The unlikely job Eddie Vedder had before he joined Pearl Jam

Being a rock star means having to slog through a lot of dead-end jobs. Although some artists rise to the top fairly quickly, you always have to pick up odd jobs before you start making the big bucks — and Eddie Vedder was no exception.

Before Vedder had joined Pearl Jam, he was already an angsty kid living out of San Francisco. Vedder had moved to California on his own after a rough upbringing, which included his mother telling him that his birth father was dead and that the man he thought was his father was his stepdad.

After moving out to California, Vedder worked security when he wasn’t writing music. Vedder recalled the experience being draining (via Ultimate Guitar): “I remember working late-shift security and getting home, kind of torched at nine in the morning after traffic, and playing because I wanted to play something, but I was too brain-dead to do anything complicated.”

During his free time, Vedder also became friends with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, who he would go on camping trips with. It was during these first few camping trips that Vedder earned the nickname ‘Crazy Eddie’ for his daring leaps from trees. Although the job paid the bills for a little while, Vedder found his calling when he was floated a tape from Stone Gossard up in Seattle looking for a singer. After coming to Seattle, Vedder became the final piece of Pearl Jam, bringing a heavy baritone to their sound that was uncommon at the time.

By the time the band started taking off, Vedder was becoming a force of nature onstage. During every performance, Vedder would climb the scaffolding and hang above the stage. In essence, he put the Crazy Eddie name to good use.

While the first song that Vedder submitted to him was ‘Alive’, the memory of that security lingered around with him later.

Once the band started working on their next album Vs., the song ‘Rearviewmirror’ stemmed from a riff that Vedder had been playing while he worked security. He said: “It was about the past, and at that point, after the first record, I went from being the security guard to being in a band that was recording a record in a really nice place. That was just a little mantra I would play on guitar. I played that thing for years and years, and at some point, it became time to make a song of it. All of the chord changes were there, and that day I decided what it was going to be about.”

After a couple of years on the road, Vedder wasn’t happy about Pearl Jam becoming an alternative sensation. While they were being sold like the hot new band at the time, Vedder would use this song to cope with his problems. He noted: “It seemed really far away, a lot of changes in a year or two. I felt like I had moved beyond some of the trauma that had felt like quicksand forever and ever. I reckon that’s where the words come from, but those little guitar bits, that’s just a meditation.”

Though the rest of Vs. has a lot of raw aggression, ‘Rearviewmirror’ has a brewing intensity that doesn’t let up throughout its runtime. Just like he singled him out for his band back in the day, Gossard understood where Vedder was coming from with the lyrics: “I think it sums up a point of view that he’s sort of approached from a lot of different angles in terms of understanding how he moves through conflict, how he moves through personal relationships, what things are touching him, what things does he identify as part of human nature and the human condition.”

‘Rearviewmirror’ may not be the biggest hit in Pearl Jam’s catalogue, but it was pivotal in Vedder’s growth as a songwriter.

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