Eddie Vedder reflects on a seminal night in his rock & roll life — when he got the chance to meet the Clash’s Joe Strummer and future Pearl Jam bandmate Jack Irons — in an excerpt from his new Audible Original, I Am Mine, from the platform’s Words + Music series.
The night in question, Vedder recalls, was Nov. 21, 1989. In a year, he’d move to Seattle and begin fronting Pearl Jam, but that fall he was living in San Diego, playing music and working at a venue called the Bacchanal, where Strummer was playing that night. “I had no idea that that day really was going to affect my life in ways that no one — well, especially me — could not imagine,” Vedder says.
Vedder said he showed up to the venue early during soundcheck, noting, “I really appreciate soundchecks, sometimes more than a show because that’s kind of where the real work happens, or the real communication between band members, they’re doing it without the eyes of a crowd.” The only person who’d showed up to soundcheck, though, was Irons, a founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who was also playing with Strummer at the time.
Vedder says he introduced himself to Irons as he came off the stage, and he remembers Irons asking if there were any bananas. Vedder dutifully fetched some bananas for the drummer, and then took the chance to ask if a live Chili Peppers bootleg he had featured Irons or Cliff Martinez on drums. Irons couldn’t remember, so the two went out to Vedder’s car, where Vedder had the tape: “And within 30 seconds he said, ‘Oh no, that’s Cliff,’” Vedder remembers, adding with a laugh, “And how generous of him to get into a young guy, a stranger’s car, and answer a question. I was very grateful for that moment.”
As for the actual show, Vedder says the opening act not only had a rough set but acknowledged they were probably stiffed on payment that night. Ostensibly as retaliation, two songs into Strummer’s headlining set, the openers managed to shut off the power to the entire venue. As the problem got sorted, Vedder found himself in an enviable position: The man holding the flashlight to light the way as Strummer and Co. waited out the power outage. It was at this point that Strummer gave an order to the young Vedder: He needed rolling papers, eight D batteries for a boom box, and some bananas for his friend, which obviously meant Irons.
Vedder returned with the supplies and says, “I’m just holding the flashlight over Joe while he rolls a spliff, and then he gets the ghettoblaster going, Jack’s got his bananas and the other guys are kind of going bananas, going, ‘Joe, I think we need to fucking bail on this shit. It’s been a half-hour now.’ And Joe didn’t want to leave, he’s like, ‘I don’t know, it’s people man. They came, and we had them, I could tell, they’re good, we gotta give it some time.’”
Eventually, the power did come back on, and even though it was close to midnight, Strummer returned to the stage and proceeded to play a two-hour set. “Incredible,” Vedder remembers. “Just incredible.”
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