Pearl Jam are rock purists. The band stood up for their fans against the corporate greed and price gouging of Ticketmaster, and stood up for past drummers when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Formed out of Seattle rock royalty, Pearl Jam’s history stretches back to Mother Love Bone. After drugs claimed singer Andrew Wood, guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament floated a tape of backing tracks called Stone Gossard Demos ’91 to Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons who sent it to a friend of his in San Diego named Eddie Vedder. The singer took out his angst on those tapes, penning lyrics that covered homelessness, mental illness and suicide. Pearl Jam first named themselves Mookie Blaylock, after the the New Jersey Nets point guard. The group’s first album was named after the number on his jersey.
Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten, came out in August, 1991. The drummers on the album were Dave Krusen, who was replaced by Matt Chamberlain, after his drinking made his beat less steady. Dave Abbruzzese and Jack Irons did drum fills until Matt Cameron from Soundgarden joined in 1998.
Ten became an instant classic. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain bitched about having to sit through guitar solos, but “Alive,” “Once,” “Even Flow” and “Jeremy,” flooded the airwaves and MTV. From the beginning we knew that this was a band that wouldn’t sell out. They didn’t even release the ballad “Black,” a sure-fire hit single, for fear of its delicacy being broken by the onslaught of airplay.
Pearl Jam never shied from addressing political subjects or social ills. Sometimes in their songs. Sometimes just with the T-shirts they wore on stage, where they shined brightest. Vedder would swing from the lights or stage dive long before he learned to tune a ukulele. The band detuned guitars in the studio and urged their fans to tape their concerts. Worried that the fans might not be getting the best sound, Pearl Jam started recording all their concerts and making them available for anyone who might have had been sitting too close to a loud friend.
The band provided anthems for ’90s youth and represented the grunge sound as the band Citizen Dick in director Cameron Crowe’s coming of age film Singles. The song “Yellow Ledbetter” made its own television generation appearance when it closed out the 2004 series finale of Friends. A young couple was kidnapped during a Pearl Jam concert on an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Vedder scored the 2007 animated film Into the Wild and Pearl Jam scored ten Top Five studio albums, half of them Number Ones, since Ten came out twenty-five years ago. On the albums Ten (1991); Vs. (1993); Vitalogy (1994); No Code (1996); Yield (1998); Binaural (2000); Riot Act (2002); Pearl Jam (2006); Backspacer (2009) and Lightning Bolt (2013), they explore every style rock has to offer.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is now available on HBO.