Members: Mike McCready, Jeff Ament, Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Matt Cameron
Pearl Jam was born from the bosom of Mother Love Bone. With the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood and the disintegration of the band in 1990, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament set out to create their next band. They recruited guitarist Mike McCready and recorded a 3 song demo tape. This tape made it to ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, who passed it on to Eddie Vedder during one of their hiking trips. Eddie listened to the tape shortly before going surfing. While he was out in the water, the music played in his head and the lyrics came to him. He rushed back home and in one flurry of creativity recorded the vocals to three songs (Alive, Footsteps, and Once). The songs were what Eddie would later describe as a mini-opera. They formed a story of incest, madness and murder that became known to fans as the "Mamasan trilogy". He sent the tape with his vocals back to the band and they were so impressed that they had Vedder fly to Seattle to try out for the band. Eddie and the band hit it off and, with the addition of Dave Krusen on drums, Mookie Blaylock was formed. After being signed to Epic Records, there was some concern from record executives about the band being named after a professional basketball player who was still playing, so the band brainstormed on new names. After briefly considering Reenk Roink, they settled on Pearl Jam.
The band came up with their peculiar name while congregated at B&O Espresso, a Seattle coffeehouse. Eddie Vedder has claimed that the name Pearl Jam is an inside joke having to do with a hallucinogenic, peyote-laced jam that Eddie's grandmother Pearl was famous for. Many people, however, consider that story to be nothing more than a joke. These people point out that it is probably not a coincidence that the phrase "pearl jam" had been in usage for some time as a euphemism for semen.
Pearl Jam's drummer, Dave Krusen, left the band shortly before the launch of their debut album. He was replaced by Matt Chamberlain, who had previously played with Edie Brickell and New Bohemians. After playing only a handful of shows - at least one of which was filmed and became the "Alive" video - Chamberlain received an offer to join the Saturday Night Live band, which he accepted. Before he left, he suggested a drummer named Dave Abbruzzese as his replacement. Abbruzzese joined shortly after, playing the rest of Pearl Jam's live shows supporting the Ten album and continuing on to record with the band for the next two albums.
RISE IN POULARITY 1991-1995
Pearl Jam became a key member of the Seattle grunge explosion, along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. Kurt Cobain at one point angrily attacked the group because he saw them as commercial "sell outs"; however Kurt and Eddie Vedder later reconciled and reportedly became friends. (See Green River). The one-sided feud allegedly ended at the 1992 MTV Music awards when Eddie Vedder slowdanced with Courtney Love and later Kurt Cobain to Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven.
Their debut album Ten (after Mookie Blaylock's jersey number, since they could not name the band after him), contains eleven tracks, many of them dealing with dark subjects like depression, suicide, loneliness, and murder. The album, released in 1991, produced three smash hits that propelled them into the music scene- "Even Flow", "Alive", and "Jeremy". Their video for "Jeremy" was a huge hit on MTV and won several video music awards including Video of the Year and Best Group Video.
Pearl Jam's first three albums were huge, commercially and critically. Their second album Vs. set an all time record for copies sold in the first week of release in 1993 (950,000) and included the hits, "Daughter", "Dissident", "Go", and "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town". Vs. was originally titled Five Against One (taken from the lyrics of "Animal"), but was changed to Vs. soon before release of the album. The song "Go" won a Grammy award in 1993 for "Best Hard Rock Performance". The third album Vitalogy became the second quickest selling album in history with more than 877,000 units sold in its first week in 1994. Vitalogy also holds another distinction: the vinyl version of the album was released two weeks before the cd and cassette versions. The song "Spin The Black Circle" - an homage to the seven-inch single - from their third album, won a Grammy award in 1995. Vitalogy included the hits "Not For You", "Spin The Black Circle", "Corduroy", "Nothingman", and "Betterman".
In 1994, Pearl Jam fired Dave Abbruzzese due to artistic differences. They announced his replacement in 1995 - the returning from obscurity Jack Irons, former drummer of Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Irons was the person who originally introduced Vedder to the band, so it was fitting for him to end up being the new drummer.
In 1995, Pearl Jam backed up longtime idol Neil Young on his album Mirror Ball. Contractual obligations prevented the use of the band's name anywhere on the album, but the members were all credited individually in the album's liner notes. Young then returned the favor by playing with Pearl Jam on their two-song EP, Merkin Ball.
EVOLUTION FROM GRUNGE 1996-2002
Over the next few years, Pearl Jam's popularity declined, in part because of their unwillingness to record videos and because of a lawsuit alleging a Ticketmaster monopoly which stifled the launch of supportive tours. Another reason for its decline in popularity may be due to its uncommercial and experimental nature. The first CD could be classed as grunge, but their later body of work was more difficult to categorize.
On August 27th, 1996, exactly five years after the release of Ten, the band released their fourth album, No Code. The album continued the musical growth displayed on Vs. and Vitalogy. This album disappointed many of their fans, as seen in the drastic drop of album sales. Although, the album debuted at #1, it quickly fell down the charts. No Code included the singles, "Hail, Hail", "Who You Are", "Off He Goes", and "Mankind" with Stone Gossard on vocals. "Mankind" was the first song to be sung by another band member.
