Celebrating The Reissue of Pearl Jam's Ten: The Band That Wouldn't Say Die'

If you rewind the clock back to the early 1990s, it was easier than not to refer to Pearl Jam as nothing other than a grunge band. It soon became evident, however, that there was something about the Seattle quintet's music that connected with audiences well beyond the confines of the grunge genre.

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If you rewind the clock back to the early 1990s, it was easier than not to refer to Pearl Jam as nothing other than a grunge band. It soon became evident, however, that there was something about the Seattle quintet's music that connected with audiences well beyond the confines of the grunge genre. That transcendence (for better or worse, at least in the eyes of the band) would translate into multi-platinum albums and sold-out venues. But of course, fame doesn't always sit well with musicians. And in their own way, the members of Pearl Jam actually might have done the music world a favor by being turned off by the spotlight. Had they not taken the road less traveled (I.e., a grumpier attitude toward the media, music videos, and the like), the members of Pearl Jam might not have exerted such a massive influence.

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

Pearl Jam had always noted Neil Young as a major musical influence, but it was not until the band joined the former Buffalo Springfield guitarist onstage that history was made. An invitation to play at the Bridge School Benefit Concert in 1992 would spark a series of future collaborations with the veteran musician. While that in itself might be noteworthy, a little station called MTV took the musical relationship to the next level at least for the younger listeners who had once pushed aside their parent's Crazy Horse albums.

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

Pearl Jam may have driven many a record exec to the point of insanity with their lack of MTV and radio publicity, but it's hard to knock a band that was attempting to do something worthwhile with its fame. As one of the foremost proponents of social causes in the music world, Pearl Jam has taken multiple opportunities to work for charitable causes. Obviously, there have been plenty of artists in the past who have worked for social change (just take a look at the 1960s), but there certainly was a decline in musical activism in the past few decades.

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.

The Jamily

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

Controversy still hasn't shied away from Pearl Jam, as was made quite clear at 2007's Lollapalooza in Chicago. The band had just performed its single Daughter and transitioned into Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 when Vedder decided to inject some new lyrical content into the mix. He proceeded to deliver the lines, George Bush, leave this world aloneGeorge Bush, find yourself another home, which apparently didn't sit well with corporate sponsors AT&T. During a live Webcast, apparently much of the offensive content was edited out. AT&T contended it was innocent of any such censorship, and instead put the blame on the company in charge of the production aspect of the Webcast. Vedder's improvised lyrics seemed fairly benign in comparison to some of the moves he's pulled in the last 20 years, but it does seem he still has the magic touch when it comes to ruffling the feathers of corporate America.

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.

A new album is in the works, and it looks like the band particularly Eddie Vedder has a mellowed outlook on life. When asked about giving way to new ideas in the studio, Vedder told Rolling Stone (February 2009) that he and his bandmates are actually willing to give a little headway. At this point, I think we're willing to let somebody cut the songs up a little bit, says Vedder. In the past, Brendan (O'Brien, producer) would say, 'It's a great song, but I think you should do it in a different key', and we'd say no. But now that we've heard Bruce [Springsteen] has listened to his suggestions, I think we will, too. You've come a long way, Eddie.

