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A plain black background with a gold foil title in script
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 22, 1994 (1994-11-22)
RecordedNovember 1993 – October 1994
Pearl Jam chronology
No Code
Singles from Vitalogy
  1. "Spin the Black Circle"/"Tremor Christ"
    Released: November 8, 1994
  2. "Not for You"
    Released: March 21, 1995
  3. "Immortality"
    Released: June 6, 1995

Vitalogy is the third studio album by American rock band Pearl Jam, released on November 22, 1994 on Epic Records. Pearl Jam wrote and recorded Vitalogy while touring behind its previous album Vs. (1993). The music on the record was more diverse than previous releases, and consisted of aggressive rock songs, ballads, and other stylistic elements, making it Pearl Jam's most experimental album to date.

The album was first released on vinyl, followed by a release on CD and cassette two weeks later on December 6, 1994. The LP sold 34,000 copies in its first week of release, and until Jack White's 2014 album Lazaretto it held the record for most vinyl sales in one week since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.[2] Upon its CD release, Vitalogy became the second-fastest selling album in history, only behind the band's previous release Vs., selling 877,000 copies in its first week and went multi-platinum quickly.[3] The album has been certified five times platinum by the RIAA in the United States. It is Pearl Jam's last album to feature drummer Dave Abbruzzese, who left the band before the recording session was finished. He was initially replaced by session drummers and later officially replaced by former Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Jack Irons, who completed recording of the album.[4]


For the band's third album, Pearl Jam again worked with producer Brendan O'Brien. The band wrote many of the songs during soundchecks on its Vs. Tour and the majority of the album's tracks were recorded during breaks on the tour. The first session took place late in 1993 in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the band recorded "Tremor Christ" and "Nothingman".[5] The rest of the material was written and recorded in 1994 in sessions in Seattle, Washington and Atlanta, Georgia, with the band finishing the album at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle after the tour's completion.[6] "Immortality" was written in April 1994 when the band was on tour in Atlanta.[7] Sources state that most of the album was completed by early 1994, but that either a forced delay by Epic, or the band's battle with ticket vendor Ticketmaster, were to blame for the delay.[8]

Tensions within the band had dramatically increased by this time. Producer Brendan O'Brien said, "Vitalogy was a little strained. I'm being polite—there was some imploding going on."[9] Bassist Jeff Ament said that "communication was at an all-time low".[9] Drummer Dave Abbruzzese stated that the communication problems started once guitarist Stone Gossard stopped acting as the band's mediator.[9] According to Gossard, Vitalogy was the first album in which lead vocalist Eddie Vedder made the final decisions.[9] At the time, Gossard thought of quitting the band.[10] Gossard said that the band was having trouble collaborating, so most of the songs were developed out of jam sessions. He added that "80 percent of the songs were written 20 minutes before they were recorded."[5] During the production of Vitalogy, lead guitarist Mike McCready went into rehabilitation to receive treatment for alcohol and cocaine abuse.[6][9]

Drums on "Satan's Bed" were performed by Abbruzzese's drum tech Jimmy Shoaf. On the day it was recorded, Abbruzzese was in the hospital having his tonsils removed. Vedder and Gossard asked for Shoaf's help to get a drum machine working, and after setting it up, the pair asked Shoaf to perform the same beat on the drums. He is credited on the lyric sheet as "Jimmy".[11] Months after finishing the initial recording sessions for Vitalogy, Abbruzzese was fired in August 1994 due to personality conflicts with other band members.[9] Gossard said, "It was the nature of how the politics worked in our band: It was up to me to say, 'Hey, we tried, it's not working; time to move on.' On a superficial level, it was a political struggle: For whatever reason, his ability to communicate with Ed and Jeff was very stifled. I certainly don't think it was all Dave Abbruzzese's fault that it was stifled."[9] Jack Irons, the original drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Abbruzzese's successor, plays drums on "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me". Gossard said, "Jack entered the band right at the end of making Vitalogy. Jack's a breath of fresh air, a family man. Everybody had a strong sense of friendship with him immediately. He was just there to play drums and help out."[9]

Music and lyrics[edit]

