Whether you grew up during or simply lived through grunge, the fact is you probably started listening to bands like Pearl Jam on cassette and then ultimately had their music on CDs. By the time Pearl Jam had released “Vitalogy” though, the CD had been established to the point where it was $13.98 sometimes on sale for one while cassettes were probably up near $19.98 each.
While this transition was taking place and ultimately had reached its end, Eddie Vedder and company decided that they wanted to make vinyl cool again and then all these other music nerds who are too young for vinyl jumped on their bandwagon and, well, we all know how that turned out.
Most CDs at the time were in the standard clear jewel cases. When one wasn’t, it was kind of a big deal. Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails were both bands that made non-traditional packaging, but it didn’t really catch my eye like this album did.
“Vitalogy”, as a CD, was designed to look like a record in every possible aspect. These days, this may seem like a much more common occurrence, but back at this time bands simply were not doing this and if they were it wasn’t on this high a level.
The greatest part about this cassette (other than that they couldn’t make it look like a record the way that a CD can) is that the little booklet that accompanied both the CD and record (and was sized appropriately for them) was scaled down to fit in the cassette.
It’s one of these things that’s just so funny to me, like if someone was making a really long movie these days—or maybe even with Lord of the Rings, finding that as a special edition stretched out across 14 different VHS tapes, yet still in full screen.
In a lot of ways it seemed like Pearl Jam wanted the CD to be a mini version of the record and they were fine with it, but the layout of the tape just seems like something that would have really bugged them in the sense that the artwork and linear notes were not designed to appear the way they do here.
So, for the history lesson which you probably already know, records became cassettes and thus albums released on record were re-formatted for the cassette release. This then transferred into compact discs. But “Vitalogy” as a cassette has gone from (seemingly) CD to record to cassette, which is just such a strange and non-linear journey. I love it.