Pearl Jam performing at O2 World in Berlin on 5 July 2012. Source: Alive87, Wikimedia Commons.

The story behind the legendary band Pearl Jam

What are they famous for?

Pearl Jam is famous for being an American rock band first formed in 1990. The bands current line-up currently consists of the band’s original founding members; vocalist Eddie Vedder, lead guitarist Mike McCready, rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and newer member, drummer Matt Cameron.

The band is considered to be one of the most prominent grunge bands of the 1990s and is known for its members reluctance to give interviews or participate in the music industry and its events. The band has sold more than 85 million albums around the world. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.

Early Career

In the 1980s Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament were members of the band Green River which had achieved some success and broke up in 1987. The musicians played together and joined up with Andrew Wood to start the band Mother Love Bone. In 1989 the band was signed to the PolyGram label and released their debut album ‘Apple’ in 1990 following the death of Wood from a heroin overdose. Gossard began to work with McCready and they reconnected with Ament to record a five-song demo which they shared with Jack Irons, former drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to see if he would be interested on joining the band. Irons passed but introduced them to Eddie Vedder who recorded his vocals for a number of songs and was later invited to join the band.

Pearl Jam tour
Pearl Jam in New York in 2016. Source: Lugnuts, Wikimedia Commons.

The band added Dave Krusen on drums and initially settled on the name Mookie Blaylock, they played their first show at a café in Seattle and later opened for Alice in Chains. Mookie Blaylock was then signed to Epic Records and then renamed Pearl Jam.

Career Breakthrough

The band began recording their debut album in 1991 and replaced Krusen with Matt Chamberlain over the course of their recording sessions. Chamberlain left shortly after and was replaced by Abbruzzese. Their first album titled ‘Ten’ was initially slow to sell before it picked up speed in 1992 and reached number two on the charts. The album produced the hit songs, ‘Alive’, ‘Even Flow’ and ‘Jeremy’. The album remained on the charts for nearly five years following 1992 and reached 13x platinum status, becoming one of the best-selling rock albums in history.

‘Ten’ quickly established Pearl Jam as one of the main bands in the grunge music scenes, alongside Nirvana, Alice in Chains and other bands. The band received backlash from Kurt Cobain who called them sell-outs.

The band toured extensively in support of their album and became well known for their live performances. They made their first on-air appearance on Saturday Night Live and MYV Unplugged and also played at Lollapalooza in 1992.

Following their initial success the band started to become uncomfortable under the spotlight and Vedder was forced to take the reigns as the bands most famous member. The band won four awards at the MTV music awards for the music video for their song ‘Jeremy’ but refused to record a video for their song ‘Black’ and many later songs.

The band returned to the studio in 1993 and released their second album, ‘Vs.’ in October, 1993. The album set a record for the most copies of an album sold in the first week of release, although it was later broken. In 1994 the band began to wage a war against Ticketmaster for its service fee charges on their tickets and monopoly over music venues. The band was asked by the United States Department of Justice to provide a memorandum of their experience with Ticketmaster. The band cancelled their 1994 tour in protest of the company and continued to boycott their venues even after the US department of Justice dropped the case.

The band recorded most of ‘Vitalogy’ whilst they were on breaks from their tour, however struggled with internal conflicts in the band. The band once again got a new drummer, bringin in Jack Irons. Their album ‘Vitalogy’ was release in late 1994 and sold an impressive 877,000 units in its first week. The band continued to boycott Ticketmaster venues throughout 1995, although they found little support amongst other bands.

Pearl Jam albums
Albums from American rock band Pearl Jam. Source: Jarretera, Bigstock.

Continuing Career

After touring for ‘Vitalogy’ the band returned to recording studio to start work on their album ‘No Code’. The album was released in 1996 and was more experimental than previous albums. The band proceeded to tour throughout Europe in 1996 before they returned to the studio in 1997 and released their fifth album ‘Yield’ in 1998. The album debuted at number two but did not linger on the charts for very long. Not long after the release of ‘Yield’ the band once again changed drummers, Irons left and was replaced by Matt Cameron. The band proceeded to go on a tour, by this point Pearl Jam had returned to Ticketmaster venues as their fans had expressed dissatisfaction with the difficulty of obtaining tickets and unhappiness with the non-Ticketmaster venues. The band released a live album following the concert.

Eddie Vedder, Matt Cameron and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam. Source: Anything, Wikimedia Commons.

Following the tour the band went on a short break and returned to the studio in 1999. They released their sixth album, ‘Binaural’ in 2000. The album failed to reach platinum status. The European leg of the band’s 2000 tour ended badly, with nine fans crushed and suffocated by the crowd at the Roskilde Festival.

Pearl Jam started work on their next album after a year-long break. The album, ‘Riot Act’ was released in 2002 and the band went on tour in 2003. Mid-way through 2003 the band announced that the contract with their label had ended and that at the time they had no interest with signing with a new label. The band released a number of live albums and the Greatest Hits album.

In 2005 the band played a show in support of Hurricane Katrina victims at the House of Blues in Chicago. The band eventually signed to J Records and released their album ‘Pearl Jam’ in 2006. The band went on a worldwide tour in support of the album, visiting the continents of North America, Australia and Europe. The headline the Leeds and Reading festival, their first time returning to a festival since Roskilde.

Pearl Jam youtube
Source: Pearl Jam, YouTube

The band went on a short European tour in 2007 and headlined at Lollapalooza. The following year they headlined at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. In 2009 the band released special edition version of their first album ‘Ten’. In 2009 the band released the album ‘Backspacer’ which went to number one on the charts. The band performed at a number of venues between 2009 and 2010, including a headlining spot at the Virgin Festival and Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. They also played at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and made an appearance at the Madison Square Garden’s amongst other appearances.

The band released their tenth album, ‘Lightning Bolt’ in 2013. The album went to number one in the United States and the band announced a short tour in Latin America. In 2016 they announced that they would be touring the United States and Canada.

In 2018 the band went on tour throughout South America and most recently released a song ‘Can’t Deny Me’. They are set to tour Europe in 2020 and release their new album ‘Gigaton’.

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