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Pearl Jam

Given their fractured beginning, who would have suspected that Pearl Jam would be the last Grunge band standing?

Just as Seattle's Mother Love Bone looked like it was going to be big news, lead singer Andrew Wood overdosed on heroin. Guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament pulled themselves from the ruins and started all over again. They added Mike McCready (guitar) and Dave Krusen (drums). Dave Abbruzzese replaced Krusen following the release of "Ten" with Jack Irons picking up the sticks in '94.

In an inspired move, they linked with vocalist Eddie Vedder, who was in San Diego. Sent a tape containing instrumental tracks, Vedder was told to write lyrics and lay them over the pre-recorded music. Obviously, he passed this unusual long distance audition.

Pearl Jam's '91 debut "Ten" took most of the year before it connected. The title was a reference to point guard Mookie Blaylock's jersey number. Serious B-Ball fans? Actually, Blaylock inadvertently crossed the band's path and became one of those inside jokes. The combination of "Even Flow" and an appearance in the movie "Singles" shot Pearl Jam to the forefront.

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, for one, criticized the group as being a nothing more than a corporate cash-in on Alternative Rock/Grunge. Given Pearl Jam's subsequent political activism and fan focused business decisions that seemed a harsh assessment.

"I don't think Kurt understood us at the time, but we became friends," said Vedder in an '09 interview. "If Kurt were around today, I know he'd say to me, 'Well, you turned out OK.'"

Riding the singles "Jeremy" and "Daughter," the successful sophomore release "Vs" and a full touring itinerary, Pearl Jam was huge. That was when they took on Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam cancelled their '94 summer tour claiming Ticketmaster was jacking up the prices. They even took their case to the Justice Department, which they eventually lost. "Vitalogy," released in late '94, was another Pearl Jam commercial success.

"No Code" represented a change. It featured styles and influences not present on other recordings. Due to their hassles with Ticketmaster and a growing reluctance to spending months on the road supporting the CD, "No Code" did well initially but quickly disappeared. "Yield," seeing the light of day in '98, was more focused but it suffered a similar fate. For something of a disappointment it still sold over a million copies. To remind fans of what the group sounded like on stage, Pearl Jam also put out "Live On Two Legs." They continued to record studio albums with "Binaural" and "Riot Act" released in '00 and '02, respectively. "Lost Dogs," collection of b-sides, rarities (going back to early in their career) and songs recorded for soundtracks and benefits appeared in '03.

Pearl Jam came roaring back three years later with a self-titled effort (with the avocado cover), that was among their best.

Live packages don't come much bigger than Pearl Jam's seven-CD box set chronicling three concerts played at the breathtaking Gorge Amphitheatre (in George, WA). '07's "Live At The Gorge 05/06" contained 76 songs and ran over seven hours.

Pearl Jam returned to touring with a stop at Lollapalooza '07 in Chicago. During their headlining stint on the final night, lyrics criticizing President Bush were censored from a live webcast by AT&T Inc. The lines cut from a rendition of "Daughter" (with a part to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall") included "George Bush, leave this world alone," the second time it was sung, and "George Bush find yourself another home." Days later AT&T admitted they made a mistake (no kidding). Following the incident Pearl Jam posted a notice. "This troubles us . . . as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media," wrote the band. They also promised to "work harder to ensure live broadcasts or webcasts are 'free from arbitrary edits'."

Vedder performed at the '07 Toronto International Film Festival for the world premiere of the movie Body Of War, a documentary about an Iraq war veteran paralyzed by a bullet wound. Vedder composed two songs for the film. He was motivated to contribute his talents partly by the deaths of nine fans during PJ's set at '00's Roskilde Festival in Denmark. "I have a hard time thinking that . . . Dick Cheney nor George Bush (have) had this close an experience with tragic death right in front of them," stated Vedder.

Another Vedder solo project that year was composing the soundtrack for "Into The Wild." The Sean Penn film was about adventurer Chris McCandless who met a sad end in Alaska. Vedder also played nearly all the instruments. "I thought we'd call in real musicians at some point," offered Vedder. "But there's something about not having to explain... the soul of whatever the song was. (I'd) just grab the bass and do it (myself)." From the soundtrack, "Guaranteed" won an '08 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

Pearl Jam embarked on a 10-date East Coast headlining tour in the summer of '08. They also revived their official bootleg series. Complete recordings were available for purchase as made-to-order CDs through the band's official website and in MP3 and FLAC digital formats.

Work began on Pearl Jam's ninth studio album, "Backspacer," in early '08. The album marked the return of producer Brendan O'Brien, his first album with the band since "Yield." "I like the sparseness of the songs and the way that Brendan pulled us together and made us play as good as we could," said McCready.

While work continued on "Backspacer," an O'Brien remastered and remixed version of "Ten" was reissued in '09. There was also a DVD of the group's '92 MTV Unplugged session and an LP of a live show from the same year recorded in Seattle.

To promote "Backspacer," Pearl Jam was the first musical guest on the premiere of NBC's Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien. They played "Get Some," a track off the album. Also prior to "Backspacer's" release the group launched their world tour at the Alberta edition of the Virgin Festival '09. They headlined the two-day event.

