In just over a month Ed Vedder’s heretofor specter of a Ukulele album will be released. The eponymously titled “Ukulele Songs” consists of sixteen tracks: some we know, others we don’t. But just what are these songs about? has the scoop. Hit the jump for Part I for the track-by-track background of “Ukuelele Songs”.

1. Can’t Keep
Different than the Riot Act version musically and lyrically. In fact, it’s a completely different song. The inaugural track on “Ukulele Songs” is about the departure of Dave Abbruzzese from Pearl Jam. Though the story has been told before, the tale is far from the truth. Most Pearl Jam fans think that as Ed began to take control of the band, he wanted to fire Abbruzzese for his clichéd rock-star sensibilities and garish tastes. And that instead of firing Dave A. himself, he made Stone Gossard do it. Lame? Yes. But untrue. The real story is that in 1994 Ed made a huge bet on the now defunct Seattle Supersonics beating the then-powerhouse Chicago Bulls. Vedder had received a tip from basketball super fan Jeff Ament that Jordan would be out with a sore big toe. Vedder bet the farm on Seattle and lost. The Jordan-less Bulls outpaced the Sonics 105-96. However,  Vedder balked when his bookie called in his sizable debt. The bookie, a Seattle-area low-life named Ricky Sticks, was an avid Pearl Jam fan and D-List grunge rocker. Instead of resorting to threats, Sticks told Vedder that his band – the Dead Titties – needed a drummer. You can see where the story goes.

Fearing retribution from the bookie’s legbreakers, Vedder reluctantly offered up Dave Abbruzzese in lieu of cash. Though Abbruzzese was a great drummer (see “WMA“), Vedder realized that to get out of the hole he’d dug for himself, he couldn’t keep him.  Abbruzzese refused to go initially, but agreed only after Vedder promised him 25% of the band’s future royalties through the year 2011 (the band’s 20th anniversary). The only caveat was that in order to maintain the band’s image, Vedder would be able to tell the media Dave was fired was being too much of a “rock-star”. In the end all parties were satisfied, Vedder paid his debt to Ricky Sticks and maintained Pearl Jam’s “reluctant warrior” image, Ricky Sticks had a drummer for the Dead Titties, and Dave Abbruzzese was rich.

2. Sleeping by Myself
Narcolepsy is a serious condition. In a nutshell, it’s a disease in which the affected person is chronically tired, sometimes even falling asleep unexpectedly. This sudden slumber can occur at the most inopportune times. Click here for an example. What most Pearl Jam fans don’t know about Eddie Vedder is that he suffers from this condition. More than that, it’s a very sensitive topic (see “Longing to Belong” below). The development of effective anti-narcoleptic pharmaceuticals since 1993 (when Pfizer released Wake-zapraxin) has allowed Ed to avoid embarrassing episodes while performing with the band. However prior to 1993, episodes occurred with some frequency. For example, the purported “cancelled” show on 5/20/92 wasn’t, in fact, cancelled at all.

According to, and subsequently, this Rock The Vote show was cancelled due to permit issues. The true story is that Pearl Jam performed an abbreviated 9-song set. The performance was cut short after Eddie Vedder had a narcoleptic episode during “Brother“. During the song’s opening riff, Ed’s condition kicked in and he dropped to the stage like a cement brick, hitting his head a monitor. 20,000 screaming fans collectively gasped. Jeff Ament thought Stone Gossard had put him up to it as a way to get out of playing the song. It is a widely know fact that Jeff nearly quit the band during the Ten sessions because Stone didn’t want to include the track on the album. A fist fight broke out onstage between Jeff and Stone. There were two hits, Jeff hitting Stone and Stone hitting the floor. He landed right next to a snoring Vedder.

But wait there’s more. The Ten Club, in an effort to conceal Ed’s condition and the embarrassing fight, demanded that and cover-up the affair by feeding them a brief story about local officials revoking the permit for the event, even going as far as to say Ed showed up, “partying with the crowd who’d gathered despite the lack of a show.” To their collective chagrin, both sites obliged.

“Sleeping by Myself” is the moniker Ed had given his once and former narcolepsy. The song recounts these events.

3. Without You
Typo on the packaging. More recently printed copies of the album have the correct title, which is “(With Or) Without You”; a cover of the hit U2 song. Structurally the song is a spitting image of the original, however on the ukulele it’s markedly upbeat which resonates ironically given the ambivalent subject matter.

4. More Than You Know
“More Than You Know” is an homage to misheard lyrics.  The song’s title is a send-up of Mike McCready, who famously mistook the lyrics to Kiss’ anthemic rock song as “I wanna rock and bowl all night, and part of every day”. Track four on “Ukulele Songs” is actually called (per the liner notes) “More Rizutto”, which is a reference to baseball great and de facto Money Store spokesman Phil Rizutto.

5. Goodbye
“Ukulele Songs” was conceived as a 5-track EP. Originally, “Goodbye” was the closer. Initially released on “A Brokedown Melody“, a surf film released in 2004, this song tells a wistful story of a love lost, while the heartache still burns inside. The subject is Ed’s ex-wife, Beth Liebling.

6. Broken Heart
Who doesn’t love Valentine’s day heart candies? A perennial saccharine favorite, these colorful, quarter-inch cuts of heart shaped happiness sit on the shelves of corner stores waiting to be scooped up by two camps: young folks in love and fathers buying for their daughters. Ed began buying a small box each Valentine’s Day, beginning with the birth of his first daughter. Occasionally she’d find cracked candies inside and would start to cry. When Papa Ed would ask, “What’s wrong?” Believing the candies came from real live people she’d tearfully reply, “Daddy, this one came from a person with broken heart!” Finding this to be both adorably innocent and whimsically sorrowful, Ed wrote this song which lyrically explains to his daughter that “Only love can fix a broken heart.”