In 1998, Pearl Jam released its fifth album, Yield. The album was proclaimed as a return to the band's early, straight-forward-rock sound. Yield debuted at #2, but like No Code, it fell quickly down the charts as well. For the first time since 1993, they allowed a video to be filmed for one of their songs, "Do The Evolution", and they toured in support of the album. The album went platinum in the USA, selling 1,500,000 copies. Yield included the singles "Given to Fly" and "Wishlist".
That same year Pearl Jam once again changed drummers. Jack Irons left the band due to health problems and was replaced with former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, who has remained with them since.
In 1999, Pearl Jam recorded the song "Last Kiss", a cover of a 1950s ballad by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. Recorded on a minimal budget and released for charity, the song became a smash hit, with many requests from its fans to be released as a single. peaking at #2 in the billboard charts and the band's most commercially-successful single to date.
After the release of the #2 hit album Binaural in 2000, and the resulting tour of Europe and North America, the band hit upon a unique idea. Noting the popularity of illegal bootleg recordings, and the desire of fans to own a copy of the shows they attended, Pearl Jam hatched a plan to professionally record each and every show on their tour. They originally intended to release these official bootlegs only to fan club members, but their record contract prevented them from doing so. Pearl Jam released all of the albums in record stores as well as through their fan club. All totalled, they released 72 albums, most of them double, and set a record for most albums to debut in the Billboard top 200 at the same time. A further 72 albums were released from the 2003 tour, and they continue releasing more of these "bootlegs" to this day.
Unfortunately, the 2000 European tour ended when on June 30 a tragic accident happened at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, where fans were crushed and suffocated as the crowd rushed to the front. The band stopped playing and tried to calm the crowd when they realized what was happening, but it was already too late and nine people were killed. The two remaining dates of the tour were cancelled, and the band seriously considered retiring after this event. Some controversy arose over who was responsible for the accident after Pearl Jam was blamed in the official investigation. The band was later cleared of responsibility, with officials finding the safety measures employed by the festival organizers inadequate.
On November 12, 2002 Pearl Jam released their seventh album, Riot Act which included the single "I Am Mine". The album only sold 500,000 copies, less than Vitalogy and Vs. sold in their first weeks. The album featured a much more folk-based and experimental sound, evident in the presence of keyboard player Boom Gaspar on songs such as "Love Boat Captain", a fitting tribute to the 9 souls who died at the Roskilde Festival in June 2000. The band's liberal political activism also made it's way into the album's lyrical content with "Bu$hleaguer", a commentary on President George W. Bush, being the most obvious.
CURRENT DAYS 2003 - PRESENT
In June 2003, the band announced they were officially leaving their label of twelve years, Epic Records, a Sony imprint. The move was viewed as something of a coup and has been described as "...one institution leaving another, the most popular and important American rock band of the '90's, voluntarily rejecting the grandest label heritage...". Pearl Jam states it has "no interest at this time" of signing with another label and is "excited about our freedom". Pundits say if Pearl Jam's move is successful, it may be the death knell of the music industry as we know it. However, Pearl Jam is expected to release a new studio album in early 2006 on the J Records label. Ironically, J Records is part of the BMG music conglomerate, which is 50% owned by Sony and includes Epic Records. This gives weight to accusations that international artists at least can never really escape the "big four" record companies (Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, EMI Group and Warner Music Group).
Pearl Jam were outspoken supporters of Ralph Nader's presidential campaign in 2000. In 2004, the band explicitly withdrew its support for Nader, with members appearing in Rolling Stone to promote the candidacy of John Kerry, and on the Vote for Change tour.
In 2005, the band embarked on a Canadian cross-country tour, stopping in cities such as Saskatoon where they had never before played. As in the past, they released bootlegs of the shows, but this time the bootlegs were available online through their website. The music downloads were accompanied by pictures from individual shows.
Pearl Jam also scheduled a benefit concert to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief. The concert, which took place October 5th at the House of Blues in Chicago, Illinois, also featured Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin fame) on the bill.
Pearl Jam has officially announced that their self-titled eighth studio album, Pearl Jam will hit the stores on May 2, 2006. Unlike with Riot Act, only two of the new songs, one originally entitled "Crapshoot Rapture" (renamed "Comatose") was premiered live in March 2005; the other, "Gone" debuted in October 2005. Plans to debut additional new material on the 2005 Canadian tour were scrapped. Eddie Vedder has stated that he wants fans to hear the songs on the album first, and has also mentioned on several occasions he feels this is the best work the band has done.
World Wide Suicide is the first single from the album. In late February, the band made a 15-second clip of the song available on the Internet, which was then played on numerous North American radio stations. The snippet revealed a hard-rocking sound with a noted return to the dominant vocal styles of Vedder's earlier work. Many claim the song is reminiscent of Vs., as also mentioned by Mike McCready in 2005. On March 3rd, 2006, the single was played on Seattle radio station 107.7 The End and soon leaked on the Internet. Pearl Jam made the single available on their website ahead of time as of March 6th. The single hit digital music stores at March 14th, 2006, acommpanied by the B-Side "Unemployable", which will also be part of the new album. The first leg of the 2006 tour was announced March 7th, 2006 with more tour dates being announced later this week.
1991 - Ten
1993 - Vs
1994 - Vitalogy
1996 - No Code
1998 - Yield
2000 - Binaural
2002 - Riot Act
2006 - Pearl Jam
LIVE ALBUMS AND COMPILATIONS
1998 - Live on Two Legs
2003 - Lost Dogs
2004 - Live at Benaroya Hall
2004 - Rearviewmirror