Here they are in 2001, over a decade has passed since "Ten" happened. The only band from the 1990's to actually survive the decade. Grunge has come and gone, all the big bands from Seattle and their many clones have either disbanded or withered away. Drummers may also come and go. For a band that has been first cheered by and then derided by the media, they are still in most people's eyes the world's "biggest rock band". After all, can any other still sell as much as they have without promotional videos for their singles? Who else can create a smash hit, out of a Fan Club Christmas single, that was produced minimally, like they did with the cover of the 1960s "Last Kiss" ? I think not. It may not be the heady days of "Ten" or even "VS" & "Vitalogy". Pearl Jam have stayed on to mock the overly packaged, marketed and hyped bands that are popular on the charts today.

Pearl Jam during the days of "Ten"
Lets's start at the beginning. Guitarist Stone Gossard, who was born and raised in Seattle, forms a band Green River, along with Montana native, bassist Jeff Ament in 1984. Green River plays around the clubs in Seattle and later splits. Gossard and Ament, in 1987, form the cult band Mother Love bone, with Andrew Wood. The sound is a bit on the glam rock side of the '80s. Just when the band were getting popular, with the release of their first album "Apple" eminent, Wood dies of a drug overdose. "Apple" is released, but MLB disband. Gossard and Ament were discouraged and seperate for a while, playing with other musicians. But soon, they sought each other out with plans of starting a new band. They discvered Mike McCready, playing guitar at a party on a borrowed amp.
The two befriended Mike and they recorded a simple intrumental demo with Soundgarden's Matt Cameron playing drums. Friend and future PJ member, Jack Irons (former Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer) suggested Eddie Vedder, who was living in San Diego. They sent the demo tape containing three songs, to Vedder who listened to it all night and then went surfing in the morning. It was there that Vedder started forming the words that would make up the songs on the demo, one of which was "Alive". He recorded the vocals over the music and sent the tape back to Seattle. On getting the tape back, the other three were excited and asked Eddie to join the band. He accepted and along with drummer Dave Krusen joined in, and the band Mookie Blaylock (after a basketball player in the NBA) was born. They record a demo and go on tour supporting the likes of Alice In Chains and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In order to avoid legal problems with the name Mookie Blaylock, Eddie suggest the name Pearl Jam. The newly named band record the full album "Ten" within a month, and are signed with Epic Records. Shortly afterwards Krusen leaves the band and in steps Matt Chamberlin for a temporary period (Matt played on a few shows and appears in the live video for "Alive") until Texas drummer Dave Abruzzese comes in.

Stone Gossard at Mtv Unplugged
Pearl Jam's audience starts growing little by little. "Alive" is the first single and their signature track for a long time. Meantime, singer Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, writes songs for a tribute album to Andrew Wood, his friend and rommate. The project is called Temple Of The Dog and includes Soundgarden's Matt Cameron and Wood's bandmates in Mother Love Bone Jeff & Stone along with Mike McCready. Eddie also lends his vocals for the superb "Hunger Strike" a hit single of the album. Meanwhile the band tour in support of "Ten". Pearl Jam also had appeared in a Cameron Crowe movie "Singles", based in Seattle, and the soundtracks features two songs by the band - "State Of Love And Trust" and "Breath". Eddie, Jeff & Stone also have bit parts in the film as the backup band of actor Matt Dillion. And then "Jeremy" happens. The single (inspired by the true story of a boy in Texas who shoots his classmates beofre killing hinself) becomes one of the biggest tracks of the year with the powerful and though-provoking lyrics sung excellently by Vedder backed by the band's intense playing, and the video goes on to win four awards at the MTV Video Music Awards. "Evenflow" (US Top Ten, UK #15) is also released with a live video.
"Oceans" is the last single to be released from the record. "Ten" goes on to sell more than 15 million records worldwide and is voted as one of the most influential albums ever. Almost all the songs (esp. "Release", "Black" & "Garden") could have been hits if they had been released, but they are all huge concert favorites. A fan club Christmas freebie is released with new songs "Ramblings" and "Let Me Sleep". Sold out headlining concerts followed, including a spot on the amazingly succesful alternative package tour cum festival 'Lollapalooza ll'. During a break from their touring, Gossard formed his side-band Brad and releases the album "Shame". The band also won American Music Awards for Favorite New Artist (pop/rock) and Favorite Band (rock/metal). The "Drop In The Park", free concert (29,000 tickets given for free) held in Magnuson Park, Seattle on 20/2/1992 was the first of several free concerts or club shows by Pearl Jam. With all that success and hoopla surrounding the band, it would have been easy for Pearl Jam to just release different versions of "Ten" every two years or so, go out on tour, air their opinion on anything & everything under the sun on numerous interviews on Mtv and other tv channels and sell millions of records without trying hard. But the guys being different, turned their backs on fame. They decided not to make videos for any more songs (a decision that stands till this day) and when "VS", their second album came out, no singles were released either. Still "VS" debuted at #1 and sold almost 1 million copies in the first week itself and went multi-platinum.

