"I Would’ve Fallen" By Stefanie Huber
The Universe has a tendency to send odd pieces of rock n’ roll memorabilia my way. I’m not someone who clamors to meet famous people, and I’m really not a “collector” by any stretch, but once in a while I’m in the right place at the right time, and some of these items are just too good to be true. Like the lemon from Joey Ramone’s drink that I got in high school at my first Ramones show. Like the bottle of Jack Daniels that I swigged with Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian of the Damned. Like the bouquet of dead flowers (well, they were alive when I got them) that Jack White threw to me out of a window in NYC that have lived in that empty Jack Daniels bottle since that night. But, since none of those people are being inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame this year, I would like to tell you about the only piece of Pearl Jam memorabilia that I own: a page out of Eddie Vedder’s notebook.
It’s always a pleasure to compare stories with other Pearl Jam fans about how they have acquired unique mementoes from live shows: Ed’s tambourine, Mike’s pick, Jeff’s wristband, for example. These things are almost like badges of honor for fans of this band; something tangible to re-affirm and re-live the incomparable feeling of cathartic euphoria one walks away with from experiencing a Pearl Jam concert.
Cincinnati 2014 was the opening night of that fall tour. I had been ridiculously into the song “Parachutes” for months before that show. It’s just such a quirky, sweet, interesting song. When people would ask me “What song do you hope they play tonight?” I’d say, “Parachutes!” I think they have only played it around 20 times, and they hadn’t played it in years. Until that night.
I heard the opening notes of that song and I was STOKED! I couldn’t believe it. Since they hardly ever played that song, Ed had to look at a cheat sheet he pulled out of his notebook. When he was done with what turned out to be page 1 of 2, he crumpled it up and tossed it to someone in the front row on the rail. I distinctly remember thinking, “Wow, whoever got that piece of paper is so lucky.” He had a 2nd cheat sheet, too, which he also threw out at the end (if you are reading this and you have that 2nd page, let’s talk).
The next day word around the campfire was that a friend of mine, Brian Ruschman, was the one who Ed had tossed that lyric sheet to. I saw Brian at the next show in St. Louis and he confirmed that yes, he had it. I was so happy that someone I knew had it!
Brian shared an image of the lyric sheet, the lyrics were printed out and at the bottom of the paper was the next line of the song, a cue as to what was on the next paper, scrawled in red Sharpie: “I would’ve fallen.” I immediately contacted him to ask if I could get a hi-resolution image of that handwritten line so I could get it as a tattoo. “Sure!” He said.
A week or two later when Brian and I were chatting, he told me he wanted to give me the “Parachutes” lyrics. My response was, “No, I couldn’t; you earned that!” He was first in line the night before, a Rail Warrior. That was his reward. But he insisted. So, Ed threw Brian those lyrics on October 1st and on October 31st I had it in my hot little hands. It was not lost on me that in that moment, hundreds of miles away and a month later, I turned out to be the person who "was so lucky" to get that piece of paper.
I have stated that I will never part with this item unless the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame Museum wants it for an exhibit. Specks of Ed’s blood from his hands are on the back of this paper. It smells like cigarettes and man. I mean, it's a righteous piece of rock n’ roll.
And yes, I got the tattoo and it looks awesome. Brian asked me when I saw him last if I had the lyric sheet framed and hung up or on the mantle or something. And the answer is no. I have it as the cover of my favorite ukulele songbook, because if it wasn’t for Ukulele Songs and the way Ed shows those 4 strings who’s boss, I wouldn’t have fallen back into Pearl Jam in the first place. Seeing it there is a reminder of what I felt in that happy moment I saw it live; almost a jolt back in time to that joyful experience.
Congrats to Pearl Jam on their induction into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. I will be there, toasting you guys for being the real deal for your entire career. Thanks for providing us with so much: from deeply meaningful music to travel and adventure, to friendships to lovelorn 90’s mix tape fodder, to smoky, bloody pieces of paper to playing Ten in its entirety in Philly last year, which was probably the most powerful live experience of my life. We love you. Here’s to 25 more years!