Pearl Jam is an American rock band formed in 1990. Among many other bands from Seattle, Pearl Jam is considered part of the musical and cultural rock movement commercially known as grunge, though the nomenclature was never well accepted on the band. Since its roots, the band has been connected to a variety of cultural musicality and is currently composed by guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament, guitarist Mike McCready, vocalist Eddie Vedder, and Matt Cameron as drummer since 1998.
The band has been considered one of the most influences since the 90's, and rose to success since their debut album, Ten, in 1991. After another best selling album, Vs., Pearl Jam became a phase that would turn the band's personality clear, being apart of the mainstream industry and musical business. Since 1994 the band has become particularly special among 1980-90 bands, creating an original form of musical and philosophical self-expression.
- 1 Formation and influences
- 2 Ten era
- 3 Vitalogy era and self-exile
- 4 Exile itself: No Code and Yield era
- 5 Dark times of Binaural and post Roskilde
- 6 After Roskilde and the Riot Act era
- 7 Backspacer present era
Formation and influences
During the 1980's, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard had been in Green River, one of the first and main bands from Seattle that started the musical movement that would drown the city. At this time, Seattle was one of the most dynamic centers of young people interested not only on listening to rock music, but also learn from it and create bands. It was common the small shows from local bands that reunited lots of people, like Green River.
After Green River's departure in 1987, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard joined vocalist Andrew Wood, from Malfunkshun, and together with Bruce Fairweather and Greg Gilmour formed Mother Love Bone. MLB was since
the beginning a promising band, specially for Andy's charisma, humour and presence on stage. A fantastic entertainer, Andy was quite a character, well known for a powerful but soft voice and fancy appearances during the band's shows. His personality inspired his own band and others, like Soundgarden, that felt they all could be as good as Andy, by the way, in a feeling that all of them could grow together. This conection with Soundgarden would reach the point of Andy and Chris Cornell being roommates.
In 1989, Mother Love Bone started to record their first album, and their fame started the consideration of the most promising band of the 90's. Besides the success, Andy was abusing drugs and worrying even his band's comrades, like Stone. On March 19, 1990, Andy suffered an overdose of heroin, and after a comatose state, died on the same day. After that, Mother Love Bone eventually broke, Jeff and Stone decided to also give a break on their musical careers.
Months later, Stone Gossard met Mike McCready, guitarist of another broken band, Shadow, who also encouraged him to invite Jeff Ament to form another band. Despite Stone's disinterest about Jeff, the three joined what would become one of the greatest rock bands, but there were still missing members. Trying to find a vocalist and drummer, Stone, Jeff and Mike invited Jack Irons, one of the first members of Red Hot Chili Peppers, to join and also asked him about his knowledge of a vocalist to fill the role.
Through Irons, Eddie Vedder sent a record to the three members of the incomplete band, and they were amazed by Eddie's voice. Chris Cornell also felt astonished after listening to Momma-Son, the tape Eddie sent to the trio. Vedder, who was born in Chicago, but moved to San Diego, California, was a shy, introvert but very talented and sensitive person. A surf lover, Vedder worked as part-time in a gas station, lifeguard, waiter, and other jobs. Also he recorded some songs and was lead singer of a band called Bad Radio.
Dave Krusen would join the band, Mookie Blaylock, a band portraying the name of the basketball player. Until December of 1990, Mookie Blaylock had only played two shows. Eddie was well known for becoming a different person on stage, unleashing a ferocious, angry, and daredevil singer, contrasting with the calm, pacifist and shy guy who came from San Diego. His voice that was already appreciated on the tape, became more strong and violent, amazing the crowds and also his band mates.
The band was highly influenced by musicians like Neil Young, Jimmy Hendrix and musical groups like The Who. Mike is directly connected with the Hendrix style, while Eddie shows a real empathy and heritage from The Who generation, specially from Pete Townsend.
