On March 24, Epic Records reissued Ten, Pearl Jam's breakthrough debut album that featured the hit singles Jeremy and Even Flow. After taking a trip down memory lane, we at Ultimate-Guitar started to think back to the multiple ways that Eddie Vedder and the boys made their mark following the album's original release in 1991. While not every move made by the band was all-together successful (Ticketmaster, anyone? ), Pearl Jam still made it clear that they had a lot more on their agenda than simply being rock stars. Whether you want to call them activists, educators, or just a bunch of guys with a distaste for authority, Pearl Jam is one band that simply wasn't satisfied with churning out hit records.
Grunge Meets Folk Rock
At the 1993 MTV Music Video Awards, Pearl Jam performed Rockin' In The Free World with Young, and suddenly a fresh, hip moniker was bestowed upon Neil Young: The Godfather of Grunge.
Who Would Dare Feud With Kurt Cobain? Why, Eddie Vedder!
Now that Kurt Cobain has been elevated to that of a musical legend, it's easy to forget about his dislike of Pearl Jam. In the early 1990s, there was somewhat of a feud occurring between he and Eddie Vedder, with Cobain insisting that his archrivals in Pearl Jam were basically sellouts. Although it was not probably Cobain's intention, you couldn't ask for better publicity than a battle between grunge's 2 biggest musical acts. Whether the harsh comments had anything to do with Vedder's sudden aversion to the media and commercial ventures is hard to tell. Recently Vedder did say that he believed Kurt would have given him the nod of approval had he lived to see the Pearl Jam frontman today. Given the fact that Vedder has overcome plenty of demons himself, he may just be right about his musical peer.
Scoffing At Music Videos
In an odd way, Pearl Jam might just have sensed the downfall of the music video. After receiving 4 MTV Video Music Awards for Jeremy, the band decides to take a hiatus from the music video world. It's a thrilling update for a record label to hear, I'm sure. By refusing to make a video for the single Black (also from the Ten album), Pearl Jam entered into a very different phase of its career. The TV-driven publicity was set aside for a more private endeavor directed at its fan club, which was often given first dibs at bootlegs and rarities. Sometimes the fan buzz is all you need, however. Pearl Jam's cover of Last Kiss, which was originally offered as a Christmas single to fans, eventually become the best-charting single thus far for the band. No videos needed.
Musicians With A Cause
Besides performing at various benefit concerts (including the Apache Survival Coalition and the Mount Graham Coalition), Pearl Jam actually reached into its own cookie jar for a good cause. Let's return to that huge hit Last Kiss. Given the fact that it was their biggest hit on the charts and went multi-platinum worldwide, it would have been easy to indulge in the fruits of their labors. Instead, the band chose to distribute all of the proceeds from Last Kiss to refugees of the Kosovo War.
It Started Out So Well
One battle that didn't end as perfectly as Pearl Jam might have wanted was the Ticketmaster debacle. After learning that Ticketmaster was adding service charges to their concert tickets, the band went on a course of action that lasted nearly 5 years. Between testifying in Washington, D.C. And boycotting venues that used Ticketmaster as a ticketing source, Pearl Jam put aside financial gain for their beliefs. While it was honorable in theory, many fans became irked that tickets were not readily available through other outlets. Taking a cue from the fans, Pearl Jam finally put up the white flag and ended their fight in 1998. The score might be Ticketmaster 1, Pearl Jam 0, but that was one hell of a noble fight.
Continuing in the grand tradition of Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam is one of those bands that has lured fans to tour across land, air, and sea. While the general audience appeal during the 1990s was a massive one, there is a distinct sect of the group that could be considered fervent devotees. The Jamily might not be a name quite as familiar as The Deadheads, but they've been compared to Jerry Garcia fanatics more than a time or two.
Still Outspoken as Ever
Weathering The Tide
Pearl Jam has remained under the radar at least in terms of massive publicity campaigns since its move to no longer make videos. While 1991's Ten still remains the most commercially successful album of their career, a dedicated fan base has ensured that each record following the debut has gone at least gold. The most impressive aspect? It's the fact that Pearl Jam is still very much thriving almost 20 years later, which is a feat that most of its grunge band peers could not do whether due to creative differences or tragic ends.
- Amy Kelly (c) 2009