I had to wonder, how did some of these guys not die at 27? Axl? Slash? Weiland? Eddie Vedder? Greg Allman? Dicky Betts, Everyone in Aerosmith? Ozzy? Anthony Keidis? Jerry Garcia? Eric Clapton? Nikki Sixx? Layne Staley?
Layne made it to 35. How? I mean, sure… Keidis and Clapton dabbled in acknowledging drugs in songs like ‘cocaine’ and ‘under the bridge’… but Staley wrote an entire album about heroin. No subtext here: Sick Man, God Smack, Junkman. Just a great and beautiful and powerful album all about smack
What about Keith fucking Richards?
I mean… come on – how is Keith Richard alive? How is the ’27 club’ not simply called the ‘Keith Richards Memorial Club®’? They each deserve their own paragraph page about how the hell they aren’t dead (or in the case of Weiland or Garcia… how did they make it past 27… or even to 27?)
There will be more here, and more about here. This is just to get you, and me, thinking.
The first time I saw Pearl Jam, they were unknown… literally. I saw them in 1990 opening for Chili Peppers and Nirvana (Chili’s were the headliners. Nirvana was touring on Nevermind… but just breaking at that moment. They would never open again). Pearl was the opener behind them two. I knew the name, but nothing more. I think ‘Even Flow’ (their first single) was just breaking on MTV… but we didn’t have cable.
In fact, if you see that video, you see how he was. He would climb the stage rigging and then hang upside down and sing. He did this at that first show. He would also stage dive. Not in a club, mind you, but into the floor of an 18,000 seat arena. I remember a lot about that show 25 years ago… and almost all of it was about Pearl Jam. My god, they burned SO bright. Ed would also come out from the wings during the other band’s sets… and stage dive. That night, I became a life long Pearl Jam fan… even though I didn’t know the band or the songs. I saw them 4 times on that tour in Phx… always smaller crowds. For example, when they played Lolla 2 the next summer, they went on at 2 pm on a week/school day. NO ONE was there (yet).
Being the odd student of rock history, I knew all about the 27 club even way back then. After the triumvirate of Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison in the early 70s… people started taking notice. By 1990, it wasn’t a secret. Too bad it just kept happening over and over.
I knew that night that Eddie Vedder would never get to mature into an elder statesman of rock. We now know it is mostly drugs and alcohol that kill the 27. Eddie wasn’t deep into that, which is how he is still alive. That night, though, I knew he would be dead within 2 years. His insane recklessness and lack of personal safety regard told me he was a self destructor for sure. That night, having only known of their existence for 25 minutes (being openers to openers, and having only one album out, their set was short)… I was already pre-mourning the death of Eddie Vedder.
Look at this intensity. That was young Eddie Vedder. Even on SNL he managed to convey that terror and intensity. Over the years, the band has often been asked if they feared for Eddie’s safety… and would they be left without a singer (again). They always answer a resounding ‘yes!’