Pearl Jam’s first album, Ten, was released 20 years ago, and this weekend the band celebrates their anniversary with a concert at the Alpine Valley Music Festival in East Troy, Wis.
Not many bands make it through a decade, let alone two of them, yet they continue to thrive while their contemporaries have faded out long ago. Here is a look back at the band’s beginnings and the where they are today.
Pearl Jam’s bass guitarist, Jeff Ament, and rhythm guitarist, Stone Goddard, were members of the Seattle grunge band, Mother Love Bone. Just as the band’s major label album was about to debut, their lead singer, Andrew Wood, died of a heroin overdose.
Shortly after Wood’s death, Goddard started playing with another Seattle guitarist, Mike McCready. The three musicians put together a demo that ended up in the hands of Eddie Vedder, who was the lead singer for the band, Bad Radio . They’d experienced some limited success winning the Battle of the Bands in San Diego, but Vedder was still working at his day job as a gas station attendant.
When Vedder received the demo, he recorded vocals for three of the songs, and sent it back to the trio in Seattle. They liked what they heard and Vedder joined them soon after.
Although the band played their first show at a place called the Off Ramp Cafe on Oct. 22, 1990, their debut album signifies the true birth of Pearl Jam. The album was recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, and became a breakthrough success the following year. The first single to appear on the charts was, “Alive”, and it debuted on the Billboard 200 in January 1992.
Pearl Jam was considered widely successful by 1993, and quickly became known as the band that fought the establishment. They refused to cave into pressure by their label to make a music video for the single, “Black”, as Vedder didn’t want to be remembered for his videos, he wanted to be remembered for the music.
That same year, the band released their second album, “Vs.”, and it went on to set the record for the most copies of any album sold in its first week.
In 1994 the band began what Time Magazine labeled, “Rock ‘n Roll’s Holy War.” Pearl Jam was outraged when they found out Ticketmaster was adding service charges to their concert tickets, and they canceled their summer tour in protest.
I admire Vedder and the band’s tenacity, but twenty years later, it appears that Ticketmaster won that battle.
Pearl Jam has continued to stand up for what they believe in, taking on social and political issues over the years. They have performed numerous benefit events to help end world hunger, and this year, they were named “Planet Defenders” by Rock the Earth for their environmental activism and tireless efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Pearl Jam isn’t just one of the best rock bands of all time, they make our world a better place to live in. Congrats to all the band members on their 20th anniversary, and they may go on to make music and fight for what’s right for many years to come.