Saturday, September 19, 2015

Crystal Pier and Eddie Vedder

Pacific Beach at the intersection of Garnet and Cass is where we left off on our last post from the remains of Highway 101 in San Diego. From here the old highway continues North on Cass. Before we continue our drive North lets takes in some Southern California tourism and local beach culture with a trip to stroll on the beach.



A few blocks further west of the intersection brings us to the water and the foot of the Crystal Pier.  From there to the right a boardwalk skirts the edge of Pacific Beach, Left, to the South of the pier the boardwalk runs along the edge of the sand and Mission Beach. If front of us Crystal Pier juts out into the rolling surf of the Pacific Ocean.  The pier itself is pretty noteworthy,

Crystal Pier
(Wikipedia)


In 1885 a railroad link was established between San Diego and the East Coast. Almost immediately, large numbers took the train West to start a new life in  Southern California. Early settlers at Pacific Beach found the beach side climate was perfect for growing lemons.It seemed that part of San Diego would be an agricultural center.

In  1889 a rail line was opened that extended from downtown San Diego to La Jolla with a station at Pacific Beach. Some farm acreage were carved into lots that became a neighborhood. The loss of farmland also meant a loss for a source of income for the community. Being San Diego, tourism was looked to as replacement revenue source,

Crystal Pier Hotel Enrtry Arch
Crystal Pier Hotel Entry Arch
(Flickr user Chris Lee/CC)
By the 1920's the are was developing enough to have its own school and over 500 residents. Earl Taylor, a local businessman, worked to develop the street grid that had been laid out and named in 1900. Alphabet streets ran North to South were named after early San Diego officials.streets. The East/West streets were named after precious minerals (hence Garnet, which we traveled down in our last post).

Earl Taylor  wanted the area to draw visitors and was interested in building some sort of amusement pier. Piers had been successfully operating in Los Angeles for years and Taylor thought it would be a good draw for  tourists to the area,

Meanwhile, up the coast at Santa Monica, near Los Angeles A successful pier called the Pickering's Pleasure Pier had burned down in 1924 leaving it's builder/operator Ernest Pickering facing rebuilding. Taylor reached out to Pickering for a partnership. In 1925 the San Diego Union ran an ad announcing the development of a pier in Pacific Beach.

Crystal Pier Entry Arch from Pier Side
On The Pier Looking At The Shore
(Flickr user Theron Trowbridge/CC)


By 1926 the pier was opened, It was a fabulous looking structure with a dance hall that sat above the water. The pavilion had a vaguely Aztec art deco theme.  Right away there were troubles.

The crowded dance pavilion was full of partiers celebrated the opening of the pier. Some of the guests noted that the building was swaying in the surf. It was assumed the structure was settling. The sawaying fixtures were wired in place to avoid seasickness in the pavilions customers.

The pier was NOT just settling. A contractor who was involved in supplying the pylons for the bridge was contracted to coat the supports with creosote.This would prevent damage to supports that could be caused by by a small sea creature called a marine borer. Marine borers love to eat wood and have traditionally been the scourge of wooden ships by literally eating away their hulls.

Is This A Pier Or A Hotel Parking Lot?
(Flickr user Herb Neufeld/CC)


The contractor reportedly used a less expensive alternative called creosol to coat the wooden pilings. It was a bad decision. Creosol does not have the same repellent effects to marine borers. The pier was being eaten by the sea. Within a year the first Crystal Pier collapsed.

The idea of a pier was proven though. By 1936 the pier had been rebuild. Instead of dance pavilion at its tip, it instead featured cottages that you could drive right up to!. The cottages were little houses with kitchens and patios. As the cottages reached their edge over the rolling surf a fishing pier extended further out over the ocean.

Today the cottages are still their and are a hard room to get and a popular tourist destination. The pier itself is open to the public and gets thousands of visitors daily to enjoy the view, take a stroll, or go fishing.

Fishing on Crystal Pier
(Flickr user Bill Morrow/CC)

Playlist Additions

The 1990's were an important time in the San Diego alternative music scene. After grunge exploded on the music world from Seattle, many other cities that had also been cultivating local alternative rock scenes in the 1980's began to get noticed. Alternative bands from those other scenes began to chart as well, with both radio and MTV success.

San Diego had a small alternative music scene centered that around a rock club called the Casbah. Within a few years bands such as Blink-182, Stone Temple Pilots, Slightly Stoopid, Rocket from the Crypt, and Drive Like Jehu all emerged from the San Diego area and began achieving some success.

What many people don't know was that one of the most famous stars in the Seattle scene had a lot to do with the development of the scene in San Diego.

Eddie Vedder was born in the suburbs of Chicago in 1965. The product of a broken home, his parents divorced in infancy. His mother quickly remarried and Eddie lived in Chicago until he was 12 years old.