Temple of Dog
Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, still in 1990, was sensitive to Andy Wood's death but was watching Mookie Blaylock growing. Amazed by Eddie's voice and personality, Soundgarden and Mookie Blaylock became very close,
and Chris started to think he could help by putting the newest Seattle band on its
trials. Chris and Eddie also became close, an aspect that would help Mookie Blaylock's lead singer's shyness. Temple of Dog was this combination band's first and only record, and did reach success, but it was not expected and the meaning behind the record was much more of a tribute than a selling attempt.
Ten and the success of 1992
Due trademark issues, in 1991 Mookie Blaylock had to change the band's name, since it was named after the All- Star basket player. For unknown mysterious reasons, the band took the name Pearl Jam. In the same year, shortly after changing the name, Pearl Jam prepared to record their first
album. On August 27, 1991, Pearl Jam released Ten, a violent, aggressive, depressive romantic, socially critic CD, but above all, was the mark of the band as they would be known until today. Ten is considered to be an amazing record, with songs about what the underground society that they lived in everyday, being widely known for its guitar jam's and Eddie's strong, angry baritone vocals. The record's name was a tribute to Blaylock's jersey number.
Following Ten's success, in 1992 Pearl Jam was invited by MTV to play an acoustic show after a similar show in Zurich on the previous day. On March 16, 1992, Pearl Jam presented an incredible acoustic version of some of their
songs from Ten, and were widely well accepted. On the same year, the fame that started with Ten would now be a more present fact, and the band had been invited several times to participate in other big gigs, like the Lollapalooza festivals.
Also in 1992, the band completed a few videos, due to Eddie's shyness but they also developed a feeling of not having to do music videos to appear in the industry, but doing that they have always liked to do. Alive, Even Flow and specially Jeremy had been produced. The last one was the most developed and it's a rare ocasion where Vedder shows himself in a clip doing so many expressions.
On June 8, about 60.000 people showed up on the Pinkpop festival and made Pearl Jam realize how big they had become in less than one year. This could be considered the peak of what Ten provided to Pearl Jam, and also the warning of something that could grow bigger than the band: fame. It started to make the band members think, specially Eddie.
Vs. and the big transition of 1993
Following the success of Ten, still on 1992, Pearl Jam started new songs that would converge on their second album. The band member's life had changed and fame was growing too quickly.
In 1993, Pearl Jam started some actions that self-expressed their opposition to the commercial use of fame in detriment of artistical music. The band refused to make videos or give interviews following the constant attention since the success of the Jeremy video. Also, the band's appearance was much more rare on television.
On October 19, 1993, Vs. was released and sold 950.378 copies in the first week, confirming the success the band created since 1991. The second album also had social critic, loneliness and violence on its background, but was less dark than the previous one. The record finished with a song called "Indifference", maybe the first indicative that everything was going to change. But this was only the musical reflection.
Vitalogy era and self-exile
Exile background and the birth of "No"
By the late 1993, Pearl Jam had become so protective of their own personality that not even their lyrics could describe. The fame has grown into a monster born of their own talent, a creature that was feeding on the crazyness of the fans and being fueled by mainstream media. The musical industry wanted to exploit all of the artist of Seattle and turn then into mega stars, Pearl Jam and other bands all felt the pressure. The era of self imposed exile would be the longest of the band's life, and would show benefits for being apart of the music industry but would also show each member's anxiety. Despite the relativity, it was the way the band saw to survive drowning on market, and not on art. The second peak of Vitalogy era would be, after the release of the CD, the quarrel between the band and Ticketmaster.
Other Seattle band's anxiety
It is widely known that the fame has grown too quickly to the Seattle bands. By the way, none of them showed characteristics of losing the roots of their band members' personalities. Most notably Pearl Jam and Nirvana started all the discussion about teenage pressure, but also bands like Soundgarden were facing musical industry pressure, what would lead on their departure 3 years later.
Nirvana was the band who became the symbol of grunge, even though it wasn't the band that started all the movement of teenage rockers in Seattle. The band was composed by Kirst Novoselic, a young bassist whose rythm fitted perfectly with the style of Dave Grohl, another young musician whose entry was essential for the band's success, and the lead singer Kurt Cobain, who is considered a stronger symbol even with the three together. Cobain's fame was also of teenage angst, depression, honest and deep songs and a strong voice. Much different musically from Pearl Jam, Nirvana always liked awards and festivals and kept participating, but criticized that their personalities were suffering and also becoming too much commercial.
