"Pearl Jam wrote Better Man off the back of it, if you ask my opinion": Dave Wakeling on The Beat song that he thinks inspired an Eddie Vedder classic

Eddie Vedder and The Beat
(Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Global Citizen VAX LIVE)

Emerging out of 2-Tone in the late ‘70s, Brummie ska revivalists The Beat made some of the finest pop songs of the era before splintering off in different directions in the mid-80s. They managed success further afield than some of their counterparts, too, having hits in the US with their classic song March Of The Swivel Heads soundtracking the frenzied race-home at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

It’s one of the best-selling tracks in their arsenal that songwriter and frontman Dave Wakeling thinks might have been slyly half-inched by Pearl Jam and turned into Better Man, with Wakeling reckoning the Vitalogy track bears more than a passing resemblance to The Beat’s Save It For Later. “Save It For Later ended up being the biggest earning song in the catalogue, none of us expected that,” Wakeling told The New Cue last year. “It’s been covered by Pete Townshend and Pearl Jam, who kind of wrote Better Man off the back of it, if you ask my opinion.”

As Wakeling suggests, the Seattle giants haven’t been shy about the likeness between the two chord patterns, with Better Man sometimes morphing into Save It For Later in their live jams. The similarities don’t end there, either – just as Better Man predated Pearl Jam and was played live with Eddie Vedder’s previous group Bad Radio, so too Save It For Later was kicking around in various guises before The Beat decided to do something with it. “It had been with me for a while,” explained Wakeling. “It was rejected for our first two albums as being too ‘Old Wave Dave’. It wasn’t punk enough. I had a bit of luck as David Steele had a bit of a writing drought heading into our third album, it turns out he wasn’t really a happy camper and wanted some time out. He wasn’t as prolific so I brought up Save It For Later and the record company insisted it went on the record, which they didn’t normally do.”

Put on your musicologist hat and judge the resemblances between the two tunes below for yourself:

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.