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POP EYE

The Book on 'Vitalogy'

October 23, 1994|Steve Hochman

When Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder bought an old book on health and philosophy he had no idea that it could ultimately cost the band $2 million.

That's the price that Pearl Jam could end up paying in order to have its new album, "Vitalogy," named after and housed in a package designed to resemble that turn-of-the-century book.

The actual manufacturing cost is only about 52 cents per unit more than a regular CD package, but Pearl Jam didn't want to pass that expense on to record buyers and struck a deal with its label, Epic Records, to split the extra charges. With the new album expected to sell as well as the band's 1993 "Vs." (5 million to date) or the 1991 debut "Ten" (8 million), that means the costs could mount to . . . well, you can do the math.

Rather than the usual plastic CD jewel box, the album will come in a book containing a 36-page collection of lyrics, photos and notes, some drawn directly from the book that Vedder bought.

"They've woven in their lyrics, their notes and even X-rays with things from the old book for this incredible conglomerate," says Dan Beck, the Epic product manager who is overseeing the packaging.

But is it worth the expense?

"The band feels strongly about giving people a package that means something instead of just a regular plastic jewel box," says Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis. "It's kind of like albums used to be, definitely something of value."

The CD and cassette versions will be in stores on Dec. 6, pushed back a few weeks from original plans to make sure that enough of the packages could be in stock to meet demand. But a limited run of vinyl versions--probably about 50,000--will be released Nov. 22. "Vs." was also released on vinyl before the CD version.

And there will be another release previewing the album: Pearl Jam's first-ever U.S. commercial single, due Nov. 8, featuring the song "Spin the Black Circle" with a B-side of "Tremor Christ."

"They were just always against the idea of a 'hit single,' " says Curtis. "But singles were released in Europe and the band felt bad about fans here paying high prices for the imports, so they decided to release them here."

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