Better Man (Pearl Jam song)

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"Better Man"
Song by Pearl Jam from the album Vitalogy
Released November 22, 1994 (1994-11-22)
Recorded November 1993 (1993-11)–May 1994 (1994-05)
Genre Alternative rock
Length 4:28
Label Epic
Writer Eddie Vedder
Producer Brendan O'Brien, Pearl Jam
Vitalogy track listing
"Satan's Bed"
(Track 10)
"Better Man"
(Track 11)
"Aye Davanita"
(Track 12)
Audio sample
file info · help

"Better Man" (sometimes written as "Betterman") is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam. It is the eleventh track on the band's third studio album, Vitalogy (1994). The song was written by vocalist Eddie Vedder. Despite the lack of a commercial single release, "Better Man" reached the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and spent a total of eight weeks at number one. The song was included on Pearl Jam's 2004 greatest hits album, rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991–2003).

Origin and recording[edit]

"Better Man" was written by vocalist Eddie Vedder when he was in high school. He said, "I wrote "Better Man" before I could drink—legally—on a four-track in my old apartment."[1] In another interview, Vedder stated, "Sometimes I think of how far I've come from the teenager sitting on the bed in San Diego writing "Better Man" and wondering if anyone would ever even hear it."[2] Its melody and chord progression are based loosely on the song "Save it For Later" by the English Beat, which the band sometimes jams to live after Better Man. He first performed it with a San Diego, California-based group called Bad Radio. Vedder later recorded it with Pearl Jam, although Pearl Jam was initially reluctant to record it and had initially rejected it from Vs. due to its accessibility.

Producer Brendan O'Brien on the song:

There's a great song we recorded for Vs., "Better Man", which ended up on Vitalogy. One of the first rehearsals we did they played it and I said "man, that song's a hit." Eddie just went "uhhh." I immediately knew I'd just said the wrong thing. We cut it once for Vs., he wanted to give it away to this Greenpeace benefit record, the idea was that the band was going to play and some other singer was going to sing it. I remember saying to the engineer, Nick [DiDia], "this is one of their best songs and they're going to give it away! Can't happen!" And we went to record it and I'm not going to say we didn't try very hard, but it didn't end up sounding very good. I may have even sabotaged that version but I won't admit to that. It took us to the next record, recording it two more times, before he became comfortable with it because it was such a blatantly great pop song.[3]

Possible meaning of the song[edit]

Al Weisel of Rolling Stone called the song a "haunting ballad about a woman trapped in a bad relationship."[4] Before a performance of the song at Pearl Jam's show on April 3, 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia at the Fox Theatre, Vedder clearly said "it's dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma."[citation needed] He was referring to the man who helped raise him and later divorced his mother. That man is Peter Mueller, an attorney in California.[citation needed]

Reception upon release[edit]

Never released as a single, "Better Man" nonetheless became one of Pearl Jam's most-played songs on the radio in the U.S. "Better Man" became the most successful song from Vitalogy on the American rock charts. The song reached the top of Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, number two on their Modern Rock Tracks chart, and number 13 on their Top 40 Mainstream chart in 1995. The song spent a total of eight weeks at number one on the Mainstream Rock chart. It appeared on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 Airplay chart, reaching the top 20. In Canada, the song reached the top ten on the Canadian Singles Chart on 6 March 1995. At the 13th annual Pop Music Awards of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, "Better Man" was cited as one of the most-performed ASCAP songs of 1995.[5] Chris True of Allmusic proclaimed it as "arguably the stand out track on 1994’s Vitalogy—and equally arguably—[one of] the bands’ better songs in the whole of their career." He added, "Vitalogy was, admittedly, the end of Pearl Jam’s reign as top rock act and it’s because of songs like "Better Man" that they were able to stay there without succumbing to all the traps of stardom and shameless marketing."[6] When "Better Man" was performed on VH1 Storytellers in 2006, Vedder introduced it as a song about "abusive relationships."[7]

Various performances[edit]

"Better Man" was first performed live at the band's May 13, 1993 concert in San Francisco, California at Slim's Café, almost six months before the album's release, and had more of an uptempo beat attached to it.[8] In Pearl Jam concerts, the slow opening verses and choruses of "Better Man" are frequently sung as much by the audience as by Vedder. The song is often performed live as a medley with The English Beat's "Save It For Later". At the last Vote for Change concert on October 13, 2004 in East Rutherford, New Jersey at Continental Airlines Arena, Vedder made a guest appearance with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and sang "Better Man" upon Springsteen's request; sizeable numbers of the audience sang along with it. Pearl Jam performed the song for its appearance on VH1 Storytellers in 2006. At Pearl Jam's August 29, 2006 concert in Arnhem, Netherlands at the Gelredome, Vedder tagged Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" at the beginning of "Better Man".[9] The song is also a part of the so-called "Man" trio ("Better Man", "Nothingman", "Leatherman") played occasionally at concerts. There is no connection between the three songs beyond the word "man" being in each of their titles. Certain live performances of "Better Man" can be found albums such as: Live on Two Legs, the international versions of the "Nothing as It Seems" single, the bonus disc included in the Japanese edition of Binaural, various official bootlegs, the compilation album For the Lady, the iTunes exclusive release The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 1, the Live at the Gorge 05/06 box set, the live album Live at Lollapalooza 2007, and the Canadian iTunes edition of Backspacer. Performances of the song are also included on the DVDs Touring Band 2000, Live at the Showbox, Live at the Garden, and Immagine in Cornice. The version of the song on The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 1 is a subdued acoustic performance by the band and was recorded live at the Bridge School Benefit.

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by:

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1995) Peak
position
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[10] 9
Polish Singles Chart[11] 18
US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay[12] 13
US Mainstream Rock Tracks[13] 1
US Modern Rock Tracks[13] 2
US Top 40 Mainstream[14] 13
Preceded by
"You Don't Know How It Feels" by Tom Petty
Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks number-one single
January 7 – 20, 1995
February 11 – March 24, 1995
Succeeded by
"Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)" by Van Halen

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marks, Craig. "Let's Get Lost". Spin. December 1994.
  2. ^ Hilburn, Robert. "Working Their Way Out of a Jam". Los Angeles Times. December 22, 1996.
  3. ^ Weisbard, Eric, et al. "Ten Past Ten". Spin. August 2001.
  4. ^ Weisel, Al. Vitalogy review. Rolling Stone. December 15, 1994. Retrieved on March 1, 2008.
  5. ^ "Pearl Jam: Timeline". Pearljam.com. Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  6. ^ True, Chris. "Better Man > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved on May 16, 2008.
  7. ^ Cohen, Jonathan. "Pearl Jam Tells Its 'Story' At VH1 Taping". Billboard. June 2, 2006.
  8. ^ "Pearl Jam Songs: "Better Man"". pearljam.com.
  9. ^ "Pearl Jam Concert Chronology: 2006". TwoFeetThick.com.
  10. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 61, No. 5, March 06 1995". RPM. Retrieved 2008-03-07. 
  11. ^ "Polish Singles Chart |". 
  12. ^ "Billboard.com / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Billboard. Retrieved 2008-02-19. [dead link]
  13. ^ a b "Pearl Jam Artist Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  14. ^ "Pearl Jam – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 

External links[edit]