"Backspacer" was released through Target stores. But some fans weren't so sure about that move. "I can't think of anything we've ever done without putting it through our own personal moral barometer," said Vedder. "Target has passed for us. The fans just have to trust us." The album was also available at the band's official website, independent record stores, and online retailers.

"('Backspacer') feels good - really strong and uptempo, stuff we can sink our teeth into," added Vedder. "It was all based on this brand-new idea to us of 'let's write the songs before we record them." Vedder was on to something. First week out, "Backspacer" sold 189,000 copies to land at #1 on the Billboard album chart. It was the group's first chart topper in 13 years - since "No Code" in '96.

Vedder has always drawn attention but in '10 it was McCready's turn. He composed the score for a segment of the FOX science fiction show Fringe. "I wasn't a huge fan of the show at first - but now I totally am," said McCready.

The show originally contacted Pearl Jam about using "Just Breathe" and discussions evolved from there.

"I like to have a lot of different creative outlets," added McCready. "It means working with a lot of people - directors, editors, musical supervisors and you have to appease all of them. I'm totally up for it." Prior to his first TV assignment, McCready composed the score for the surfing documentary Westsiders and contributed to Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous.

Pearl Jam celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first public performance (on 10/22/90 at the Off Ramp Cafe in Seattle) by launching "Pearl Jam Radio," a commercial-free music channel on SIRIUS XM.

In addition, they issued a live compilation album in '11 titled "Live On Ten Legs." The 18 songs, recorded by the band's engineer John Burton between '03 and '10, was the follow-up to '98's "Live On Two Legs."

A short time later, Vedder rolled out his sophomore solo album, "Ukulele Songs." The title said it all. Vedder bought a ukulele while on vacation in Hawaii (where else?) and learned how to play it. He even used the instrument to compose some Pearl Jam songs.

Continuing to mark their anniversary, Pearl Jam Twenty, the Cameron Crowe career-spanning retrospective film, premiered at the '11 Toronto Film Festival. There was archival footage plus material Crowe shot over the previous year-and-a-half. The film was accompanied by a soundtrack and a book featuring anecdotes, memorabilia, photos, tour notes and drawings.

But the band wasn't content to rest on its laurels. Ament reported that the group had reached the halfway mark in recording its 10th album. "The first handful of songs we had are a great, great start,' claimed Ament. "It's been really important for us that in the middle of all this (their 20th anniversary), we got together and recorded a bunch of songs. We can go back and get ready for the show and book and movie and all that stuff."

Ament also launched a side project called RNDM (pronounced 'random'). The group included singer/songwriter/guitarist Joseph Arthur and drummer Richard Stuverud. Arthur, known for his solo career, was also in Fistful Of Mercy with Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison. Beginning in the early '80s, Stuverud played in several Seattle bands.

RNDM's debut album "Acts" dropped in '12.

Side projects were one thing, Pearl Jam was still the main thing. More than two decades after it was released "Ten" reached the 10 million mark in U.S. sales. "We had no idea that it was going to ever do that well," McCready told Billboard in '13. "I just felt like it was a really cool record and that I was in a good band."

Back in March '11, Ament said the band had 25 songs and they'd be heading into the studio to produce their follow-up to "Backspacer." Exactly two years later, there was still no album - due to touring and other commitments.

But it became evident there were other problems. The band had completed seven songs before taking an extended break. "We had to take some time to figure out what we wanted to do" McCready explained. "(Then) we started up again with a brand new batch of songs."

'13's "Lightning Bolt" was Pearl Jam's 10th studio album. Produced by Brendan O'Brien, the set featured the track "Mind Your Manners."

So what was the final verdict? "It's a really cool record and I'm very excited about it," enthused McCready.

The public shared McCready's opinion. "Lightning Bolt" debuted at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart with opening week sales of 166,000 copies. It was their fifth chart topper, following "Backspacer" ('09), "No Code" ('96), "Vitalogy" ('94) and "Vs." ('93). In addition, songs from "Lightning Bolt" and other PJ tunes were the soundtrack to Major League Baseball's World Series (between Boston and St. Louis). The deal between the group and MLB, called for 48 Pearl Jam songs to be played throughout the games.

The baseball connection had always been there. Vedder, born in Evanston, IL was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. So the '16 season was magical as the Cubs ended a 108 drought by winning the World Series. Vedder was right there with his team - and more. Pearl Jam celebrated by playing sold-out performances at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs. "Let's Play Two," a live concert film and soundtrack, followed.

After the Wrigley concert but before the film came out, McCready, accompanied by former GN'R bassist Duff McKagen, performed with the Seattle Symphony as part of their "Sonic Evolution" series which featured local Pop, Rock and Hip-Hop musicians playing with the symphony to provide a different perspective on the music. Later in the January, '15 show, Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Gossard, Ament and Cameron appeared for a near complete - no Eddie Vedder - reunion of Temple Of The Dog.

In conjunction with Pearl Jam's "Home Shows" in Seattle which raised awareness and funds for homeless initiatives, the Pearl Jam: Home and Away exhibit opened at the Museum of Pop Culture. The '18 show featured more than 200 artifacts included a statue of Andrew Wood.

