these down and finds it all so last year (yawn etc) and are curious about what the younger Vedder was up to between surfs in the California sun, this gives you a good flavour of what Bad Radio were about.
Stand out tracks are ‘Homeless’ (both the acoustic version that kicks off this tape and the full-band version that follows later), I’m Alive (not to be confused with the PJ song). There’s the early prototype of ‘Betterman’ (yes, that one), along with guitar chops to make Hillel Slovak proud (I’m guessing) on ‘What the Funk’ (the bassist is capable, but no Flea). Here are Bad Radio playing ‘Betterman’ live back in 1989:
The song demonstrates not just the calibre of song-writing that Vedder would bring to Pearl Jam, but also the quality of musicianship and arrangement that PJ would supply to Vedder’s ideas and lyrics in return.
Less worthy of posterity are, ironically, Antiquiet’s two new finds: ‘What a Wonderful World’ (the late 80s was awash with early 60s soul nostalgia – from Stand By Me and Good Morning Vietnam to Bruce Willis
torturing mice and small children trying his hand at a singing career in ‘Under the Boardwalk’) and the shameless cheese-fest ‘Something Inside So Strong’ (ugh).
Looking back more than two decades on, Bad Radio were a decent enough band, but one seemingly torn over direction and sound. They did the funk-rock thing well (but no more); Vedder’s influences and ambitions were broader in scope. There are some spell-binding vocals on this cover of Springsteen’s ‘One Step Up’ from the vastly under-rated Tunnel of Love. Vedder has always possessed a great ear for the deft lyrical phrase when choosing songs to cover.
And here’s ‘Breath’, from the Off Ramp Café, Seattle, 22 October 1990, Pearl Jam’s first ever show: