How Bruce Springsteen Convinced Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder to Sing AC/DC On Stage

Eddie Vedder is one of the key voices in the grunge music movement of the ’90s. Vedder’s band Pearl Jam, along with Nirvana, represented a transition from the heavy metal of the ’80s and classic rock of Bruce Springsteen’s era. Over a decade later, Vedder would find himself on stage with Springsteen on several occasions, but one time they made AC/DC a duet. 

Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen
L-R: Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder | Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Vedder was a guest on The Howard Stern Show on Nov. 2. Superfan Stern asked Vedder about individual songs and performances, including his duet with Springsteen in Melbourne in 2014. Vedder explained how Springsteen roped him into singing AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”

Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen crossed paths a lot in 2014

2014 marked a solo tour for Vedder, and a reunion with the E Street Band for Springsteen. Vedder said Springsteen’s tour was on another level.

“I was playing nice theaters and he was playing giant cricket stadiums or Aussie Rules Football, these giant ovals,” Vedder told Stern. “But we just ended up being in the same cities at the same time, so we might have shows the same night and then we’d meet up after maybe and have dinner with Little Steven. It was just a great rock n’ roll field trip. I was with Glen Hansard the Irish singer.”

That night in Melbourne, Vedder was attending the Sprinsteen show. Springsteen’s manager called him backstage.

Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder
L-R: Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa and Eddie Vedder | Theo Wargo/WireImage

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“That was one night where we had a night off so we get into town and run over to the show,” Vedder said. “The show’s supposed to start at eight. It’s 10 after and Jon Landau says, ‘Hey, Bruce wants to see you.’ I was like, ‘Oh no, I’m good.’ He says, ‘No, he wants to see you.’ I say, ‘No, I’d rather not bother him before the show.’ He says, ‘No, I think he has something to tell you.’ I know that I wouldn’t want to be around me before, so I put that on other people. They’re fine. Me, I wouldn’t want to.”

Bruce Springsteen makes the AC/DC pitch to Eddie Vedder

So, Vedder met with Springsteen and Springsteen sprungsteen his plan on him. 

He’s like, ‘Ed, I got an idea. Here’s the deal. All right, first song, AC/DC “Highway to Hell” and you take a verse, I take a verse, and then you’re done. You can drink beer, you can do whatever you want, none of this encore sh*t. You don’t have to wait around. First song, hit it with me and you’re good to go.’” So that’s how it went. He called for his assistant, get us the lyrics.

Eddie Vedder, The Howard Stern Show, 11/2/2020

Vedder was out of his comfort zone, but he did it as a favor to Springsteen. Vedder said he values the privilege he has to know Springsteen, Neil Young and Pete Townshend. 

L-R: Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen during Vote For Change | Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic

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“The best part of when you get to do that isn’t actually playing it in front of people,” Vedder said. “The best part is either when you’re sittin in the back with Pete Townshend, Bruce or Neil. It’s when you’re right across the small table, you’re sitting on the same couch hearing them play and sing. Playing in front of people is the price of admission. That moment of hearing the guy right in front of you, connecting and learning chords, that’s something.”

An earlier collaboration was a different performance

Vedder also recalled his performance with Springsteen for Vote for Change during the 2004 election. For that show, they sang Pearl Jam and Springsteen songs.

“He invited me to Jersey, Vedder said. “We do ‘Darkness [On the Edge of Town].’ We do ‘No Surrender’ and then ‘Betterman.’ That’s when Clarence [Clemons] and Danny [Federici] were still [alive]. Instead of the guitar solo it’s Clarence playing.”