In the mid-70's the family moved from Chicago to the San Diego, where Vedder was given a guitar to help occupy him in a new environment where he did not have any friends yet. The move to San Diego began what must have been a traumatic period in young Vedder's life.

Late in his high school career his parents divorced. His mother moved back to Chicago, while Vedder decided to stay in San Diego with his father to complete high school. It wasn't long after his mother left that Vedder found out the truth that he was not the biological son of the man he knew as his father.

His real father he never got to meet, having died of multiple sclerosis before Eddie knew he existed. Eddie Vedder moved into his own apartment and supported himself working the night shift at an Encinitas drug store. It was too much and he dropped out of high school and moved to Chicago to rejoin his mother.

While in Chicago, he got his GED and attended some community college. In 1984 he and moved with his girlfriend back to San Diego. He worked at several odd jobs, including hotel security guard, to suuport himself while he began working towards a career as a musician. During this time Vedder played in casually several San Diego bands including Surf and Destroy and The Butts.

One of these bands he played with was a group called Indian Style. That band also featured drummer Brad Wilk who would go on to great success with the bands Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave.

Modest success came in 1988 when he joined the San Diego progressive funk band Bad Radio, a band who styled themselves along the lines of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band gained a record contract, and was drawing attention.



Bad Radio achieved some success but it was a short stint for Vedder. He left he band working in the late 1980's as an attendant at a gas station. Still hanging around the local music scene, Eddie Vedder was friends and played basketball with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons.

Jack Irons told Vedder about a band in Seattle band that was looking for a singer. The story was that the locally successful Seattle band Mother Love Bone, had recently lost their singer, Andrew Wood,  to overdose. Guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament were in need a replacement singer.



Irons gave Vedder a demo tape to see if he was interested in contacting them. Eddie Vedder listened to the tape before a day of surfing. (Could it have been in Pacific Beach? Possibly, accounts are unclear.)

Eddie Vedder tackled the surf as inspiration struck and he conceived of the lyrics to a three song suite he called Mamma-Son. The songs tell a story with many parallels to Vedder's own. In it, a young man finds out the truth about his paternity after his birth father is dead. From there he becomes a serial killer before being caught sentenced and executed. Vedder recorded his verses onto the instrumental demo and sent them tape North to Seattle.

Impressed with Vedders unique vocals they responded by asking him to come up to Seattle for an audition. At the time a new project was being conceived by Soundgarden  singer and  rhythm Guitarist Chris Cornell. Eddie Vedder was asked to join.

The band was a Seattle supergroup composed of  Soundgarden's Chris Cornell, and drummer Matt Cameron,  and Stone Goddard and Jeff Ament from  Mother Love Bone. The would be joined by newcomers Mike McCready on guitar and vocalist Eddie Vedder from San Diego. The band was named Temple of the Dog and was intended to be a tribute to deceased mother Love Bone singer, Andrew Wood. It was also a bit of a benefit for Goddard and Ament who were suddenly without work.


The self titled album broke just before the the Seattle music scene was to explode across America. Though it was well received, Soundgarden's obligations meant it could not be more than a side project for Goddard and Cameron.

It did achieve one of Cornell's original goals for the group. That would be keeping Goddart and Ament playing music in the Seattle scene. With revived inspiration, Goddart and Ament along with recruited drummer Dave Krusen formed the band Pearl Jam. The rest is history.

Released in 1991 just before  Nirvana's explosive breakthrough Nevermind, Pearl Jams debut Ten took off slowly but by late 1992 the album had peaked on the Billboard hot 200 at number 2. The sales of the album were driven by the success of three singes, Alive, Evenflow and Jeremy, all of which had successful videos on MTV.
  • Alive   Ten  Pearl Jam 5:41
  • Evenflow  Ten  Pearl Jam 4:53
  • Jeremy  Ten  Pearl Jam 5:19


Ten's tracks Alive, Once, as well as the rarity b-side to the Jeremy single, Footstep, were the same songs Eddie Vedder wrote surfing that day in San Diego. It is where the biggest San Diego connections to Eddie Vedder end. His story would be Seattle's after this, including long time rock star fame and legendary legal  battles with Ticketmaster. But that is a story for another day
  • Once  Ten  Pearl Jam 3:51
  • Alive  Ten  Pearl Jam 5:41



Mileage Stats

Route 66: 1/4 Mile/1 State/1097 Tracks/394 Videos/43 Posts
Highway 101: 25 Miles/2 Countries/1 State/702 Tracks/418 Videos/33 Posts
Interstate 95: 200 Miles/1 State/121 Tracks/183 Videos/18 Posts

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