|Pearl Jam - the Band|
Pearl Jam: True Grunge Survivors
At best the musical movement known as "Grunge" describes a disparate group of rock bands, most of whom hailed from the Seattle Washington area in the early nineties and pioneered an emotional and open form of music in stark opposition to the excess of the rock scene of the late eighties. The grunge roll-call includes names such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Stone Temple Pilots and of course Nirvana. But of all these bands, only the quintet known as "Pearl Jam" survive to this day as a vital and cohesive entity.
The group of Eddie Vedder (vocals), Stone Gossard (guitar), Mike McReady (also guitar), Jeff Ament (bass) and Matt Cameron (the latest in a long line of drummers) have produced seven studio albums over the past decade. Along the way they have endured and overcome personal and musical obstacles and trials, but despite all this they have always stayed true to their ideals and earned the lasting respect and adoration of their fans.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Pearl Jam have survived not only their own trials but also the grunge genre as well.
A BRIEF BIO OF THE BAND
Rivers, Bones & Dogs: The Genesis of the Band
The founding members of Pearl Jam were guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament who first encountered each other on the music scene of Seattle in the late eighties. At the time Ament had been a member of the band Green River with Stone Gossard on guitar (alongside future Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm), but when the group split they moved on to Mother Love Bone a band fronted by the eccentric Andrew Wood. Despite the fact that Mother Love Bone were a promising band, they were not to achieve great sucess however as in 1990 Wood died of a heroin overdose just a short time after the relaease of the critically acllaimed debut album entitled "Apple."
As Wood had been a well known and much loved member of the Seattle musical community, a group of friends and aquaintances under the direction of then Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, recored the "Temple of the Dog" tribute album in his memory. Gossard and Ament lent their talents to the project and were joined by second guitarist Mike McReady (a schoolfriend of Gossard), Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and the contrasting talents of Cornell and former Bad Radio vocalist Eddie Vedder in the voice department (this was, incedentally, Vedder's major label debut).
After the recording of Temple of the Dog, Ament, Gossard, McReady and Vedder made the decision to persue their future in music together. At the same time a demo tape of the first three jamming together had been doing the rounds of a number of labels thanks to the efforts of one Jack Irons (at the time drummer with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) and it seemed that Epic were interested in what they heard. Recruiting a drummer of their own in the form of Dave Krussen, but then replacing him soon after with Dave Abbruzzese, the quintet signed with the big-time label in 1991 and dubbed themselves "Pearl Jam" (they had toyed with the moniker of "Mookie Blaylock," but quite wisely passed it over).
A Perfect Ten: The Overnight Sensation
One year later in 1992 the band emerged from the studio with their debut album titled simply "Ten." Featuring a very strong batch of emotinally plaintive yet stunningly powerful songs, the album transformed Pearl Jam into an overnight phenomenon. Tracks like "Alive" and "Once" reached places within the psyche of their audience that even the efforts of their counterparts in "grunge" could not touch as Vedder laid his soul bare to the world. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was quoted as saying that Pearl Jam had "jumped on the alternative bandwagon" at the time, but nevertheless "Ten" and the tour on which they embarked to support it were an amazing sucess. Drained by the experience, Vedder came to the point of emotional collapse before the tour's end.
The emotional strain of the tour was only added to by the controversy that surrounded the promotional video shot for the single "Jeremy." Based on Vedders memories of a bullied child turning on his tormentors, the video was blamed for inspiring a troubled young man to take a firearm to his school and open fire on his class. As a result of the media attention and trauma of the event, Pearl Jam did not relaese another video until the single "Evolution" eight years later.
The Danger of Experimentation: The Wilderness of the Mid Nineties
The first album was followed in 1993 by "Vs" which met with mixed reviews from the musical press. The tracks on the album were far from poor and the follow-up to "Ten" sold well, but it never really came close to the heights reached on the first and suffered greatly in comparrison. In 1994 the balance was redressed for a time as "Vitalogy" saw the band move back towards the strength they had shown on "Ten." Though eccentric in places, "Vitalogy" topped the US album charts and featured classic efforts such as "Spin the Black Circle" and the timeless "Betterman." In the same year Kurt Cobain tradgically took his own life and unfounded rumours spread that Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl would replace the newly departed Dave Abbruzzese in Pearl Jam. But in the end it was Jack Irons who stepped into the role of sticksman as he in turn left behind the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Two years after "Vitalogy," the band released the unconventional "No Code." In a deliberate move the cover of the album was left blank of the band's name. Most of the album consisted of fairly unconventional and semi-acoustic tracks and much like "Vs" before it was met with a mixed reception among critics and fans alike. Another two years elapsed before the band returned once more with "Yield" in 1998. This, the band's fifth studio album, saw a partial return to the form of their heavier and more self-assured sound rather than the lighter outings on the previous offering with epic tracks like "Given to Fly" winning them new fans and reminding old stalwarts why they followed them in the first place. In the same year "Live: On Two Legs," the first Pearl Jam live album was also released.
Back in the Real World: A Long Awaited Return to Form
Recording a cover of Wayne Cochran's rock n' roll classic "Last Kiss" as a charity single in 1999, the band reached number two in the US singles chart with their genuinly moving rendition of the song. A year later the full-length album "Binural" was released with Matt Cameron taking over from Jack Irons who was forced to take time away from the band due to poor health. This album again saw a distinct upturn in the quality and strength of Pearl Jam's sound and was followed by a world tour which brought a bittersweet mixture of triumph and tragedy.
The largest tour the band had undertaken in years, the decision was made to release double CDs of twenty five sets from the European leg as a poke in the eye to bootleggers everywhere. The albums proved to be so popular that a total of five entered the US album charts in the same week ushering Pearl Jam into the record books as the first band to ever have that number of different records in the chart at one time. The record was only broken when the same was done for the US leg of the tour and a total of seven of these recordings entered the charts in the same week.
Tradgedy & Triumph: Roskilde and Beyond
But the future of Pearl Jam as a touring band was thrown into question in June of 2000. Whilst playing a set at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark the band were witness to a horrific incident as the huge crowd before them surged forwards onto the security barriers in front of the stage. Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of festivalgoers in the crush, the security were powerless to prevent the deaths of eight people. A further twenty six were rushed to hospital, three with serious injuries. Though there was no question of the band being to blame, the experience shook the group to the core and they came close to turning their backs on playing live shows altogether.
The band returned however, in 2002 with their seventh studio album titled "Riot Act." Here once more the steady rise back to the status of a genuine rock outfit continued as the playlist included a selection of solid heavier tracks, the customary songs dealing with delicate emotional issues as well as a few oddball experimental jaunts. The first single released from the album was the track "I am Mine," a light song tinged with folk overtones which seemed somehow apt for a band that have endured the last ten years and still retain their moral and artisitic integrity today.
-No Code (1996)
-Live: On Two Legs (1998)
-Riot Act (2002)
Related Internet Links
The official Pearl Jam website can be found at:
While the official online fanclub can be found right here:
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