Pearl Jam Had ‘Not So Legal’ Led Zeppelin Influence

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Brendan O’Brien discusses Pearl Jam’s influence

In a recent conversation with Rick Beato, Pearl Jam producer Brendan O’Brien shared some fascinating insights into how one of their iconic songs, “Better Man,” took shape and its connection to the legendary John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.

O’Brien praised “Better Man” from the start, but the band initially hesitated because it felt a bit too mainstream for their liking. They didn’t want to be seen as chasing after a hit. However, O’Brien found inspiration in John Paul Jones’ techniques, particularly how he double-tracked the organ on early Led Zeppelin records like “Your Time Is Gonna Come.”

Pearl Jam used pump organ on Better Man

Taking a page from Jones’ playbook, O’Brien suggested adding a pump organ to “Better Man,” which resonated with the band and helped them warm up to the song. Reflecting on this, O’Brien said,

“That’s so John Paul Jones. I’m sure I ripped this sound off from him because he would do stuff, especially on their first album, where he would double-track the organ.”

Despite Eddie Vedder’s initial uncertainty about recording “Better Man,” O’Brien strongly believed in the song’s potential. It gained momentum when Pearl Jam started performing it live, which convinced Vedder of its quality. Eventually, they decided to include it on their third album, “Vitalogy,” after seeing its positive reception from audiences.

In related news, Eddie Vedder was also hard on the producer for Pearl Jam, which many didn’t find surprising either.

Pearl Jam’s admiration for Led Zeppelin runs deep. Jeff Ament pointed out that guitarist in a 2020 interview that Stone Gossard has always been a huge Zeppelin fan, influenced his songwriting approach. Ament also noted the use of fretless bass on their recent album “Gigaton,” exploring its unique sound and potential.

“Stone was always writing from kind of a Zeppelin angle, so seeing if the fretless could work in that realm was exciting. Even on ‘Gigaton,’ there’s fretless on a couple of songs, and with the writing that I’ve been doing in the past three months, I’m trying to use it more because I think it’s a very under-utilized instrument.”