For the latest installment of our ongoing NYFAQ Video Vault series, we thought it might be fun to revisit a few of the many live collaborations between Neil Young & Pearl Jam over the years.
The mutual respect between the pioneering Seattle grunge band, and the rock legend who has often been referred to as the “Godfather Of Grunge” (but who PJ’s Eddie Vedder simply refers to affectionately as “Uncle Neil”), has of course been well-documented.
But for most, this unlikely – and explosive – musical pairing was first heard on Neil Young’s 1995 album Mirror Ball and the lesser-heard, and now rare companion Pearl Jam E.P. Merkin Ball.
As the story goes, Neil Young and Pearl Jam first jammed together in 1995 during Neil’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, in New York City that same year. They both liked the results so much, they decided to make a record together.
Judging by this clip of “Fuckin’ Up” from that legendary jam (which also features various members of Crazy Horse in all their mid-90s era Ragged Glory), we can see why:
Recorded in Pearl Jam’s Seattle hometown at the Bad Animals studio owned by Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, the Mirror Ball album came together quickly over the course of just a few days.
Great songs like “Peace And Love,” “Throw Your Hatred Down” and “Big Green Country” may have been written on the spot during these sessions in a spur-of-the-moment burst of inspiration. But the chemistry of “Neil-Jam” (not to mention the volume) was undeniable, as this video from their European tour together demonstrates:
But the musical fireworks between Neil Young & Pearl Jam have never been more combustible than during the numerous times they have performed Neil’s 1989 anthem “Rockin’ In The Free World” together.
The most famous (and most often bootlegged) of these was their performance of the song on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. But this killer version from the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards (okay, maybe they played together prior to 1995 after all), has to be considered a very close second.
PJ bassist Jeff Ament in particular seems to be having a blast here.
In this comparatively more recent pro-shot video from the all-star Vote For Change tour supporting failed 2004 Democratic Presidential hopeful John Kerry, Neil Young and Pearl Jam show they had lost none of the fire of their mid-nineties collaborations.
Performing a scorching version of “All Along The Watchtower,” they simply burn the house down here.
While nobody is enjoying the current Crazy Horse reunion cycle more than we are, one can only hope that once it runs its inevitable course, Neil Young will once again revisit his ongoing collaboration with what may be his second most-rustiest backup band.