In a 1995 interview, Guitar World writer Jeff Gilbert described Vitalogy as "strange" and "very eclectic". McCready agreed, saying, "There is some weird stuff on there." McCready attributed the album's sound to the group recording it on tour.[6] During this period Vedder began to contribute in a large capacity as a guitarist. Gossard said, "Vitalogy is the first one where Ed plays guitar and he wrote three to four songs. I remember thinking, 'This is so different. Is anyone going to like this?'...It had a more punk feel to it. Simple songs recorded really quickly."[12] The album has a notable lack of guitar solos compared with the band's first two albums. McCready said, "Vitalogy is not really a 'solo' album. I don't think the songs demanded solos; it was more of a rhythmic album."[6]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic said that "thanks to its stripped-down, lean production, Vitalogy stands as Pearl Jam's most original and uncompromising album."[13] He added that "in between the straight rock numbers and the searching slow songs, Pearl Jam contribute their strangest music—the mantrafunk of 'Aye Davanita', the sub-Tom Waits accordion romp of 'Bugs', and the chilling sonic collage 'Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me'." "Bugs" features Vedder playing an accordion that he found at a thrift shop,[14] while "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me" was created using looped recordings of real patients from a psychiatric hospital.[15]

Many of the songs on the album address the pressures of fame and dealing with the resulting loss of privacy.[16] These include "Not for You", "Pry, To", "Corduroy", "Bugs", "Satan's Bed" and "Immortality". Vedder said, "I'm just totally vulnerable. I'm way too fucking soft for this whole business, this whole trip. I don't have any shell. There's a contradiction there, because that's probably why I can write songs that mean something to someone and express some of these things that other people can't necessarily express."[14] The lyrics of "Not for You" express anger at the bureaucracy of the music industry and "how youth is being sold and exploited",[7] while Vedder said "Corduroy" is about "one person's relationship with a million people."[7] In "Pry, To" the phrase "P-r-i-v-a-c-y is priceless to me" is repeated. Many think that the lyrics of "Immortality" may be about Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's suicide, although Vedder has denied this, suggesting instead that it is about "the pressures on someone who is on a parallel train."[7] The lyrics that appeared in the first live version of "Immortality" were altered before the song was released as part of the album. Vedder said regarding "Nothingman" that "if you love someone and they love you, don't fuck up...'cause you are left with less than nothing."[7] "Better Man" is a song about an abusive relationship.[17] Vedder wrote "Better Man" when he was in high school and performed it with his previous band, Bad Radio. Considered a "blatantly great pop song" by producer Brendan O'Brien, Pearl Jam was reluctant to record it and had initially rejected it from Vs. due to its accessibility.[9]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[13]
Chicago Sun-Times3/4 stars[18]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[19]
Los Angeles Times4/4 stars[20]
Q4/5 stars[22]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4.5/5 stars[23]
USA Today3.5/4 stars[24]
The Village VoiceA−[25]

Vitalogy was released first on vinyl on November 22, 1994, two weeks before its CD and cassette release, and debuted at No. 55 on the Billboard 200 album chart.[26] The LP sold 34,000 copies in its first week of release, and until Jack White's Lazaretto album in 2014 it held the record for most vinyl sales in one week.[2] It was also the first album to chart on the Billboard 200 due to vinyl sales alone since the CD became the dominant format for album sales.[27] When Vitalogy was released on CD and cassette on December 6, 1994, it went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling more than 877,000 copies in its first week.[3] It was the second-fastest selling album in history, behind only the band's previous release Vs.[28] Vitalogy has been certified five times platinum by the RIAA,[4] and, as of July 2013, has sold 5.9 million copies in the United States according to Nielsen SoundScan.[29] In July 2013, Rolling Stone ranked Vitalogy second in a reader's poll of Pearl Jam's best albums.[30]

Rolling Stone staff writer Al Weisel gave Vitalogy four out of five stars, describing the album as "a wildly uneven and difficult record, sometimes maddening, sometimes ridiculous, often powerful." While Weisel praised several songs as "[matching] the soaring anthems of Ten", he criticized some of the more experimental songs as "throwaways and strange experiments that don't always work".[16] Jon Pareles of The New York Times praised the album's diversity compared to the band's previous records. He commented that the band incorporated "fast but brutal punk, fuzz-toned psychedelia and judicious folk-rock, all of it sounding more spontaneous than before." Pareles felt that the band continued to be "unremittingly glum", and described the majority of the songs as "tortured first-person proclamations". Pareles concluded, "Vedder sounds more alone than ever."[31] Time reviewer Christopher John Farley singled out "Bugs" as one of the album's "share of stinkers". Farley added, "But that's one admirably experimental failure on a largely successful album."[32] Despite writing negatively of the album's "shapeless high-energy riff-rockers", Newsday staff writer Ira Robbins lauded Vitalogy's sound and called it a "compelling triumph of surface over substance".[33] In a mixed review of the album, Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post perceived a lack of subject matter and lyrical substance as Vitalogy's weakness.[34]