A little rivalry between Pearl Jam and Nirvana was also set up by music industry and even the fans, what ocurred was a
normal comparision of the two most successful bands coming from Seattle in the 90's. Kurt once mentioned that "I 'have always hated their band (Pearl Jam)", but this sounded like a joke when he admited both bands had respect for each other. But the shyness of Pearl Jam always put them in a passive light, and they never bought into this kind of "fight".
On April 8, 1994, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his house. Apparently Nirvana's lead singer commited suicide with a shot into his mouth and despite being under the effects of heroin, Cobain's fatal shot was considered the peak of grunge angst by many. Stone Gossard commented on Pearl Jam Twenty that "He (Cobain) made us think about everything we did [...]. His critique of us early on sure kept us on good behavior in terms of everything that we did, we thought.[...] If we're good now, it's partly because of him".
Ticketmaster quarrel 
The album was also a tribute to vinyl, a passion specially from Eddie, and would be released first on the black disc. The album was not released in the time it was completed due to the feud with Ticketmaster. Accusing the enterprise of being greedy and abusive with musicians and fans, Pearl Jam started a quarrel with Ticketmaster, then the greatest ticket agency, the case wen to court. The enterprise was also being accused of using unfair pratices, monopoly and price-gouging. On its defense, Ticketmaster argumented that they never put the right of Pearl Jam playing at stake, and saying they were all "...petulant young children who ascribe to business anarchy". A subcomitee investigation was set on June 30, 1994 in Washington D.C and the band founders, Jeff
Ament and Stone Gossard were testifying. Stone argumented that the band's intention was to not agree with abusive prices that young fans couldn't deal with it easily. The authorities were really impressed by the meaning of the testimony, and showed appreciation with the band.
Despite a little victory, Pearl Jam was alone on the boycott against Ticketmaster, refusing to play venues that were somehow connected with the enterprise. This would be the final mark of Pearl Jam's self imposed exile, because now other bands and even the greatest ticket agency saw them as in the border of musical groups. The band would face a long time of relative loneliness, but a feeling that was better than becoming what they never wanted to be: expendables.
The tension inside the band has grown too quickly as their fame. Dave Abbruzzese, the still well recognized drummer of Pearl Jam who filled Dave Krusen's place after his allegation of personal problems, was fired from the band. Abbruzzese didn't think the same way all the members did, and disagreed with the quarrel with Ticketmaster and it's said that being a rockstar was, for him, beyond being a musician.
Vitalogy's releaseAfter the protection made around the band by its own members, the roles inside the band began to evolve. With the context and self imposed exile, even added with the fame that surrounded especially Eddie, the band was united to write compositions that couldn't escape social critic, passion, depressive, aggressive thoughts and, eventually, success and fame. The album had been completed in the beginning of the year and was inspired on a namesake book from XIX century that was said to be specialized on medicne, health, family and education. It was a complete different face the band was showing, and it can be considered that
Vitalogy's background has changed Pearl Jam's life and was materialized on songs. Now, Eddie has "taken" the place of leader that was being held in Stone Gossard's hand, because Vedder was the personification of the band's characteristics. Even though all the members were participating in music development, this new center of power of the band would mark their career forever, with Eddie channeling all the feeling, all the emotion and becoming (even against his will) the leader of the band. Stone Gossard commented on Pearl Jam Twenty that "Jeff and I have always had this adversarial relationship. It's all been muted now, because what we thought of as our new band that might try to control together immediately was taken over by Ed. But we learned the greatest lesson of all, wich is just as you're fighting over the scraps of control, you meet someone with so much artistic energy that your argument becomes pointless.". Everything Vedder believed was fusing with the band, and the members were attracted to this idea of the right thing to do.
