In this case, it’s more about a similiarity than this being homage or parody. Eddie Vedder will be releasing a new album tomorrow called ‘Ukulele Songs, and for those of you who wish to pronounce the instrument correctly, it’s “ooh-koo-leh-leh”, not “you-kuh-lay-lee”. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here: when Mookie Blaylock, later Pearl Jam, made its way to the surface after the collapse of Mother Love Bone (vocalist Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose), I was not a huge fan of Vedder. It would take the Yield album before I realized the guy was not bad. Not a perfect singer, but some of the best singers aren’t about being perfect anyway. I found myself becoming a fan in a roundabout way. In early interviews, he talked about his San Diego upbringing and at the time I probably thought “what the hell is this San Diego guy going to do in a Seattle band?” Did I say anything about Soundgarden‘s initial Chicago roots, not at all.
Anyway, Vedder’s connection with the ocean continued, as someone who surfed and collaborated with fellow fans of the ocean, such as Hawaiian surfer/film director/lullaby tea maker Jack Johnson. Then I heard a Vedder song on a surf soundtrack where he played the ‘ukulele, so even though I might’ve said “this fucker is nothing more than a beach bum” in the early 90’s, I should talk considering I was raised in Honolulu.
Anyway, Vedder is now coming out with an album called ‘Ukulele Songs, a flip of the angst he has been known for in his work with Pearl Jam. Some still see the ‘ukulele as a novelty instrument, yet no one ever says the bass guitar is basic, even though it too has four strings. This is what the cover of ‘Ukulele Songs looks like.
Because of it breaking a stereotype, I think it’s great.
Then I realized: it looks a bit like the faceless, isolated man on Love‘s 1969 album on Blue Thumb Records, Out Here, as illustrated by Burt Shonberg.
Influence, indirect or not? Maybe not, but I think the use of isolation in both covers may play a role in how people listen and interpret the music. At least I’d like to think it will/may.