"Animal" and "Rearviewmirror" were two songs that were shown regularly on the musical channels available to me. Other fan favorites from the album were "Daughter", "Glorifies G" (Eddie's ode to America's obsession with guns), "Elderly Woman..." & "Indifference" - a song which almost states the band's attitute to the media and the rest of the world ( my advice to first time listeners of this song, is to turn off all the lights, light a candle and open your mind). After two secret gigs in the US, they headed for Europe. Eddie Vedder appeared on the cover of Time Magazine around this period. Also around this time, the fight for lower ticket sales for their concerts was staged with Ticketmaster, the ticketing agency for big venues in most cities in the US. The following year saw the firing of drummer Dave Abruzzese for personal reasons. With a new album coming out, everyone were guessing who would now play drums for the band. "Vitalogy" was released, first on vinyl and 2 week later on cd and tapes. Once it was released on cd, the album shot straight to the #1 slot on the Billboard charts and went multi-platinum. The record features the radio hit "Better Man" (which in 1998 PJ would dedicate to Hillary and Bill Clinton.. listen to the lyrics, u'll find out why :-) ) The battle with Ticketmaster continued to rage on and PJ found themselves having to either play smaller venues or in obscure outdoor parks or colloges. Before the tour, it was announced that former Red Hot Chili Peppers & Eleven drummer, Jack Irons would be the new skinbasher for Pearl Jam.

