On Van Halen and Pearl Jam

Mutually exclusive?

I recently read this article on VHND.com and it inspired a(n increasingly rare) blog post.

I grew up on Van Halen. My dad listened to them constantly, and I can’t listen to anything from them earlier than For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge without fond memories from my youth. Sammy vs Dave? I liked them both. Around the time when that album came out, though, there was a shift in what was cool. Rock became all about the tortured artist. It wasn’t fun. It was brooding. Full of angst, rebellion, and outrage. That’s not to say there was some rebellion with Van Halen, but it was more about getting drunk and womanizing than rebellion against the system.

I didn’t start listening to Pearl Jam until about 1995. I was only 14 then, and just beginning to understand some of what they and the rest of the early-mid 90s troop of post hair metal bands were reacting to. I quickly lost interest in those 80s rockers I listened to all during my childhood. I bought into the new thing. I believe I even denied Van Halen a time or two in public. How silly of me. Only recently, within the past 10 years or so, have I come back to appreciating them.

The author of the article explains it perfectly. It’s unfair that Van Halen is lumped into the same category as 80s hair metal. First of all, because they started in the mid 70s, and, more importantly, they set the standard that all those bands tried to attain. Van Halen, in every aspect of what was “cool” about those bands, stood head and shoulders above the rest. They were the originators. And they alone had the chops to legitimize it. It isn’t their fault they were so good that everyone tried to copy their act.

Similarly, Pearl Jam has, unfortunately, spawned many a tiresome copycat band. Some have even enjoyed massive success. Creed, Staind, ugh . . . just typing those names gets me nauseated. Would they exist without Pearl Jam? Maybe, but I bet they’d sound way different. Like Van Halen and hair metal, PJ gets lumped into the “grunge” category by people who don’t know any better. If you want to define grunge as an actual style of music (which I’m not sure you should), Pearl Jam doesn’t even fit in. They played a way different style than the rest of those Seattle bands that came from that scene.

The article makes one misstep, in my opinion, when the author says, “The difference is that, among my peers, unlike Van Halen, I’ve detected no discernable hit to the credibility of Pearl Jam because of Everclear.” I beg to differ. Though I don’t know how old the author is, I can say confidently that Pearl Jam’s cred has taken a huge hit with my generation. Grunge died a painful death. Pearl Jam, and most of those other bands, are about as cool now as, well, Van Halen. Yes, PJ still sells out stadium shows, but it isn’t with my peers. It’s mostly with people about 10 years older than me. Unlike VH, they actually did make a musical and ideological shift. The Ten era Pearl Jam hardly even sounds like the band today. That’s a good thing, though. They still write awesome songs. Many people just dismiss them now, or aren’t even aware they are still around.

The point is, as the author touches on, you can’t blame Van Halen for Cinderella, and you can’t blame Pearl Jam for Creed.

I’m glad I have these two bands, even though they occupy pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their modus operandi. I’m not trying to say I’m beyond anyone in music appreciation, I just think it’s funny. But I guess it isn’t too weird. Cause there’s this:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 3.19.44 PM


Yup. That’s Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder with Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen (and a couple of the Alice in Chains guys).

Makes me smile.


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