- Amy Kelly (c) 2009

35 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Chevelle454
    first!? pearl jam rocks. they are so much better than nirvana. this is what got me listening to music to begin with
    lutfish
    "...beyond confines of grunge genre." If there's is any "genre" that has absolutely no boundaries at all, it's grunge... And seriously, it wasn't even a genre. It was a wave of new music from Seattle.. I mean, for example, Soundgarden, stone temple pilots, pearl jam, nirvana, alice in chains, mad season and screaming trees sounds nothing alike, except for occasional "ehr" or "eeehy" in the end of some words. So I do not approve! Sorry for sounding like a smartass.. Or something.
    down n dirty
    shwilly wrote: Squid Vicious wrote: Grunge was more of a group of bands from the same area that got big (or didn't in the case of a few, like Screaming Trees) around the same time. Not really a genre, IMO. And Soundgarden and Alice in Chains had a good few guitar solos. Smartes thing I've read all day. And the thing is: I don't think most musicians would've minded that whole "let's put these Seattle bands in a little box and label 'em" attitude if the word Grunge hadn't become such damn a commercial buzzword during the years that followed.
    ya ive got to agree w/ you there and like all of them played solos everyonce in a while mudhoney did it all the time even contrary to popular believe nirvana and pearl jam but once again a genre has been prejediced against by elitest metalheads :/ personally i love the elitests musica and grunge but w/e
    waveningkan
    ten - my all time fav album.long live pearl jam.cnt wait for the new album.never made a bad one anyways.
    Lou_dog 71
    I started off as i nirvana fan but then i got rearviewmirror and found out what i had been missing.. Pearl Jam kicks Nirvana's ass! but Dave Grohl is still amazing
    skippy_moogoose
    I think its great that out of all the big "grunge" bands (quote marks becuase you can argue genre's to death)only the two who shied away from the spot light are still going, and sticking to their guns rather than trying to change to stay popular and "relevant" (when by staying true to themselves they are very much more relevant than say Lostprophets who seem to change sound/look to whatevers selling at the time) I refer of course to PJ and awesome entity that is Mudhoney!! Its great that the guys from mother love bone still got to make awesome music after Andrew Wood's death too!
    irotinmyskin
    definitely pearl jam wasnt better than nirvana, in fact they were completely different, so theres no need to chose either one as a better band. and the other thing... feud between cobain and vedder? complete b.s. totally invented by the media. they were in fact not friends exactly but they had a good relationship.. dont buy everything u hear =)
    Kurtney
    No It Was Not A Wave Of Music From Seattle, Nirvana(Who Are The Best Grunge Band Out Of The Big 4) Were From Aberdeen And They Werent A Seattle Band They Were An Olympia Band, Stone Temple Pilots Are Alternative And You Forgot Mudhoney And Melvins, And Grunge Is A Genre Just A Lot Of People Put Bands In That Genre That Dont Belong There, Ex. Pearl Jam And Stone Temple Pilots
    lutfish wrote: "...beyond confines of grunge genre." If there's is any "genre" that has absolutely no boundaries at all, it's grunge... And seriously, it wasn't even a genre. It was a wave of new music from Seattle.. I mean, for example, Soundgarden, stone temple pilots, pearl jam, nirvana, alice in chains, mad season and screaming trees sounds nothing alike, except for occasional "ehr" or "eeehy" in the end of some words. So I do not approve! Sorry for sounding like a smartass.. Or something.
    soundgarden1986
    Ah, Pearl Jam. Undoubtedly my favorite band of all time. Binaural is their best, but even then, it's tough to pick a favorite. Not a single bad album.
    Kurtney
    Pearl Jam Is Great But They Have Nothing On Nirvana, You Probably Like Their Music Cause Its More Complex Than Nirvana's, But Its More Complex Cause They Have Members, Nirvana Had 3 So They Couldnt Be As Complex Or Have Those Jeff Ament Solo's That Make Pearl Jam Not A Grunge Band, And Jeff Ament Is A Dick And Thats Why Kurt Hated Pearl Jam(Also Cause Their Music Sucks), He Actually Told Eddie Vedder That He's A Respectable Human Being Even If His Band Sucks, Just That Statement Makes Kurt Better Than Everyone In Pearl Jam And Makes Nirvana The Better Band
    Lou_dog 71 wrote: I started off as i nirvana fan but then i got rearviewmirror and found out what i had been missing.. Pearl Jam kicks Nirvana's ass! but Dave Grohl is still amazing
    Kurtney
    No You Are Wrong, Pearl Jam Isnt Nearly As Good
    Chevelle454 wrote: first!? pearl jam rocks. they are so much better than nirvana. this is what got me listening to music to begin with
    Kurtney
    Ya, Kurt And Eddie Didnt /hate Each Other, Kurt Just Hated Jeff Ament And Thought Pearl Jam Sucks, At The 93 MTV Awards He Slow Danced With Eddie And Toild Him That He Is A Respectable Human Being, Even If His Band Sucks
