#485: Pearl Jam, "Vitalogy" (1994)

1995

Ticketmaster is late to the meeting but he’s allowed to be late because, after a year of insults and accusations, of scathing testimonies and shit talk, Ticketmaster has won. Of course Ticketmaster was going to be late to this meeting if for no other reason than to make the other party sweat a little, make him soak in his failure.  

When Ticketmaster walks into the tenth floor board room at the offices of Epic Records, Eddie Vedder is already seated at the end of a long, glass conference table, his fingers pressed to his temples. Ticketmaster doesn’t sit down right away. He walks down to the end of the table next to Vedder, and stands over the young singer. Ticketmaster is very tall and has unnaturally long arms that dangle at his sides, fingers narrowing into thin slits, fine and sharp. Before taking a seat, Ticketmaster gently pats Eddie Vedder on the shoulder and lingers for a moment, waiting for the singer to look up. Vedder doesn’t budge.

After a moment, Ticketmaster traverses the room with three giant strides and sits at the opposite end of the table from Vedder, says, “You called me here today, Mr. Vedder?” Eddie Vedder says, “I did.” Ticketmaster says, “And why was that?” Eddie Vedder rubs his temples again and grits his teeth, then begins to explain that he needs Ticketmaster’s help in setting up Pearl Jam concerts on the East Coast.  He says, “The venues we want to play, they all have exclusive deals with you.” He looks down at the table, says quietly, “We need you.”

Ticketmaster pulls two cigars out of its pocket, offers one to Eddie Vedder. Vedder shakes his head. Ticketmaster says, “It’s a Gurkha.” Ticketmaster holds a match to the end of the cigar and puffs so that massive plumes of smoke rise in front of his face. Ticketmaster says, “I wonder how many tickets we’ll need to sell to one of your concerts to pay for a case of these.” He adds, “More than a few, I suspect.” Then, feeling as if the moment has been appropriately savored, Ticketmaster says, “What was that last thing you said? Can you repeat it? I couldn’t quite make it out.” Eddie Vedder looks up at Ticketmaster and, through gritted teeth, says, “We need you.”

Ticketmaster says, “That’s what I thought you said.” Eddie Vedder slaps his hands on the top of the glass table, making the entire surface vibrate, and stands up. He doesn’t make for the door right away, but it seems as if he might. Ticketmaster says, “Sit down, Mr. Vedder.” Vedder obeys. Once Vedder is sitting, Ticketmaster says, “I will help you, but you need to apologize.” Vedder says, “Out of the question.” Ticketmaster says, “Mr. Vedder, you’ve publically attacked me for months. You’ve instigated investigations and legal proceedings all for your misguided ideals.” Eddie Vedder says, “They aren’t misguided.” He says, “You exploit fans.” Ticketmaster says, “We provide a service to fans.” Vedder says, “You increase the price of tickets but you don’t add any value to the product.” Ticketmaster says, “Don’t add any value? Our outlets are accessible to customers around the country. How far did customers drive to buy tickets for the last leg of your tour?” Vedder doesn’t answer. “How far, Mr. Vedder?” Eddie Vedder says he doesn’t know.

Seeing an opportunity to wound Vedder further, Ticketmaster presses the issue, says, “And speaking of value—what of the value you offered your own fans with your most recent record?” Eddie Vedder says, “They like the record fine.” Ticketmaster says, “Only because they’re as misguided as you.” Ticketmaster waits a beat, then continues: “How much value do you think your fans gain from you complaining about the fame they have bestowed on you?” Eddie Vedder says, “That’s not fair.” And Ticketmaster says, “How fair is it to your fans to work hard to buy your music only to hear you barking at them about your small table growing too crowded, and how your ‘p-r-i-v-a-c-y is priceless to you,’ and about ‘all the things that others want from you’?” Eddie Vedder says, “It’s not like that.” Ticketmaster takes a puff from his cigar, knocks an inch of ash on the carpet and says, “Is it that you want to be important?”

  Illustration by Lena Moses-Schmitt

Illustration by Lena Moses-Schmitt

Eddie Vedder says, “It’s not about that.” He says, “I don’t want to be important.” Ticketmaster says, “Then what is this all about? Your fight against me? Your quibbles with fame? Your causes?” And Eddie Vedder says, “Sometimes I get scared. All these people are watching and I want to do good by them.” Ticketmaster laughs a low, dirty laugh that almost sounds like a growl, says, “So you were doing right by the models when you sang the line about rolling them in blood because they don’t look like you?” Eddie Vedder says, “It’s wrong the ways they have to treat their bodies and then the ways their bodies inspire other people to treat their own bodies poorly.” Ticketmaster says, “So you encourage violence against the models? You disrespect their humanity? You call them skinny little bitches?” Eddie Vedder tries to talk but before he can respond, Ticketmaster says, “And what about the gays, Mr. Vedder. What about the part where you say you’ll never suck Satan’s dick, as if sucking dick is the most vile thing a man can do.” Eddie Vedder says, “It’s a figure of speech. It’s about not capitulating to authority.” And Ticketmaster says, “But why drag, what for some is, an expression of love into your polemic? Aren’t you supposed to be a progressive?” Ticketmaster relishes this moment as Vedder visibly squirms in his seat. Ticketmaster adds, “You’re no better than a common jock.”

Eddie Vedder’s arms fall to his sides and his hands flex into fists. He says, “That’s not what we meant.” And Ticketmaster says, “But that’s what you said.” Eddie Vedder says, “We’ll do better.” And Ticketmaster says, “It won’t matter—you will slowly begin to fade. You have accomplished what you sought so dearly. Outsiders will stop storming your room. Your record sales will fall. You will maintain a base of passionate fans, enough to keep your career afloat, but you will descend into irrelevancy.” Eddie Vedder looks at Ticketmaster with something that almost looks like a smile. Ticketmaster says, “It will be just what you wanted. Your small table, that seats just two,” and Vedder, looking down at the big, glass table, perhaps at his own reflection, mutters, says, “You’ve proved your point.” Then: “What about the east coast.”

Ticketmaster stubs his cigar out in an ashtray, and dials his personal assistant on the phone. As Ticketmaster orders his assistant to begin preparations to sell tickets for Pearl Jam’s east coast tour, his eyes notice a change come over Vedder’s composure, as the singer appears more relaxed than he’s looked in a long, long time.

—James Brubaker