Pearl Jam and Neil Young

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Jammin' with Neil

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Release "Time Fades Away"

Pearl Jam and Neil Young have been collaborating since at least 1992 when Pearl Jam and Neil played separately at the Bob Dylan tribute ("BobFest") at Madison Square Garden in New York City on October 16. It is believed that this is when Neil and Eddie Vedder first met and possibly Neil invited Pearl Jam to play at the Bridge School Benefit concert. on 11/1/92.

A few weeks later Pearl Jam would play the Bridge School concert and mark the beginning of a long and productive relationship. Since their initial meeting, Pearl Jam's music has been heavily influenced by Neil Young as demonstrated by their numerous covers of Young songs. For example, Pearl Jam has covered "Rockin In The Free World" over 100 times, often as final encores, according to the Pearl Jam fan site Lukin.

pearl jam & neil young

A year later, Neil would join Pearl Jam onstage at the MTV Music Awards on 9/2/93 to play an incendiary Rockin in The Free World. Critics would call the onstage interplay the highlight of an otherwise lackluster affair. The attention gained from "BobFest" and playing with Pearl Jam would introduce Neil to a new generation of admirers.

It is likely that during this period that Young invited Eddie Vedder to induct him into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame the following year.

eddie vedder & neil eddie & neil young

For Neil's induction speech, Eddie Vedder said (from Five Horizons):

Several weeks later, Neil would return the favor and perform at the Voters For Choice Benefit Concerts in Washington, DC.

Neil went on to rescue a PJ show in San Francisco at the Polo Field on June 24, 1995 when Eddie fell sick after 3 songs.

The only recording Neil and Pearl Jam did together was the Mirror Ball and Merkin Ball albums. (The recording sessions and tour are covered in detail below. To play and listen to a MP3 sample from Neil Young Mirror Ball and Pearl Jam's Merkin Ball.)

From New Musical Express article "Reflective Glory" (07/15/95) by Steve Sutherland & Kevin Cummins on the aftermath of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain's suicide:

The NME article continues with this observation:

On recording Mirror Ball with Pearl Jam, Young said in the NME interview:

Eddie Vedder
Columbia, MD - 9/18/98
Photo by Thrasher

From the book "Shakey", Neil Young's biography, by Jimmy McDonough:

From a Neil Young interview in MOJO Magazine with Nick Kent:

From Musician Magazine , April, 1998, interview with pearl Jam's Jeff Ament:

Mike McCready's equipment destroying conclusion of the MTV Music Awards program "Rockin in The Free World" with Neil is described by James Rotondi in Guitar Player (January 1994):

McCready continues, discussing the 1993 tour with Young and Booker T. & the MG's:

In an interview with Guitar Player, (July 1994):

From Spin Magazine article "The Road Less Traveled", Feburary, 1997, by Craig Marks interview with Pearl Jam:

At a concert at The Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz, CA (11/12/97), just before the encore of "Immortality", Eddie Vedder calls Neil Young on a cellphone and has the crowd sing him "Happy Birthday" (his 51st). Vedder had the audience make "quacking" sounds and said something like when Neil plays at The Catalyst it's billed as "The Ducks". Instead of applauding, the audience has to quack. No word on Neil's response.

eddie & neil

On September 21, 2001, Eddie Vedder and Neil Young performed together on the 9/11 benefit telecast "America: A Tribute to Heroes" during which they played "Long Road". Neil played the pump organ and sang on backing vocals.

And the tribute to Neil continues. During their 2003 tour, Pearl Jam invariably encored with either "Rockin in the Free World" or "Fuckin' Up". More PJ setlists from 5 Horizons.

Pearl Jam will again play the 17th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert in 2003 for their 6th time, the most of any guest group.

Some cynics said that Neil's pairing with Pearl Jam was a shrewd career move to boost his standing with a younger generation. This was counter argued by those who claimed it was a career move by Pearl Jam to establish legitimacy within the music establishment. It is doubtful that this the arrangement was contrived for ulterior motives than mutaul respect and admiration.

From an interview with Eddie Vedder in Rolling Stone Mag on 5/7/2003:

Commenting on upcoming concerts by Neil Young and Pearl Jam in Seattle in June 2003,JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC writes on "Brothers in more ways than grunge":

Outside of Neil's relationship with CSN and Crazy Horse, no other band has had such a long running history.


On Pearl Jam's 1996 album No Code, the song "Off He Goes" makes clear reference to their collaborations with Neil Young on the Mirror Ball album. The lyrics of "Off He Goes" refer to Neil, his unique style, and habit of doing what he pleases:

The reference to a motorbike, unkempt clothes, "his thoughts are too big for his size", and the very "Off He Goes" on his own "Shakey Neil" terms.

Lastly, as pointed out on Rust, scope out the Missing Dog posters on the back of the Pearl Jam set 'Lost Dogs': one dog's name is 'Broken Arrow' and she 'broke her leash on Half Moon Bay Road.

"Call Neil or Pegi.[Young's wife]"

This page highlights the fascinating and loving association between Neil and Pearl Jam.

  • To play and listen to a MP3 sample from Neil Young Mirror Ball and Pearl Jam's Merkin Ball.
  • Bridge 2003 - 17th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert, October 25th and 26th, 2003 - Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA.
  • 13th Annual Bridge School Benefit
    Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA
    October 30, 1999
    Day #1, From 5 Horizons site, awesome review with lots of pictures
  • 13th Annual Bridge School Benefit
    Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA
    October 31, 1999
    Day #2, From 5 Horizons site, awesome review with lots of pictures
  • Bridge Poster 1999
  • A Collection of Mirror Ball and Merkin Ball Reviews - A Pearl Jam and Neil Young Collaboration

  • DISPATCHES FROM THE FIELD. Pearl Jam and Neil Young at Polo Field - June 24, 1995.
  • Voters For Choice Benefit - January 14 & 15, 1995
  • NEIL YOUNG/PEARL JAM Exhibition Stadium, Toronto, Ontario, August 18, 1993 - SPIN Mag
  • For more on Pearl Jam and Neil Young, see Eddie Vedder Influences page.
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