    irotinmyskin wrote: definitely pearl jam wasnt better than nirvana, in fact they were completely different, so theres no need to chose either one as a better band. and the other thing... feud between cobain and vedder? complete b.s. totally invented by the media. they were in fact not friends exactly but they had a good relationship.. dont buy everything u hear =)
    IfDaysEnd
    Kurtney wrote: Ya, Kurt And Eddie Didnt /hate Each Other, Kurt Just Hated Jeff Ament And Thought Pearl Jam Sucks, At The 93 MTV Awards He Slow Danced With Eddie And Toild Him That He Is A Respectable Human Being, Even If His Band Sucksirotinmyskin wrote: definitely pearl jam wasnt better than nirvana, in fact they were completely different, so theres no need to chose either one as a better band. and the other thing... feud between cobain and vedder? complete b.s. totally invented by the media. they were in fact not friends exactly but they had a good relationship.. dont buy everything u hear =)
    It's so annoying How You Write Everything You Want To Say Like This. Nirvana and Pearl Jam each have different ways to play music and to write it. And the fact that Pearl Jam plays more "complex" music than Nirvana doesn't mean anything, complex isn't the same as feeling. I personally find that some of Pearl Jam's songs have a great amount of feeling, and are very simple (take Oceans, for example). And believe me, your name doesn't help your credibility at all, obviously you are more biased towards Nirvana.
    thenation1121
    "we dont need no president... george bush leave this world alone!" yaaaa pearl jam kicks ass (so does nirvana u p*sys)
    shwilly
    Squid Vicious wrote: Grunge was more of a group of bands from the same area that got big (or didn't in the case of a few, like Screaming Trees) around the same time. Not really a genre, IMO. And Soundgarden and Alice in Chains had a good few guitar solos.
    Smartes thing I've read all day. And the thing is: I don't think most musicians would've minded that whole "let's put these Seattle bands in a little box and label 'em" attitude if the word Grunge hadn't become such damn a commercial buzzword during the years that followed.
    mistertomo123
    Oh well. I love PJ, but I still haven't got round to getting Avocado. It's been on my album list for months! Also, I'm sure their new album will be awesome!
    Avocado (their self titled 2006 album) is the best album I own. It comes close to smashing rearviewmirror to pieces, and that's a greatest hits collection. can't wait to hear the new stuff when it comes out. JAMSTERS FOREVER!!
    Speckled_Hen
    i listened to the whole of ten earlier today... didnt even know about this theres not a bad track on that album its good to see pearl jam are doing better than chris cornell
    Genghis_khan
    Nice read. Good to find something dedicated to Pearl Jam, they deserve this and a hell of a lot more!
    Rocker_geek
    Pearl jam rocks. Only Nirvana are on the same pedestal as them in the world of grunge. GRUNGE FOREVER!
    Flying Afros
    I've kept up with Pearl Jam for years now. They never seem to be laying low to me. Always touring, every show is amazing. Can't wait for the new album. Avocado was great. One of the few bands still around today, for almost 20 years, successful, and that still have their dignity intact. No compromises. These guys will stuff of legend. DROP THE LEASH!
    Divinephyton
    Flying Afros wrote: I've kept up with Pearl Jam for years now....[]... and that still have their dignity intact. No compromises.
    True. For a band that became famous during the 'MTV generation' this def deserves a pat on the back. Knowing that the guys are real people, honest, true to themselves and their fans really adds to the overall experience of the music. Screw people who say that that doesn't mean anything. We don't care what you say, **** you Yea man, good band, I'm going to check out Avocado and their new album when it comes out
    JDZYX
    gibsonsg145 wrote: i brought the ten album ages ago i thought it was rather pants to be fair
    Aw... You broke the chain of 8 comments supporting the Jam of Pearl variety. Oh well. I love PJ, but I still haven't got round to getting Avocado. It's been on my album list for months! Also, I'm sure their new album will be awesome!
    guitarlad89
    i dont understand how pearl jam can be considered grunge. I've always seen them as hard rock.....grunge is nirvana and "solo-less" music.
    tona_107
    vedder's solo album that he did for the soundtrack of into the wild was pure genius.
    Squid Vicious
    guitarlad89 wrote: i dont understand how pearl jam can be considered grunge. I've always seen them as hard rock.....grunge is nirvana and "solo-less" music.
    Grunge was more of a group of bands from the same area that got big (or didn't in the case of a few, like Screaming Trees) around the same time. Not really a genre, IMO. And Soundgarden and Alice in Chains had a good few guitar solos.
    \m/Angus\m/
    guitarlad89 wrote: i dont understand how pearl jam can be considered grunge. I've always seen them as hard rock.....grunge is nirvana and "solo-less" music.
    Do you even listen to Nirvana? They have a solo in at least half or more of their music.