Eddie Vedder’s Talking Heads Fandom Sparks Pearl Jam’s New Single
You aren’t imagining the Talking Heads vibe on Pearl Jam’s first Gigaton single, "Dance of the Clairvoyants."
The David Byrne-fronted group ranks among singer Eddie Vedder’s notable formative influences, even though that not as well documented as the band’s affinity for Neil Young, Kiss and the Who.
In fact, Vedder’s Talking Heads fandom stretches all the way back to high school. On Labor Day weekend 1982, the 17-year-old reportedly trekked out to the massive US Festival specifically to see the group after devouring their records.
He also cited 1978's More Songs About Buildings and Food as an all-time favorite during a 2003 interview with Spin, explaining that Byrne's lyrics helped him get through the trauma of his parents' divorce.
Fast forward to the Pearl Jam era and you’ll catch several clues, if you’re looking for them. Vedder took a summer vacation of sorts back in 1999, gigging around with pals in the band C-Average. Stops included the 1999 Tibetan Freedom Concert at Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley. They covered Talking Heads’ early tune “Love → Building on Fire” at many of these shows, and Vedder did the same at the 2017 Hot Stove Cool Music benefit in Boston.
Watch Eddie Vedder Perform 'Love → Building on Fire'
Another nod to the Talking Heads came in 2007 when Vedder and Sean Penn graced the cover of Billboard upon the release of the film Into the Wild, for which Vedder did the music. If you look closely, he can be seen wearing a small "'77" pin taken from the artwork for Talking Heads' debut album.
“Dance of the Clairvoyants” is the first Pearl Jam song to bring this Talking Heads vibe to the fore. If it feels different than the band's other songs, there are a number of reasons why: In addition to Vedder exploring his affinity for Byrne, throw in a little “Red Rain”-era Peter Gabriel. Vedder also performed that song with Gabriel in Seattle in 2016.
Watch Peter Gabriel and Eddie Vedder Perform 'Red Rain'
Meanwhile, the pounding bass on “Dance of the Clairvoyants” is perhaps surprisingly not performed by Jeff Ament. As with 1996’s “Smile,” guitarist Stone Gossard temporarily took up the four-string duties while Ament furthered the New Wave vibe by adding the keyboard part, Gossard told Sirius XM radio. Matt Cameron wrote his drum part on a machine, but ultimately played them live, mimicking a vintage drum machine.
"'Dance' was a perfect storm of experimentation and real collaboration, mixing up the instrumentation and building a great song, and Ed writing some of my favorite words yet, around Matt’s killer drum pattern,” Ament wrote on PearlJam.com. “Did I mention Mike’s insane guitar part and that Stone is playing bass on this one? We’ve opened some new doors creatively and that’s exciting."
Hear Pearl Jam's 'Dance of the Clairvoyants'