The album was first released on vinyl on November 22, 1994, and on CD on December 6, 1994. Stone thought that Vitalogy woldn't be their best record, but in just one week more than 877.000 records were sold. Vitalogy was well accepted by the fans who understood everything that was going on, and they shared the vision of the band's personality and positions. The birth of "No", what means the active behavior of choosing what's good for the band's life was well accepted by the fans at the time.
Exile itself: No Code and Yield era
After embracing the attitude of exiling from mainstream musical industry, Pearl Jam formed began to construct an invisible but powerful wall around the band's personality. Since 1994, the band members developed an intimate state of producing music that not only changed the way of expressing themselves, in a more honest, particular and personal way, but changed the vision of exploring their talents. After two years form Vitalogy crisis and Vitalogy tour, Pearl Jam kept the Ticketmaster boycott and spent all this time making a self-revolutionary style of music.
The same way Vitalogy represented the mark of the break between Pearl Jam and commom musical band status, the
next CD was being developed in a background of self-analysis and physically impersonal contribution, but very introspective lyrics. No Code was released in 1996 and is considered to be a simple record, talks about simple songs, simple lyrics but in contrast of deep meanings. Social critic was a little restrict, and the themes of songs were among emotional instability, isolated perspective of the world, escapism, complicated love and deep self-examination.
For sure Pearl Jam was creating and recriating themselves in a little time and due the isolation from the patterns of music "outside". The previous two records had simple tours, following the boycott to Tickertmaster, and between 1996 and 1998, Yield was developed. Some critics points that Yield is much more alike Pearl Jam's first works than the previous two, specially No Code, but it was still inserted on the context of escapism. The social critic went more strong, specially in Do The Evolution , but also talked about thoughts, changes, liberty inside people's will, desire and past. The songs Low Light and In Hiding can be considered the most significative about the background, since they're talking about the flow of time and being in hide from everything outside.
Even though Pearl Jam had been faithful to Ticketmaster boycott, the pressure from the "outside" world was too big. First, no other band has joined their ideas since 1994, and second, the fans were in prejudice, even the prices had been accused of being too high. Fans complained about obtaining tickets which were often fake tickets and as such many ticket purchasers were not allowed to enter the shows. For the sake of the band and their fans, Pearl Jam decided to use the services of Ticketmaster. It is important to detach that this was only a short opening from everything they constructed in 1994, since their song themes, personalities and behavior were kept the same, but the sacrifice was made for the sake of the fans, who are the most important part of the band.
Despite this conditions, Eddie was not pleased. Jack Irons, then drummer of the band, Stone, Jeff and Mike were travelling in a jet while Eddie was traveling in a van to all the shows. This behavior was considered "a huge physical disconnect but also an emotional one" said Mike McCready, but it was so awkward that none of the band members talked about it. When done, they decided to give a break and try to let all the stress pass, and then talking about the future of the band. Fortunately, the break eased the internal pressure and the band was once again together.
Since the beginning, Pearl Jam had a complicated story with the role of the drummer. On 1998, Jack Irons who filled the role of Dave Abbruzzese in 1994, abandoned the band during Yield tour. Studying the options, Pearl Jam invited Matt Cameron, who had no band at the time since Soundgarden had broken up for particular but very similar reasons to Pearl Jam's exile. Cameron accepted the role and joined the band, learning very quickly a lot of songs due to his excellent skills as a drummer.
Dark times of Binaural and post Roskilde
After being a strong front on their ideals, Pearl Jam, by an analysis of Mike McCready, in the year of 2000 was less popular than ever. All the time of escapism had also tired the band, culminating in the past in the short break, but
now Pearl Jam had little influence since the pressure from outside and inside had been eased. Also, the musical background of the bands of Seattle were in decline already about 1996, and were having their flames extinguished until 2000. On their place, musical industry made investiments on pop music, a musical gerne who was revealing new singers and bands. All these context was contributing in a way that Pearl Jam's ideals were somehow stuck in a reality of the 90's, that was tearing apart, and a new generation that could fill the mainstream media was filling the role of the then past decade music. Among this context, Binaural was not giving up even the outside had changed, since Pearl Jam stood faithful to their ideals and many fans were together with this position.
