Pearl Jam

  • Alternative hard rock band formed in 1990 from Seattle Washington. The main line-up is Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Stone Gossard (rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals) and Jeff Ament (bass guitar, backing vocals). There have been 5 drummers – Dave Krusen was a founding member, and Matt Cameron has been the drummer since 1998. Almost all lyrics to their songs are from Vedder, while all the band members write the music.
  • Gossard and Ament were members of the band Green River, an early grunge band from the 80s. That band split up in 1987, and the duo joined with Andrew Wood to form the band Mother Love Bone. In 1990, Wood died from a heroin overdose. Gossard started writing songs that had a harder edge to them, and he started jamming with McCready, who had just left his old band, Shadow. Soon, Ament joined them, and they made a demo tape to give to potential drummers and vocalists. Vedder eventually got the tape from a friend – Vedder was the vocalist of a San Diego-based band, and worked part time at a gas station. He listened to the tape, and wrote lyrics to 3 of the songs. He sent the tape back with his vocals added, and Gossard, Ament and McCready were impressed. They flew Vedder to Seattle, and after an audition, Vedder was in the group. Krusen soon joined, and they played their first show in October 1990, calling themselves Mookie Blaylock. By December, they were the opening act for the grunge group Alice In Chains, and in 1991, they were signed to a recording contract. They renamed themselves Pearl Jam – Ament came up with the name Pearl, and they added Jam after watching a Neil Young concert.
  • Their debut album, Ten, was released in 1991. The title is named after the jersey number that basketball player Mookie Blaylock wore. Sales started slowly, but as grunge music started gaining popularity, the album sold more, reaching #2 on the Billboard album chart a year after its release. Eventually, it was a huge success – certified 13x platinum, with 2 singles in the top 5 of the Mainstream Rock chart – Even Flow and Jeremy. Jeremy received 4 MTV Music Video awards in 1993. The album remained on the album chart for nearly 5 years. 
  • The success of Ten made Pearl Jam one of the 4 leading grunge bands, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. Notably, Kurt Cobain from Nirvana didn’t agree – he accused Pearl Jam of selling out to their commercial success. 
  • Their follow-up album, Vs., was relesed in 1993. It sold over 950,000 albums in its first week – at the time, the most ever for an album in its first week of release. It was another huge success, with over 7 million copies sold in the U.S. and 3 more top 5 songs on the Mainstream Rock chart, with Daughter reaching #1 on the chart.
  • They were struggling with their success – they scaled back their commercialization of the band, refusing to do music videos and denying interviews. After discovering that Ticketmaster had added service charges to charity concerts that they had performed, Pearl Jam went to war with the ticket vendor. They refused to play at venues that had contracts with Ticketmaster, forcing them to perform at stadiums in rural areas – eventually, the tactic failed. This led to the group actively participating in the investigation of unfair business practices by Ticketmaster by the Department of Justice.
  • In 1994, Pearl Jam released Vitalogy. Another success – it was 5x platinum, and Spin the Black Circle was their first song to break into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #18. It is a tribute to vinyl records – the song won a Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Hard Rock Performance, Pearl Jam’s only Grammy. Better Man from the album was never released as a single, but it still reached the top of the Mainstream Rock chart, which tracks the most played songs on radio – stations were playing the song from the album rather than as a single. 
  • Two more studio albums were released in the 90s – No Code and Yield. Both were certified platinum. They scored 4 more top 10 singles on the Mainstream Rock chart, with Given To Fly reaching #1. In 1995, they collaborated with Neil Young to release a 2-song single called Merkin Ball. The A-side of the single was I Got ID – it reached #7 on the Hot 100, and #2 on the Mainstream Rock chart. In 1999, they contributed a song to the multi-artists benefit album No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees. Their song Last Kiss reached #2 on the Hot 100.
  • Pearl Jam’s 4 albums released in the 00s were not as successful as their music from the 90s, though they continued to chart songs on the Mainstream Rock and Alternative charts, with 5 songs reaching the top 10 on these charts. In 2006, World Wide Suicide topped the Alternative Songs chart. In 2013, they released their tenth studio album, Lightening Bolt. It was their fifth album to top the album chart, and 3 songs were top 10 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Pretty remarkable that they have maintained their popularity for so long with new music. A new album is in the works – its first single, Can’t Deny Me, was released in March 2018. 
  • Pearl Jam was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. They’ve gained the respect of rock fans and critics as they evolved from the grunge sound to an innovative alternative rock band, still making great songs 25 years after their start. In 2005, readers of USA Today voted them “the greatest American rock and roll band of all time.”
  • Given that they hated music videos, I’ll resist the temptation to link you to Jeremy. Instead, enjoy Vedder’s magical vocals in the acoustic song Just Breathe, from their 2009 album Backspacer.

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