Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pearl Jam & Former Drummer Dave Abbruzzese Continue Controversy & Drama Over HOF Snub

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There's a new movie out called "Searching for Abbruzzese" which is soon to be released.

Not sure why it has such a strange title, or what it exactly has to do with the former Pearl Jam drummer. My guess is that it has something to do with him having been the drummer during the peak time of the band's success, when they rose and became essentially the biggest, most popular band in the world. However, he was slighted by not being included as a member of the band once they got into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. 

This has been generating controversy almost since the band was inducted, and Pearl Jam recently finally broke their silence and addressed this issue.

Of course, there were tensions that existed within the band at the time that Abbruzzese was the drummer, and rumor had it that Vedder wanted him out. At the time, Vedder was the big star, and everyone in the band wanted to keep him happy, so the other members essentially sided with Vedder, and when the time came, Abbruzzese was out.

This drama was documented in what was surely the best book about the band that I have ever read or know of, which was Kim Neely's "Five Against One." She describes in very understandable terms just what the tensions were that existed in the band at the time, particularly between Vedder and Abbruzzese, and specifically described some of the most telling moments that betrayed just how deep the divide between the two went.

It has been a few years - quite a few years, admittedly - since I read the book. Probably that happened in 2003, which means that it has now been almost a decade and a half. Still, as I recall, the tensions were essentially that Abbruzzese was very excited about the band's success, and saw no problems showing just how excited he was about it, while the stance of the rest of the band was more in line with the rather severe discomfort that Eddie Vedder at least outwardly expressed towards the band's growing fame and fortune. This was in keeping with the expressed discomfort towards the same by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

However, Abbruzzese felt that there was nothing to be ashamed of in this regard, and so he got a tattoo of the band's stick figure logo (see picture of the logo above). The other band members asked him if he knew that this tattoo was permanent, which was perhaps the first tip-off that the drummer's status with the band was itself not permanent.

There was also the time that Abbruzzese excitedly showed the band his new car, and the members all stood silently staring, wordlessly. Vedder in particular seemed displeased, and one of the band members (I forget who, but think it might have been bassist Jeff Ament) said something to the effect that fame and money really do change people.

Then there was Abbruzzese's seemingly glee during a prominent awards show, which the rest of the band expressed disapproval of. This disapproval was particularly pronounced with Vedder, who claimed that he had never been so humiliated in his life.

It should also be noted that there were some political differences between the rest of the band. Again, this was particularly pronounced in the case of Vedder, who even went so far as to write part of the lyrics to one of the songs on the second album, Versus. The song is Glorified G, and it is an anti-gun song, although at least a part of it was taken by an actual exchange between Abbruzzese and Vedder. When asked by Vedder if he had bought a gun, Abbruzzese responded, "In fact, I got two." This wound up being incorporated into the lyrics of Glorified G.

It is not only Vedder who has expressed criticism of Abbruzzese and his behavior while part of Pearl Jam. Ament also publicly expressed criticism, although allegedly, the two got along fairly well while the drummer was in the band, and he got along very well with guitarist Mike McCready, who was going through a serious alcohol problem at the time. But after the drummer was released from the band, Ament spoke of the differences:

"Dave was a different egg for sure. There were a lot of things, personality wise, where I didn't see eye to eye with him. He was more comfortable being a rock star than the rest of us. Partying, girls, cars. I don't know if anyone was in the same space." (taken from Wikipedia's page on Dave Abbruzzese).

Guitarist and founding member Stone Gossard sounded a bit more conciliatory:

"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." (also taken from Wikipedia's page on Dave Abbruzzese).

For his part, Abbruzzese stated:

 "I didn't really agree with what was going on. I didn't agree with the Ticketmaster stuff at all. But I don't blame anyone or harbor any hard feelings. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't furious and hurt for a long time. But now I just wish there was more music from the band I was a part of." (also taken from Wikipedia's page on Dave Abbruzzese).

