“We were the same side of the coin – we were just different coins." Eddie Vedder on Kurt Cobain, and the time they slow danced together

Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder in 1992
(Image credit: Eddie Vedder by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Kurt Cobain by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

In the early 90s, the media were keen to press home the point that Nirvana and Pearl Jam were at loggerheads. It was certainly not a straightforward relationship between the two bands and wasn’t as if people had invented the hostilities either, not when there was a Kurt Cobain quote doing the rounds where the Nirvana frontman said, “I have strong feelings towards Pearl Jam… they’re obviously just corporate puppets that are just trying to jump on the alternative bandwagon – and we are being lumped into that category,” also saying that Eddie Vedder’s crew were “pioneering a corporate, alternative and cock-rock fusion.”

By the time Cobain died in 1994, though, it was all water under the bridge and Cobain stated that the pair had enjoyed a nice chat on the phone. “I consider him a person that I really like,” he said, “I think he’s a really nice person.” A scene in Pearl Jam’s 2011 documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, meanwhile, showed footage of the two frontmen sweetly slow dancing together under the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1992 as Eric Clapton performs his ballad Tears In Heaven above. “I remember the sound of his voice but I don’t remember what we talked about,” Vedder says in the film, “just real normal stuff.”

I interviewed Vedder in 2011 and he said getting through the intensity of those early years was what helped keep Pearl Jam together in the long run. “When people start dying, and it wasn’t just Kurt, there was Stefanie from 7 Year Bitch, there was Layne [Staley, Alice In Chains singer] years later, it brings you together,” he said. “We’ve always looked out for one another, we want to make each other proud.”

Homing in on the relationship between him and Cobain, he said in the end they were not so different. “We were the same side of the coin but we were just different coins,” he reflected. “One landed like that, and the other landed like that. It could be that random. But it’s like Bill Hicks said, ‘Not all drugs are good – some of them are great!’. But you’ve gotta know your way round them and my take on it is that some of them are horrible and once you delve into a certain kind of drug, the odds aren’t good.”

Watch the video of Kurt and Eddie’s tender moment below:

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.