Eddie Vedder live in Warsaw

Mike McCready solos on a Les Paul
Irons, who introduced Stone and Jeff to Eddie in the first place - thereby coming full circle, was a long time friend of the band. Other than "Better Man", the hit "Nothing Man", "Tremor Christ", "Not For You", "Spin The Black Circle" (for which they would win a Grammy). But the gem on this album (and my long time favorite song of PJ... until I went back to "Alive" ;0) ) is "Immortality", a haunting, beautiful and powerful track. The day I bought my copy of "Vitalogy", I reached home and put the tape into my stereo system and began listening to it. I stopped the tape just before "Immortality" and went to sleep. Around 3:00 am I woke up all of a sudden and couldn't go back to sleep again. So I played the last two songs on the album and "Immortality" came on. There that night in my room, with just a small light glowing, I was blown away by the song.
I listened to it again and again, until I formed an image in my mind of the band playing the song (like a music video, if u please!), sitting near a lake at night and surrounded by fire. I couldn't get the visions outta my mind. A few days later, I was reading a book on the life of Nostradamus (I can't remember the name of the book or the authour - but the cover has an image of Nostradamus face and fire in the background!!!) and I was playing the album and "Immortality" came on. From then on I have always clubbed Nostradamus to that song and if they ever make another movie on him, they should use this song in the movie's soundtrack! Meanwhile on the touring front, they were losing the war with Ticketmaster and had to cancel many dates. In early 1995, the members of Pearl Jam recorded an album with Canadian legend Neil Young, who is the band's mentor and friend. The moody, grunge-meets-classic rock "Mirrorball" was one of Young's highest charting albums in recent years. Pearl Jam and Neil Young had a chance to play trcaks from the "Mirrorball" LP, when at a San Francisco concert, Eddie fell ill and had to be taken to a hospital. The rest of the guys played on with Neil Young, performing classic Young songs as well as songs they recorded together.
Also in 1995, Mike started his side project, the Seattle supergroup, Mad Season, along with Alice in Chains's Layne Staley on vocals, Screaming Trees's drummer Barett Martin, and bassist Baker. They released the highly acclaimed "Above" in the spring of the same year. 1996 sees the release of the EP "Merkinball" which went to #7, containing the great songs "I Got Id" and the lovely, sad and sweet "Long Road". They also rescheduled some cancelled shows of their earlier tour. Later, the soundtrack to the movie "Dead Man Walking" was released with "The Face Of Love", performed by Eddie and the late Pakistani quawli singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and "Long Road". Everyone who saw the movie (including me) say that the songs complimented the movie to great effect. Pearl Jam offered those songs at the personal request of the film's director, Tim Robbins, a fan. Pearl Jam went on to win the American Music Awards for the Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock and Favorite Alternative Music Artist categories. After winning a grammy for best Hard Rock/Metal act, they release their fourth album, "No Code". The first single "Who Are You" enters the Billborad Singles Chart at #35 and the album debuts at #1 (yes once again, without almost no promotion or support from the media) Most people thought the album was sparse and lacked direction, it's weird combo of experimental rock and worldbeat a bit too much to take for some fans. But "No Code" still has a few great tracks - ""Sometimes", "In My Tree", "Off He Goes", "Red Mosquito" and the ballad "Around The Bend", which was written for drummer Jack Irons baby son.
Jeff Ament
Still, the experimental sound on the album and the fact that they were unable to do a full scale tour due to their war with Ticketmaster and a reluctance to spend months on the road, both combined to bring the album down the charts soon. In 1997, Pearl Jam oppened for the Rolling Stones for four nights at the Oakland Stadium in Oakland, California and are the only big time Pearl Jam events for the year. They compose the songs for the new album "Yield", a more rocking effort than it's predecessor. The album got enthusiatic reviews and the sizeable cult following made the album top the charts with the standout tracks being first single "Given To Fly", "Wishlist", "Do The Evolution" (the animated video long form of the song is a classic.....does anyone reading this know who it was done by and was the band involved in the making?), "Low Light" and my now favorite Pearl Jam track "In Hiding". This is one hell of an emotional song, and for me (someone who has never had the chance to see Pearl Jam live) I can just see the band performing it with passion with Eddie singing his heart off. The band were back to their hard rocking best in certain songs, esp. "Do The Evolution" in which the band poke fun of Mankind, destroyer of his surroundings, and it ROCKS.
As they were starting their 1998 tour, Jack Irons left due to personal & health reasons. He decided that he wanted to spend his time with his family. It is not known if the split from Pearl Jam is a permament one and if he will return once he has settled all his problems. The band were supportive of their drummer and all they told the media was that they stand by his decision and wish him the best. Matt Cameron, ex-Soundgarden, was playing in small projects to while away his time after his band has split up. Cameron joined up with Pearl Jam and a full scale tour was conducted, culminating in a live album "Live On Two Legs", with performances culled from the dates on the tour. And then a surprise came in the form of a smash hit single. Pearl Jam released "Last Kiss", a cover of a 1960's song about a boy who loses his love in a car crash, as a Christmas Freebie for members of TenClub (the official Pearl Jam fan club). It was a simple, bare recording, but played with passion and feel. The song got played on radio stations around the US and slowly the rest of the world, and became a huge phenomenon.
With no video, no promotion, just simple old fashion word of mouth was enough for the song to become on of the most requested singles in recent years. "Last Kiss" went to #1 in the US (for seven weeks in Australia) and other countries. The song was included in a benifit album for war torn Kosavo called "No Boundaries" and made millions for the aid of the refugees. A pleasant surprise indeed, maybe things are not all that wrong with this world! Then the band set about to write songs for the first album with Cameron. In May 2000, "Binaural" was released, with excellent cover art. The moody "Nothing As It Seems" was released as the first single. Once again no videos to support the single. Other great songs are "Thin Air", "Evacuation", "Grievance", "Sleight Of Hand", "Light Years" and "Soon Forget" which just has Eddie singing and strumming a ukelele. A successful tour was spolied rotten by one incident, which will haunt the band for years, but which was no fault if theirs. Indeed no band can be blamed when things like this happen. On June 30, 2000, nine fans lost their lives in a stampede that occured during the band's convert at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. The crowd just rushed towards the stage and the unfortunate victims were crushed. Pearl Jam were shocked and cancelled their remaining few dates in Europe, before regrouping and returning to play dates in The US and Canada. What can u say? There are idiots in the audience who create trouble for others and this was an extreme example of what could go wrong. But Pearl Jam have pulled themselves back and delivered great performances in the North American part of their tour. And another pioneering venture by the band...PJ have supported bootlegging by their fans at live concerts. This time they decided to put out official bootlegs of the 25 European concerts and later the North American ones too. The band had 5 of those albums go into the Billboard top 100 Album Charts at the same week ending September 26. No other band has been able to have more than two brand new records on the charts on the same day. Well PJ had 5. Now that is a first and only Pearl Jam can do something as wonderful as that. So who cares about videos and MTV (the channel sucks anyway) and being in the spotlight 24 hours a day. It's all about the music.

Pearl Jam perform "Long Road"

All pics & biography compiled from various websites, web and magazine articles and interviews.

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