A Rambling History of Pearl Jam’s Late Night TV Appearances

pearl jam discographyI’m about to ramble on and on about Pearl Jam‘s history, until 2004 anyway, of TV appearances, most specifically David Letterman’s show, while also touching on their choices for first singles for each of the albums until then.  Why? Pearl Jam will perform ‘songs’ from their new studio album on Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” debut:

Conan O’Brien has recruited Pearl Jam for his first-ever episode as host of The Tonight Show on June 1st, the band revealed on their official Website. According to the post, Eddie Vedder and company will perform songs — plural theirs, not ours — from their upcoming studio album on O’Brien’s inaugural episode, which airs exactly two weeks from today. To quote the first comment on the story over at the Pearl Jam Webpage, “Holy shitballs! This is gonna be awesome!” Agreed. Added bonus: Will Ferrell, who led a star-studded sing-along of Billy Joel’s “Goodnight Saigon” on SNL, will also be on the episode.

The performance will be Pearl Jam’s first of what appears to be an increasingly busy summer for the Seattle quintet, with headlining dates already set for the Outside Lands and Austin City Limits festivals, as well as a pair of concerts scheduled in August for Chicago and Toronto with more dates on the way. Plus, the band is currently in an Atlanta studio — where bassist Jeff Ament was mugged — working on the follow-up to their 2006 self-titled album.

Conan O’Brien wrapped up his stint as host of Late Night in New York with a special performance by the White Stripes. O’Brien also spoke to Rolling Stone about his special relationship with Jack and Meg and his love of rock.

I remember Pearl Jam played Letterman in ’96 in support of No Code. It came after I caught their show in Hartford that year. I was happy because I was disappointed in their selection of “Who You Are” as that album’s first single with “Habit” as the B side (a sorta repeat of releasing “Spin the Black Circle” with “Tremor Christ” on the flip side as the first single for Vitalogy, my favorite Pearl Jam record, mind you, which I purchased in Harvard Square at Tower Records when my class went to Cambridge to see a play on a Spanish class field trip – I felt “Corduroy” would’ve been best received as “Not For You” screams “we want less fans” and “Immortality” though on the heels of Cobain’s suicide was still too dark for a first single, while “Betterman” was just too soft, and it was originally a Bad Radio song, so…) though Jack Irons was my favorite PJ drummer, being a high school kid I wanted haters to have to hear one of my favorite bands from my formative musical years on the radio all the time, and remember being pleased to find (in a largely pre-internet world, or at least pre-web 2.0) that night they performed “Hail Hail” and the opening lick to “Leavin’ Here” (which I heard and first learned about either at that Hartford show or listening to the pirate radio broadcast of their show in Berlin “Ich bin eine Berliner”) as the credits rolled. See for yourself:

“Hail Hail”

Hear “Leavin’ Here” performed in Berlin that night (and read more about the Home Alive compilation here):

Pearl Jam “Leavin’ Here (live in Berlin, 1996)”

Pearl Jam would get the first single right for Yield (“Given to Fly” which I heard for the very first time on a Boston radio station the night before Thannksgiving around 11PM, I’ll never forget this because I was just about to fall asleep because in Massachusetts we play high school football games on Turkey Day, and hearing the first verse I was like “is that Eddie Vedder?” then turned the radio up, listened to it and enjoyed it because it has the same wave-like song form of my favorite Pearl Jam songs, and then proceeded to replay the song in my head over and over and perhaps got about 45 minutes of sleep that night, lol) but again screamed “we want less fans” by releasing “Nothing As It Seems” as the first single for Binaural, though much like their decision to perform “Hail Hail” over “Who You Are”, Pearl Jam again made me happy by performing “Grievance” in its stead. See for yourself:


Pearl Jam again made me a happy dude by performing “Save You” instead of “I Am Mine” in support of Riot Act, though I won’t argue “Save You” should’ve been the first single, at that point Pearl Jam needed to sell some records again and “I Am Mine” got a lot of radio play.

“Save You”

A year or so later, the band again returned to play Letterman during the 2004 presidential election, and performed Bob Dylan’s anti-war song “Masters of War”:

“Masters of War”

After that I sort of lose track of Pearl Jam’s tv performances (beyond SNL twice they’ve only played Letterman) as I was living in Brooklyn without a television, but I was working in the music industry and fondly recall the band regaininig its magic and its buzz under the awesome watch of Matt Shay at J Records for the release of Pearl Jam. I end this ramble looking forward to hearing Pearl Jam’s new music, in a way it’s a bit like hearing the band perform a song called “Crapshoot” for the first time at a CIMS benefit at Easy Street Records in Seattle, then hearing “Comatose” for the first time when Matt Shay came by our office to play it for us, asking if they’d played it at the Easy Street show, having another coworker interject “he said none of the songs had been played before” (I had just started and maybe he had somewhere else to be), and then having my awesome listening skills confirmed for me.

pearl jam live at easy street

Pearl Jam “Crapshoot (live at Easy Street Records)”

Pearl Jam “Comatose”


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3 responses to “A Rambling History of Pearl Jam’s Late Night TV Appearances

  1. Lindsay

    I went to that Pearl Jam show in Hartford too! and remember hearing the Berlin show on the radio, it was played on every station under the sun, it was the coolest thing ever. I remember listening to the radio in my car and scanning through the rock stations and every single one was broadcasting Pearl Jam’s concert.

  2. Pingback: Conan and Leno and Ethics, Oh My! : The Scrawl

  3. Pingback: Conan and Leno and Ethics, Oh My! « The Scrawl

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