The themes behind Binaural were pretty much different from what has been presented from 1994 to 1998, and had not only musical, but philosophically. Binaural is a record that includes war, simplicity, politics and specially a new vision of a feeling that has never changed since 1990. With this record, love was not seen exactly as a deep, forgotten, complicated and maybe unrequited feeling, but as some kind of salvation. A good number of the lyrics on the record allude to love as a higher feeling, more than missing someone or something. But this vision, even though was much different from the past ten years, was not completed, some things would happen on the band's life that would change their vision of love, politics, music, life and relationships forever.
On June 30, 2000 in Copenhagen, Pearl Jam was presenting a show on the annual festival of Roskilde, but the gig had to be stopped, since people who came later were getting closer to the stage, leading in a massive reaction
that ended on a crush that killed nine fans. The lost of nine lives was not only a public tragedy, but shocked the band members onstage, leading some like Eddie to tears. At that moment, from that point, the band could saw how insignificant life was and how powerless they were at the death of that people. Once a change has been made and they couldn't go back to everything they have fought for almost six years. Pearl Jam, not even responsible, carries the burden of nine lives on their minds in a way to remind them what was the most important thing on their lives. They started to rethink their visions, and that was the the birth of another phase.
After Roskilde and the Riot Act era
After the tragedy of Roskilde, that shocked the band members about the importance of live and the care about the other, and following the events of September 11, 2001, the band was shaped in a different way than ever. Now the
band had a strong vision about politics, among the context of the pressures between United States and Eastern countries, even though Pearl Jam has always been faithful to their ideals, including politics. But now, the feeling was not only to change the band's ideology in front of the death of nine people, but try to change society, in the way they could, in front of the death of thousand of people inside their own country. They wanted to speak, to show that war would not correct the mistakes of the world, and in a much more developed and complete version of love as higher salvation that they started to elaborate on the previous two years on Binaural. The positivity of better days would enlighten Pearl Jam as never before.
In November 12, 2002 Riot Act was released. The record was
truly a revolution on the band's philosophy. The theme of the songs talk about the feeling of being trapped in exile for all those years, friendship, greed, politics, changes and love as higher salvation, an idea that started on Binaural but got stronger after the series of bad happenings on their lives. With all those changes, I Am Mine is the song that reminds that all those new subjects to be highlighted do not destroy everything they have built on the last years. The song, maybe the most popular of the album, talks about the transition of innocence to the cruel reality, but reminds of the equality between all humans, even though some prefer to the acts of selfishness, and that life has a point to start and to end, what is between both is a choice of its owner. Also, Bu$hleager is a direct criticism to then President George W. Bush, whose government was creating a huge instability on the eastern hemisphere and would lead to the Iraq War.
The band has matured in a graceful way, and the kids from the 90's were now concious adults with a strong will to change. Also, Eddie's voice reached a peak with a mix of technique and talent, something that he developed through ten years and was always getting better. The transformation was so radical that Eddie used short hair - even a mohawk style - breaking his traditional long hair style, and played much more serious than ever. The effects of Roskilde was very clear on the band, but this was only the beginning of changes.
Riot Act's tour was the longest of band's life and also was the time of several releases. During the shows, Vedder improved the shows and was more interactive than ever. One of the most popular interactions was during Bu$hleaguer, when the vocalist wears a mask of then President of United States George W. Bush, a shining blazer and a rubber mask. Also, the band started a series of releases that included Lost Dogs and Live at
the Garden in 2003, Live at Benaroya Hall and Rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003) and Live at Easy Street in 2005.
After a Canadian tour, on November 2005, Pearl Jam began their first tour around Latin America, and visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. The tour was a success and the band would go back to Latin America more often, a promise that has been kept.
Following the long time without making a record, Pearl Jam was still on
the background that was developed since Binaural. The political struggle that was raised so strongly on Riot Act was still very much alive and was kept warm since the events of Iraq War and the Bush Crisis on the U.S. All this context inspired the band, and on May 2, 2006, Pearl Jam was released.