7. Satellite
Ed’s belated answer to the Dave Matthews song of the same name. Though their feud has been kept relatively quiet for years, with only minor details leaking out to the press, the ongoing friction between Dave Matthews and Eddie Vedder has been vicious. It began with track 3 from DMB’s first commercial release, Under the Table and Dreaming.

Dave Matthews’ “Satellite” was written as a slight against the burgeoning grunge scene of the early 1990’s, with Ed as its prime target. The line, “Satellite/ strung from the moon/ and your world a balloon/ peeping Tom for the mother station” has been deciphered by Rock journalists to mean – and I’m paraphrasing here – “Ed Vedder is peeping Tom who uses balloons to levitate himself high enough to see into the windows of teenage girls”. The insult is juvenile, but veiled enough as to not arouse suspicion from most casual listeners.

Ed’s version of “Satellite” takes the high road, avoiding direct retaliation – instead dropping a single, solitary a-bomb. The lyric goes, “must be tough/ when you’re high/ all the time/ little guy”. Ouch.

8. Longing to Belong
Eddie Vedder (then Mueller) was born in 1964. By 1970, at the ripe age of 6, Ed longed to join the Cub Scouts. The local troop, Evanston 517, had capacity for only 25 boys due to budget constraints. By the time Ed’s dad (not his REAL father) got around to submitting the paperwork there was only one spot left. One spot, and two applicants. The two were Ed Vedder, and arch-rival Seamus McKenzie.

The two boys lived across the street from one another in Evanston, Illinois. Seamus, the larger boy, picked on the diminutive Vedder and gave him frequent noogies. Since Vedder’s dad was not well liked in the community (see here as to why), and that Ed suffered from acute Narcolepsy (see “Sleeping by Myself” above), the Troop leader chose McKenzie instead of the young Vedder. The snub deeply stirred an otherwise affable child (the line from Jeremy, “The serpent was subtil.” is a direct reference to this). Historical Rock-Psychologists pinpoint this moment when Eddie Vedder began internalizing his frustrations. The silver lining is that 15 years later he let them out and Pearl Jam was born.

Click here for Part II.


      20 Responses to Ukulele Songs:Part I of II

      1. Dave says:

        What the shit is this….

      2. Gur says:

        Am I missing the boat here, or is this an April Fool’s post?

        I’ve never heard of Ed having narcolepsy or owing a bookie $$ and handing over Dave’s head (or hands, rather) as payment.

        What is your source for these, if you don’t mind me asking?

        This is truly fascinating if true, or I feel like a complete ass for believing this if it’s not.

      3. B says:

        Is this for real? April Fools was last week guys!

      4. Doc says:

        Nice! Love it!

      5. Neuge says:

        This is a nice late April fools joke, would have been the best joke I heard if it was on time (-=

      6. Eugene says:

        Was fun to read

      7. number1PJfan says:

        Don’t you know everything you read on the internet is true? So this HAS to be true as well, right? 🙂

      8. Rockfan says:

        I read the Can’t keep one and didn’t find it even the least bit funny. Anyone who thought that was a real story needs to brush up on Pearl Jam knowledge. Anyway dude, it didn’t even make sense. You said Ament gave Vedder a tip that Jordan was gonna be out for the game so Vedder bet the farm on the Bulls and when the Sonics beat them he lost.

        Why would Vedder or anyone bet on the Bulls if they got a tip Jordan would be out for the game. You should have said something like it was believed Jordan was gonna miss the game with a toe injury but Ament gave Vedder a tip that he would play so Vedder then bet the house on the Bulls.

        You messed up.

        Anywho I didn’t finish reading the other stories, probably made mistakes in those too.

        Later gator.

        • gremmie says:

          You’re incorrect. It reads that Vedder made a bet on the SONICS beating the BULLS because Ament tipped him off that Jordan would be out for the game. Aside from the fact that you read the paragraph incorrectly, you’re also the first person to respond to this entry with a negative comment. You’d think for someone who clearly spent so much (too much?) time deciphering the text (and incorrectly at that), you would at least have conjured up something nice to say; particularly under the pretext that goof and I give and give, asking for little in return. But, if you’re still upset about it, feel free to start your own Pearl Jam fansite – but steer clear of writing op-eds: your editorial skills aren’t as great as you think.

      9. Rockfan says:

        you changed it i see. it read as i stated. atleast you did change it.

        i wasnt trying to be mean it’s just a stupid article dude. you have a nice site don’t ruin it with dumb stuff.

        • gremmie says:

          Well, you are entitled to your opinion. However, I will say that we have gotten nothing but positive feedback on this articles and others like it. So maybe you should lighten up and if you don’t like something, keep it to yourself. Thanks.

      10. Bruce L. says:

        I find it hysterical that people are mad about this. Lighten up! This was one of my favorites…..

        “There were two hits, Jeff hitting Stone and Stone hitting the floor. He landed right next to a snoring Vedder.”

        Great stuff man…..keep it up!

      11. Emile Mw says:

        He he –
        Loved the “two hits” bit – reminds me of “The Breakfast Club” and Emilio Estevez’s oh-so-serious threat!! LMFAO – this is brilliant writing!!!

      12. Craig says:

        i read your summary of the setlist for ” Ukulele songs ” and you mention that they cover U2’s ” with or without you” but i heard sample’s of this entire setlist(cd) and what i heard of that ” without you ” song was definatly not the U2 song…do they change the song half way through it to the U2 song or am i just mistaken? love the site fellows..Craig

      13. Hana says:

        I love Sleepless Nights. But is the information correct or made up? There seems to be some rumors and discussions on whether Vedder is gay or not. Well, it doesn’t lessen the quality of the song… but if the information is true maybe he is, which is rather unbelievable to me.

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