When Pearl Jam began, record stores were at the center of the music universe. Not so much now, but they are worth saving. With that in mind, Pearl Jam was named the official 2019 Record Store Day (4/13) ambassador at independent record stores around the world. "(Record stores are) a place to learn. It's a place to have fun. And it's a place to discover new music," McCready said in a statement." Record Store Day was founded in 2008 to draw attention to the 1,400 independent record stores operating in the U.S.

Social Action

A band with a social conscience, Pearl Jam launched their '06 Carbon Portfolio Strategy, which earmarked $100,000 in donations from the band to nine environmental-related organizations to help offset carbon emissions produced through touring and other activities. "We (are investing) in the future health of our planet and its delicate ecosphere," said Gossard.

Four years later, he reaffirmed the group's commitment to slowing climate change. "We're seeing ourselves as a Washington business, a regional business that is acknowledging its carbon footprint and hoping to inspire other businesses."

Pearl Jam's benevolent work was not confined to the environment. In '08, the group raised nearly $3 million for the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty charity, by playing a private benefit show at NY's Beacon Theater. Bison, a band with McCready, members of Velvet Revolver and the Presidents Of The United States Of America, performed at a charity concert in Seattle for the local Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. And at the VH1 Rock Honors tribute to The Who, the L.A. concert with Pearl Jam and other bands (Incubus, Foo Fighters and the Flaming Lips) took in more than $1 million for various charities.

On a smaller scale, Ament was in his hometown of Big Sandy, MT, in '10 for the dedication of a skateboard park. He contributed $40,000 toward the construction. "As small towns get smaller and smaller, I think it becomes more important for kids to have something to do outside of just school sports," Ament, a skater since '76, told reporters. "My dad helped me build ramps, now I can give kids around here something else to do."

As a compliment to earlier social efforts, Pearl Jam donated 100% of T-shirt proceeds and 25% of all goods sold on the band's official web site for a limited period to benefit Planned Parenthood Federation Of America. The '17 effort provided funds for healthcare services.

Add homelessness to Pearl Jam's list of causes. They played two August '18 shows at Seattle's Safeco Field to raise awareness. The "Home Shows" marked the group's first Seattle hometown appearance in five years. They also pledged a minimum of $1 million toward local homelessness initiatives.

The concerts were followed by a partnership with A Way Home Washington's "Anchor Community" to combat youth homelessness. "Every year, more than 13,000 unaccompanied young people under the age of 25 experience homelessness in the state of Washington - 1,500 experience homelessness on any given night in Seattle and King County alone," read A Way Home Washington statement.

As it turned out, the Home Shows initiative (concerts and fundraisers) netted $10.8 million to be distributed to nearly 100 organizations working to fight homelessness. More than 170 partners - corporations, philanthropies, restaurants and small businesses - along with thousands of individuals contributed.

Pearl Jam Discography - 2006 Hall Of Fame Winner

1991 Ten
1993 Vs.
1994 Vitalogy
1996 No Code
1998 Yield
1998 Live On Two Legs
2000 Binaural
2002 Riot Act
2006 Pearl Jam
2007 Live At The Gorge 05/06
2009 Backspacer
2011 Live On Ten Legs
2013 Lightning Bolt

Funny thing. The Rolling Stones are thought of as a '60s group. Sure, that's the decade where they made their debut but their best work came in the early '70s when they stopped chasing The Beatles. First, The Beatles were no more and second, they realized the futility of that course. The Stones were the Stones, they would never be The Beatles. Pearl Jam went through a similar experience.

Forever linked to Grunge, Pearl Jam saw other bands achieve greater notoriety but Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins came and went. Having managed to survive, they have, over time, lost much of the Grunge sludge and become a lean, driven unit. They are far better in that mode.

Pearl Jam produced three brilliant albums. They are, in order of appearance and importance, "Ten" ('91), "Vs" ('93) and "Yield" ('98). The obvious low point is a ridiculous cover of the wretched "Last Kiss." This piece of early '60s pop schlock was reportedly a favorite of someone close to the group. To record a novelty song for a friend is one thing but to foist this disaster on the unsuspecting public is quite another (even if all the proceeds went to charity). Ironically, it's the group's best charting single. "Last Kiss" is not the worst thing ever released by a major Grunge group but it certainly dwells in the bottom tier.

"Vitalogy" represents a step back (too much acoustic noodling). "No Code," along with the mediocre "Live On Two Legs," rounds out the group's '90s work. "No Code" is a good album but it's an audible step down from Pearl Jam's best.

   Rockin'Town Forum - Latest Forum Posts
misscheeks   eddie looks just like my hubby and hes gotta be the sexiest man on earth!
pearl jam are defo the best!!!!!  
pearljamn   Didn't think PJ could ever get better. And they did....Is there anyone else out there   that can't stop listening to Parachutes?  
Ricsard   Pearl Jam is above all other bands.
That's it!
Their shows are truly better than you previously expected even if you have seen them before...they're still getting even better and better!
I wish them COME BACK to Hungary ASAP!  

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