Q magazine gave the album four out of five stars, stating "It speaks volumes for Pearl Jam's continuing creative acumen that they can respond so confidently to a new punk scene that has sprung up."[22] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album an A− rating, writing that "Three or four of these songs are faster and riffier than anything else in P. Jam's book, token experiments like "Bugs" are genuinely weird, and in an era of compulsory irony [Vedder's] sincerity is something like a relief—a Kurtlike relief at that."[25] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B+. He said, "Vitalogy marks the first time it's possible to respect the band's music as much as its stance." He added that "despite its musical advances, Vitalogy leaves an odd, unsettling aftertaste. You walk away from it energized, but wondering what price Eddie Vedder, and Pearl Jam, will ultimately pay for it."[19] Chicago Sun-Times writer Jim DeRogatis gave it three out of four stars and commended Pearl Jam for their earnest songwriting. However, DeRogatis also wrote that the album "leaves you wishing that they'd just lighten up".[18] USA Today's Edna Gundersen gave Vitalogy three and a half out of four stars and stated that it "delivers the band's most compelling, inventive and confident music to date", while calling it "the rebel yell of a band that is maturing without mellowing".[24] Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn gave Vitalogy four out of four stars and viewed its music as an improvement over Pearl Jam's previous work, writing "This isn't just the best Pearl Jam album but a better album than the band once even seemed capable of making".[20] AllMusic staff writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album four and a half out of five stars, saying, "Pearl Jam are at their best when they're fighting, whether it's Ticketmaster, fame, or their own personal demons."[13] According to The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), "By Vitalogy PJ hit their apex … the band's creative zenith, finding them doing a Led Zeppelin III on acoustic tracks like 'Corduroy' and turning in a Tom Waits-like weird attack on 'Bugs'".[23]

Three singles were released from Vitalogy. The lead single "Spin the Black Circle" (backed with B-side "Tremor Christ", also from the album), was the band's first to enter the Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 18.[35] At the 1996 Grammy Awards, "Spin the Black Circle" won the band its first Grammy Award, receiving the award for Best Hard Rock Performance.[36] Neither of the album's other commercially released singles, "Not for You" and "Immortality", charted on the Hot 100, but both placed on the Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. Album tracks "Better Man" and "Corduroy" also charted. "Better Man" was the most successful song from Vitalogy on the rock charts, spending a total of eight weeks at number one on the Mainstream Rock charts and reaching number two on the Modern Rock charts.[35] At the 1996 Grammy Awards, Vitalogy received nominations for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album.[36] In 2003, the album was ranked number 492 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[37] The magazine listed the album at number 485 on its revised list in 2012, calling it a "mastery of rock's past and future".[38] In May 2014, Loudwire placed Vitalogy at number ten on its "10 Best Hard Rock Albums of 1994" list.[39] In July 2014 Guitar World placed the album on its "Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994" list.[40]

In 2011 Pearl Jam released a remastered Vitalogy, along with Vs., in three formats: an Expanded Version, a three-CD Deluxe Edition and a Limited Edition Collector's Boxed Set. The Expanded Version features three bonus tracks: the previously unreleased guitar/organ-only mix of "Better Man"; a previously unreleased alternate take of "Corduroy" from the Vitalogy sessions (recorded by Brendan O'Brien); and a previously unreleased demo version of "Nothingman", taken from the original DAT (recorded at John and Stu's in Seattle on October 14, 1993, featuring Richard Stuverud on drums). The three-CD Deluxe Edition features both the Legacy Versions of Vitalogy and Vs. with their bonus tracks and a copy of Live at the Orpheum Theater, Boston, April 12, 1994.[41]


The original title for the album was Life. The first single, "Spin the Black Circle", was released before the album was released, and on the back of the single it states "From the Epic album Life". The album title Vitalogy comes from an early 20th-century medical book on which the cover art and liner notes are based.[9] Vitalogy literally means "the study of life".[16]

Vedder found the medical book at a garage sale. Ament stated, "Ed brought in that book, and we said man that would make a great album cover."[9] He explained that from Vs. onward the band tried to take different approaches to packaging its records. Ament said, "We tried really hard, to make it like a book, kind of tipped it so it opened horizontally, which pissed off record stores: they had to put it in sideways."[9] The packaging cost an extra 50 cents per copy. Problems arose when the band discovered that later versions of the book were still under copyright. The band had to confer with their lawyers in order to work out a final version utilizing the material they wanted to include with the album.[9]