Another different album, Pearl Jam starts with a mysterious and simple cover: an avocado. Sometimes the album is known as "the avocado album" for some
fans, since the CD was self-titled. This record is the most scientific, objective, social critic since Ten. The themes of the songs are war, life changes and fear of them, powerless, drug and alcohol abuse, criticism towards religion, the national army, unemployment, and two special songs, Come Back and Inside Job. The first is a tribute to Johnny Ramone and all members of Ramones and the second is the first song lyrically and musically developed by Mike McCready.
Backspacer present era
At some point during the three years between Pearl Jam' (2006) and the next album, the band had, once again, grown into another kind of feeling and direction for their art. What was a political struggle had, finally, turned into a positivity that was sung since Riot Act and it seemed that the band could understand what they had become during all those years. In 2008, Pearl Jam started recording the new CD, being the greatest break on their vision since Vitalogy. It seemed like the times of trouble had eased and the band saw a new horizon of tranquility coming into their lives, not only inspired by their graceful aging but also as the decline of the political background they lived during 2001-2009 with the Bush administration coming to an end.
On September 20, 2009, Backspacer was released and introduced another of many faces of Pearl Jam. At this time, the themes among the songs on the album were positivity, dreams, future, life, death and peace of mind. The album can be compared with other records and in all of them it becomes and opposite side some way. Against Ten and Vs., Backspacer is a lighter, positive and enthusiastic album than the other. About Vitalogy, No Code and Yield, this new record is also a break with everything recorded previously, but instead of singing escapism and exile, 2009's album encouraged the contact with good things on the world in peaceful and beautiful vision of harmony. Backspacer was a little close to Binaural and Riot Act since its
themes present love as higher salvation and the power of conscience and friendship. With Pearl Jam (2006), Backspacer had left the contents of war, but adopted the philosophy that was sang in Life Wasted and Inside Job, the idea of trying to do not repeat past regrets but this time trying to redo life in the most positive way, knowing that life isn't eternal and one day it will all end.
Following 2009's album, Pearl Jam started the album's tour but also ran several parallel projects during the years. Since 2011, rumours coming from the band about the next record are being made, but they would only be confirmed two years later. For 2013, Pearl Jam has confirmed presence of Lollapalooza festival that took place, once again, on South America. Brazil, Argentina and Chile were the countries to receive the festival. As always, Latin American tours were a success and reunited thousands of fans on the festival. Bands like Queens of Stone Age, The Hives, Puscifer, Kaiser Chiefs, A Perfect Circle, The Killers and others have been on the same festival as Pearl Jam.
In the months of May and July of 2013, it was stated that the band was finishing their new album, that would
succeed Backspacer. In July 1 2013, the official site started a countdown that would end only seven days later, that was the announcement of the Lightning Bolt Tour, consisting of two legs, the first in East Coast and the second on West Coast of the U.S. After that, a new countdown started and soon a new announcement of the release of the album Lightning Bolt, on October 15, 2013. After some leaks and a live stream on iTunes, and even after a statement in July when Mike revealed that seven songs have been finished in 2011, it is clear that the band is still on Backspacer Era, and the new album does follows its path. More agressive, but yet existential, Lightning Bolt addresses religious and humanitarian issues on what is connected to selfishness of feeling infallible, chaotic heritages from criminal parents, but also presents very
strong love songs, calm and existential lyrics that keep remembering the end of life and the need of constructing a better world right now, side by side with our beloved ones. The album follows no pattern, starting more agressive with Getaway, Mind Your Manners, My Father's Son and evolving more soft with Sirens and Lightning Bolt (even the latter is still a more agitated than the previous). Infallible starts a more existential themed set of songs, with Pendulum, Swallowed Whole, only being gapped by Let The Records Play and Sleeping By Myself, continuing and ending with calm existential songs, Yellow Moon and Future Days. Once more, Pearl Jam had no fear of experimental, as seen on Pendulum and on an alternative version of Sleeping By Myself, nor gave up their critic view of the world, as seen on Getaway, Mind Your Manners, Infallible or their existentialism, as seen on most of the songs.