Eventually, these differences led to the band getting rid of Abbruzzese. Even though he said that he got along with all of the other band members, Vedder was the star, and Neely suggested in her book that the other members of the band wanted to keep the star happy. This was Abbruzzese's take on it, as well. He also suggested that Vedder was not entirely honest, and recalled one time when Vedder seemed at least publicly to be strugglnig with alcoholism. During a show, Vedder appeared to be acting in a drunken and slurred manner, and Abbruzzese approached him, trying to rein in his behavior, when Vedder, suddenly seeming very sober and coherent, hissed at the drummer to not get in his way. If true, this would suggest that Vedder's whole angry, anti-establishment demeanor at the time was in fact an act, and that the alcoholism was at least an exaggeration, if not an outright act. Abbruzzese was clearly taking a shot at Vedder's credibility, which probably hit hard, since Pearl Jam as a band always struggled with credibility, having a past where some notable other music figures - most famously Kurt Cobain - took well-publicized swipes at the band, and questioned just how original and full of integrity the band was.

Still, Abbruzzese was a capable drummer, and he was undeniably a member of the band during some of the most important years for the band, when they were on top of the world in terms of public profile, and were likely the most popular band in the world. He was reluctant to join Pearl Jam, but did so while the band was still out touring and promoting their first album, which would soon have an explosion of popularity. Abbruzzese also played drums on the band's next two albums, "Versus" and "Vitalogy." He wrote the music for some notable Pearl Jam songs, including "Go," "Last Exit," and "Angel," which was not on an album, but on one of the band's special Christmas releases. Abbruzzese also famously threw his drum sticks against the wall in frustration after recording "Rearviewmirror," and this was kept, and can still be heard at the end of that track on the second album.

This was shortly after the explosion of the so-called "Seattle Sound" of the early nineties, and by the end of 1992, arguably, Pearl Jam was the biggest and most successful band in the world. Their release of the second album, "Versus," late in 1993 far outsold Nirvana's "In Utero," and the band enjoyed a fairly long run of uninterrupted success that lasted at least into the summer of 1995, and arguably well into 1996. However, the band's popularity started to wane a bit with the release of  the band's fourth album, "No Code." Abbruzzese was long gone by then, though, of course. "No Code" purposely had a different sound, as the band at least claimed to want to pull the plug on their success, and to tone it down a bit. It sold remarkably well during the first few days of it's release, but the singles never were as radio-friendly as some of their previous hits had been, and album sales began to taper down shortly afterwards. In the meantime, other bands were rising in popularity, and before long, what was left of the whole Seattle scene from the early nineties seemed to go out right along with Pearl Jam's incredible popularity at the time. A lot of the drama surrounding the band, and Vedder's discomfort with his own popularity (and surely some of it was real, as one woman obviously completely taken by him once drove her car into Vedder's home), began to wither away shortly thereafter. Soon, Pearl Jam became a band with a very changed image. They remained big, and still are big to this day. However, they conceded their popularity for "the next big thing" with their change in musical style and overall image following the release of "No Code."

After his dismissal, the hard feelings between Vedder and Abbruzzese ran deeply on both sides. Not long after Abbruzzese was released, he was asked to sign a copy of Pearl Jam's second album, "Versus," and he immediately turned right to a picture of Vedder and apparently scribbled him out.

That drama seemed to more or less fall into simply being an obscure chapter in the band's history, until these tensions seemed to once again rise to the surface last year, after Pearl Jam was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, and left out Abbruzzese as a member of the band. The band has had five different drummers, and they selected only two of them to officially receive recognition, which was something that some people - most notably Abbruzzese himself - took strong exception to. Pearl Jam has been trying to reconcile, and apparently has invited Abbruzzese to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, although it is still unclear if this issue has finally been resolved, or if there are still lingering resentments, and more drama to be played out.

Time will tell.

In the meantime, however, here is a bit more information on a rare public message by Dave Abbruzzese, as well as on the film that bears his name (which was not his idea, and actually caught him by surprise):

Pearl Jam’s Dave Abbruzzese Releases Touching Video To Fans By Brett Buchanan -  Mar 21, 2017

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