Billboard Bits: Pearl Jam, McCartney, Napster

News on Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney, Napster

Pearl JamAlthough it arrived a bit late for the holidays, Pearl Jam's annual Christmas single for members of its Ten Club fan organization lives up to the eclectic tracklists of its predecessors. The four-song vinyl release features a cover of John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth" from the Groundwork hunger benefit concert in Seattle in late October, plus live versions of the new song "Last Soldier" and "Indifference" (with guest vocalist Ben Harper) from last year's Bridge School Benefit outside of San Francisco. The fourth track is a cover of the Ramones' "I Just Want To Have Something To Do" performed solo by bassist Jeff Ament.

The band began sending out Christmas singles in 1991, usually populating them with B-sides, covers, and live tracks. The 1998 single, a cover of J. Frank Wilson's 1964 hit "Last Kiss," inadvertently crossed over into the mainstream after it began garnering airplay on U.S. stations. The song was released on a charity single and eventually hit No. 2 on The Billboard Hot 100 the following summer, scoring Pearl Jam the biggest hit of its career.

As previously reported, the band will hit the studio next month to begin work on its seventh and final studio album under its contract with Epic. In the meantime, fans can visit the Web site of guitarist Mike McCready's side band, the Rockfords, to download "Powerless," an unreleased track featuring McCready on vocals and Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard on guitar.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

PaulieAmnesty International USA will present Paul McCartney with a lifetime achievement award at its fifth annual Media Spotlight Awards, to be held Monday (Jan. 28) at Chelsea Piers in New York, Billboard Bulletin reports. McCartney has "consistently used his status as both a musician and a public figure to raise awareness of a variety of critical social issues," says William F. Schulz, executive director of the human rights organization's U.S. arm.

He notes such songs as the anti-war "Pipes of Peace" and the anti-racism "Ebony and Ivory," as well as McCartney's support for animal rights, famine relief, landmine bans, and freedom for Tibet. Previous honorees include Muhammad Ali and Quincy Jones.

McCartney's latest single, "Freedom," is No. 29 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart this week. As previously reported, the artist will lead "a tribute to the spirit of everyday heroes" during the pre-game show for Super Bowl XXXV, set for Feb. 3 at the New Orleans Superdome. It is not yet known if the performance will comprise "Freedom" or a new song written specifically for the occasion.

-- Wes Orshoski, N.Y.

NapsterEmbattled online file-swapping service Napster and the five major label groups may be close to settling their longstanding copyright-infringement case. The recording industry plaintiffs and Napster jointly requested and were granted a 30-day stay in the litigation "to facilitate ongoing settlement negotiations." Of the record labels, only EMI's Capitol and Virgin Records opted not to request the stay. According to an order issued by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the case will not resume until Feb. 17.

The request comes in light of Napster's launch earlier this month of a legitimate service that compensates copyright holders. "As we have said from Day 1, our objective has been for Napster to become a legitimate music service," Recording Industry Association of America president/CEO Hilary Rosen said. "Since relaunching a few weeks ago, we understand they have limited their repertoire to licensed music. Resolving the lawsuit may now be feasible."

Said Napster CEO Konrad Hilbers: "We are optimistic that the good-faith efforts that the parties have put into settlement and licensing discussions over the past several months will bring the litigation to a swift conclusion over the next several weeks, removing the last barrier to Napster's launch of our new membership service."

-- Tamara Conniff, The Hollywood Reporter