The booklet contains outdated discussions of health and well-being. Other notes in the booklet, dealing with life and death reflections, seem to be more personal, like a message typed on one of the last pages, supposedly referring to the loss of a loved one ("I waited all day. You waited all day...but you left before sunset...and I just wanted to tell you the moment was beautiful. Just wanted to dance to bad bad bad TV...should have stayed for the sunset... if not for me."). The booklet also displays some poems or original sayings not belonging to the songs' lyrics, but to be interpreted as a commentary to the songs and, again, as a reflection on how life should or should not be lived. An example is the poem typed on the "Aye Davanita" page. The song's subtitle is "The song without words", as it is an instrumental track. But the page displays a sort of poem about the wasted life of a young girl. Another episode of "intruder words" is on the "Not for You" lyrics page. After the second refrain, instead of the actual lyrics, the typed words give a hint about the Sisyphus myth ("Yeah, you call me Sisyphus love. Yeah, I move the rock. I just don't want to talk about moving the rock. Anything that distracts me from moving the rock"). The lyrics to "Whipping" are written on a copy of a petition to Bill Clinton against "pro-life" killings of abortion doctors. An X-ray of Vedder's teeth was pictured instead of lyrics on the page for "Corduroy".[7]


Pearl Jam promoted the album with tours in Asia, Oceania, and the United States in 1995.[42] The band was joined by new drummer Jack Irons. The short tour of the United States focused on the Midwest and the West Coast. The band continued its boycott against Ticketmaster during its tour of the United States, refusing to play in Ticketmaster's venue areas, but was surprised that virtually no other bands joined it in refusing to play at Ticketmaster venues.[43] The band chose to use alternate ticketing companies for the shows.

The tour of the United States faced various troubles. Ament said that the band and its crew had to "[build] shows from the ground up, a venue everywhere we went".[9] In June 1995, the band was scheduled to play at San Francisco, California's Golden Gate Park in front of 50,000 people. Before the concert Vedder was forced to stay at a hospital after suffering from the effects of food poisoning. Vedder left the hospital to play the show; however he was not able to finish and ended up performing just seven out of 21 songs with the band.[44] Neil Young filled in for Vedder for the rest of the show that day. Vedder said, "That whole [Golden Gate Park] thing was a blur based on some bad food. It was really, really bad. Looking back at it, it doesn't seem as intense as it was, but it was horrible. I just felt not human and looking back I should have got through that show somehow, and I think the fact that Neil [Young] was there made me feel like I could get off the hook in some way and I did go out for a few songs."[9] Because of Vedder's health the band was forced to cancel the remaining dates of its tour of the United States.[10] Some dates were reinstated while the rest were rescheduled for the fall. About canceling the dates, Vedder said, "I think we all agreed that it had gotten insane, that it was no longer about the music."[45] Ament later said, "We were so hardheaded about the 1995 tour. Had to prove we could tour on our own, and it pretty much killed us, killed our career."[9]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Eddie Vedder. All music is credited to Pearl Jam with the exceptions as (*). Actual music composers listed below.

1."Last Exit"Dave Abbruzzese, Stone Gossard2:54
2."Spin the Black Circle"Gossard[46]2:47
3."Not for You"Vedder[47]5:52
4."Tremor Christ"Jeff Ament, Mike McCready[47]4:12
5."Nothingman" (*)Ament4:35
7."Pry, To"Abbruzzese, Ament, McCready, Gossard, Vedder1:03
10."Satan's Bed" (*)Gossard3:30
11."Better Man" (*)Vedder4:28
12."Aye Davanita"Abbruzzese, Ament, McCready, Gossard, Vedder2:57
14."Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me" (*) (Also known as "Stupid Mop"[49])Ament, Gossard, Jack Irons, McCready, Vedder7:28
Total length:55:09

Reissue bonus tracks

All lyrics are written by Vedder.

15."Better Man" (guitar and organ only mix)Vedder3:55
16."Corduroy" (alternate take)Vedder[7]4:44
17."Nothingman" (1993 demo featuring Richard Stuverud on drums)Ament4:36


"Hard to Imagine", a song previously rejected from Vs.,[50] was also recorded during the Vitalogy sessions. This version found its way on to the soundtrack for the 1998 film, Chicago Cab. "Hard to Imagine" is also included on the 2003 rarities compilation, Lost Dogs; however, that version is the one from the Vs. sessions.[51] According to Gossard, "Hard to Imagine" was cut from Vitalogy because it did not fit with the other songs the band was writing at the time.[52] "Out of My Mind", which is featured as a B-side on the "Not for You" single, was premiered on the band's 1994 spring tour of the United States and was played twice.[53] According to Vedder, the song was just a live improv.[54]


Chart history[edit]


Year Single Peak chart positions
US Main
US Mod
1994 "Spin the Black Circle" 18 16 11 3 92 6 21 5 2 16 10
"Tremor Christ" 16 16 67
1995 "Better Man" 1 2 9
"Corduroy" 22 13
"Not for You" 12 38 29 26 10 34
"Immortality" 10 31 51 62 29
"—" denotes singles that did not chart.


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]