“He’s like, ‘Ed, I got an idea... first song, AC/DC Highway to Hell, you take a verse, I take a verse....’: It's now been 10 years since Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder rocked Australia with their covers of a Bon Scott-era AC/DC classic

Springsteen and Vedder
(Image credit: TheAussiemusicman YouTube)

In February 2014, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder found himself on a solo tour of Australia at the same time as Bruce Springsteen, one of his musical heroes. This happy coincidence sparked a pair of onstage collaborations which no-one in attendance  at the shows in question is likely to forget anytime soon.

“I was playing nice theatres and he was playing giant cricket stadiums or Aussie Rules Football, these giant ovals,” Vedder explained during a November 2, 2020 appearance on Stern's Sirius XM show, beamed in from Vedder's home. “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 [guitarist] Little Steven. It was just a great rock n’ roll field trip.”

On February 15, Vedder had a night off, and went to see Springsteen and the E Street Band, augmented for the tour by Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, play the AAMI Park in Melbourne. Arriving at the 30,000-capacity stadium as 'The Boss' was due to take the stage, Vedder was called over by Springsteen's longtime manager Jon Landau, and told that Springsteen wanted to see him.

“I was like, ‘Oh no, I’m good’,” Vedder recalled. “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’.”

When Vedder somewhat reluctantly acquiesced, and visited Springsteen's dressing room, New Jersey's most famous export laid out his idea.

Doing a very creditable impersonation of Springsteen's gravelly tones, Vedder told Stern, “He’s like, ‘Ed, I got an idea. Here’s the deal. All right, first song, AC/DC Highway to Hell... Annnnnd 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 shit. 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.”

And so, the opening song of Springsteen's 32-song set that night was Highway To Hell, with he and his very special guest trading verses. The pair clearly had a ball, because on February 26, when Springsteen visited Brisbane Entertainment Centre, the idea was reprised. This time, Highway To Hell didn't open the set - that honour went to a cover of the Bee Gee's Staying Alive - but come the final song of the regular set, song 29 on that night's setlist, the pair rocked out like Bon Scott in his prime.

“You know, the best part of when you get to do that, isn't actually playing it in front of people,” Vedder told Howard Stern. “The best part is when you're right across the small table or whatever, you're sitting on the same couch, playing the song and hearing him sing... playing in front of people, that's like the price of admission, but that moment of just hearing the guy right in front of you and and connecting and learning chords, that's something.”

Watch the two icons perform Highway To Hell below: Vedder's interview with Howard Stern is below too. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.