Pearl Jam (1990-present): a Grunge band from Seattle, Washington, USA.
t would be Pearl Jam that was the launching point that made Seattle a music Mecca during the 1990s. Jeff Ament (bass) and Stone Gossard (ex-Green River; guitar), together with Mark Arm (ex-Green River; vocals), Steve Turner (ex-Green River; guitar) and Alex Vincent (drums; ex of Seattle band Green River a band widely considered the first true grunge act; Arm and Turner would later go on to found Mudhoney). Under the Green Riverconfiguration they released several EPs of Metal meets punk-like music on the burgeoning 'Sub Pop' label. But upon the band's demise Gossard, Ament and Bruce Fairweather (who had replaced Turner in Green River) recruited vocalist Andrew Wood (ex-Malfunkshun) and drummer Gary Gilmour to form the short-lived Mother Love Bone. After an EP and the debut Apple (1990), Wood overdosed on heroin, effectively ending that act but not before the basic '70's groove sounds had been cast setting the mould for what would become Pearl Jam.
Pearl Jam as we now known them was started by Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell as a tribute project to the now dead Wood. Also featuring Gossard and Ament, was guitarist Mike McCready and Soundgarden drummer Matt Mameron. Under this initial line-up Temple Of The Dog emerged in 1991, a critically acclaimed album that further bolstered their style. But the Soundgarden boys had their own band to look after so they left, with replacements Eddie Vedder (vocals) and Dave Krusen (drums) moving in. Dave Abbruzzese soon after replaced Krusen.
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They were still a cult act when their Ten (1992) album was released by 'Epic'. With Vedder writing the lyrics and Gossard and Ament writing the music, the album proved to be a smash hit making 2 in the US and 18 in the UK (it was released there some 6 months later). The album assured them of steady media hype. Ten transformed the unrefined grunge into a sleek rock monster, especially with Vedder's vocal range allowing his soulful bellow to be in full form on the platter, especially on tracks like Jerry and Alive. Although Nirvana's rush was in complete contrast to Pearl Jam's lumbering sound, comparisons to Led Zeppelin proved to be incorrect. After a punishing tour schedule they found time to stand in for Jim Morrison during the Door's induction to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, and as a cameo role in Singles, a movie based on the Seattle music scene as Matt Dillon's band. Vedder also took time also to play a version of Bob Dylan's Masters Of War (playing mandolin) at a veteran's anniversary concert in 1993.
Go and Daughter proved to be the strong points on their follow-up 1993 album VS. Pearl Jam, however, had fallen between the cracks with much of their sound now a sub-Metal dull roar masquerading as grunge, but despite the obvious musical approach die-hard fans still bought their records in droves getting them a 1 in the US and a 2 in the UK Vitalogy (1994) made it to another US 1 and a 6 UK which was a feat since it was initially only released on vinyl, an artistic statement taken by the act as an attempt to bring back the rich heritage of the "record" that the current generation were forced to do without. The album failed to be as influential as they might have wanted but it nonetheless saw them returning to a basic rich rock sound and stripped down approach. The "record" also was the debut for Jack Irons (ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers) who replaced Abbruzzese. Later this same year their partnership with Neil Young came to fruition with their collaboration on his Mirror Ball album.
They then took a break while each member concentrated on their respective side-projects and returned in 1996 with No Code, an album that showed a lighter acoustic side and once again made it to 1 US/3 UK The stay on the charts was brief, however, as fans quickly realized it lacked staying power. Its hold on the charts was also thwarted by the lack of a full-scale world tour due to their spat with venue ticket giant Ticketmaster; their statement against that company's domination of venue ticket sales met with sympathy when heard by the public and not fellow artists, in the end Pearl Jam deceived themselves by thinking they were big enough to take down the giant alone. Yield (1998), an album of decidedly heavier material, met much the same fate with a brief high of 2 US/7UK before fading into history, a fate shared by many a heavy metal band. Live On Two Legs (1998) surprisingly did well mostly on the hands of cult die-hard fans making 15 US/68 UK It also featured Matt Cameron back on drums fresh from the break-up of Soundgarden. They met a surprising chart success with the J. Frank Wilson cover Last Kiss, originally released for the fan club then making 2 US/42 UK when let loose proper by popular demand.
Binaural (2000), the next album restored their chart successes at 2US/5 UK It was clear by this point, however, that Pearl Jam were trudging on regardless of fashions or trends becoming a kind of Greatful Dead for the post-Grunge world. Unlike the 'Dead, however, Vedder and crew discouraged bootlegging by recording and releasing every single date of the European and British tours since 1995 resulting in no less than 72 double-CD live sets.
Pearl Jam's 2000 European tour ended in tragedy on June 30 of that year with an accident at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Nine fans were crushed underfoot and suffocated to death as the crowd rushed to the front. After numerous requests for the crowd to step back, the band stopped playing and tried to calm the crowd when the musicians realized what was happening, but it was already too late. The two remaining dates of the tour were canceled and members of the band contemplated retiring after this event.
Following the events of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Vedder and McCready were joined by Neil Young to perform the song Long Road from the Merkin Ball EP at the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert. Airing on September 21, 2001, the concert raised money for the victims and their families. Riot Act (2002) and Pearl Jam (2006) followed.
Backspacer (2008) offered the band a 1 on the Billboard charts, the first to do so since No Code in 1996. It would be followed with Lightning Bolt (2013) which became Pearl Jam's fifth album to reach number one on the Billboard 200.
Gigaton would be released on March 27, 2020, along with a press release announcing tour dates in North America for March and April 2020. Although the album would be released, the tour launch was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Footnote: The original name considered for the band was Mookie Blaylock, an NBA guard who played for the Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets. Although that name was dismissed, the tile of their Ten album was derived from his jersey number.
Footnote: Eddie Vedder's Real Name is Edward Lewis Severson but that name was changed to Edward Mueller (the last name of his stepfather) but as a teen he adopted the name "Vedder", his mother's maiden name.
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Pearl Jam onstage at Madison Square Garden on May 2, 2016
Photo by: Lugnuts
CC BY-SA 4.0
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