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Pearl Jam (formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington) is a rock band considered one of the most popular and influential artists of their decade . Their name is intimately tied to the grunge movement of the early 1990s, along with Alice in Chains, Nirvana and Soundgarden, with these names being usually considered the Big Four of grunge music . Moreover, they are also one of the few mainstream grunge bands that has remained active since the atrophy of their contemporaries. Currently, the group boasts a large fan base which contributes to making the band one of the most popular live acts in the world.
They have been named #21 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
Pearl Jam's history starts with the seminal grunge band Green River, which formed in 1983 out of a number of early-mid 80's Seattle bands, namely Deranged Diction, Mr. Epp & the Calculations, March of Crimes, Spluii Numa, the Limp Richerds, and the Ducky Boys. Green River included Stone Gossard (of March of Crimes and the Ducky Boys) and Jeff Ament (of Deranged Diction), Mark Arm (of Mr. Epp, Spluii Numa, and Limp Richerds, and later Mudhoney) and Steve Turner (of Mr. Epp, the Limp Richerds, and the Ducky Boys, and later Mudhoney), and drummer Alex Vincent. Green River toured and recorded to moderate success at best. In 1987, the group would disband, but would be remembered as one of the first Seattle grunge bands.
In 1988, Gossard and Ament had begun playing with Malfunkshun vocalist Andrew Wood, eventually organizing the band Mother Love Bone. Throughout '88 and '89, Mother Love Bone would record and tour to increasing interest, and found the support of PolyGram records, who signed the band in early 1989. Their debut album, Apple was released in 1990, but tragically, Wood would not be around to see it, as he died of a heroin overdose in March of that year.
The cover of their debut album, Ten
With the death of Wood and the disintegration of Mother Love Bone in 1990, Ament and Gossard set out to create their next band. They recruited former Shadow guitarist Mike McCready and began playing recreationally as a trio. During this time, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell had written two songs as a tribute to Wood, with Gossard, Ament, and McCready agreeing to help record the tracks. The project was eventually called Temple of the Dog (TotD), after a lyric from a Mother Love Bone tune, a song called "Man of Golden Words".
With the help of Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron (who would join Pearl Jam in the late 1990s), the group began recording a number of songs, many of which would eventually be re-worked into demos for the future Gossard / Ament / McCready band. One such song by Gossard actually wound up as both a Pearl Jam song, Footsteps, and a TotD track, Times of Trouble.
Without a drummer or a singer, the trio began actively looking for bandmates, and even looked outside the Seattle scene for people with whom they had no previous connection. One of these people was former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons. A five song demo was given to Irons to see if he would be interested in joining the band, and to distribute to anyone he felt might fit the singing bill. Irons passed on the drumming invitation, but gave the demo to his basketball buddy and local San Diego singer Eddie Vedder during one of their hiking trips. As legend has it, Vedder listened to the tape shortly before going surfing. While he was out in the water, the music played in his head and the lyrics came to him.
Eddie Vedder in the video for "Alive".
He rushed back home and in one flurry of creativity recorded the vocals to three of the songs ("Alive", "Once", and "Footsteps"). The songs were what Vedder would later describe as a mini-opera. They formed a story of incest, madness and murder that became known to fans as the "Mamasan trilogy". He sent the tape with his vocals back to the three Seattle musicians, who were so impressed that they had Vedder fly to Seattle to try out for the band. Vedder and the band hit it off, with Eddie even adding lead vocals to a TotD song, Hunger Strike. With the addition of Dave Krusen on drums, Gossard, Ament, and McCready now had a complete band.
The group was known (and actually toured) for a time as Mookie Blaylock, after the basketball player, but concerns about trademark issues necessitated a change after the group was signed to Epic Records. The band eventually settled on Pearl Jam as their new name.
In an early promotional interview Eddie Vedder claimed that the name "Pearl Jam" was a reference to his great-grandmother, Pearl, who was married to a Native American man and had a special recipe for peyote-laced jam. However, this story seems to have been invented by Vedder as a joke. Another theory put forward in the book Five Against One holds that one of the band members really wanted "pearl" in the new name, and jamming is a common activity done by musicians. The generally-accepted explanation is that it was a phrase the band thought would sound good, so they stuck to it.
Pearl Jam's drummer, Dave Krusen, left the band shortly before the launch of their debut album Ten (named for Mookie Blaylock's jersey number). He was replaced by Matt Chamberlain, who had previously played with Edie Brickell and New Bohemians. After playing only a handful of shows—one of which was filmed for the "Alive" video—Chamberlain left to join the Saturday Night Live band. Chamberlain suggested a drummer named Dave Abbruzzese as his replacement. Abbruzzese joined the group and played the rest of Pearl Jam's live shows supporting the Ten album and continued to record with the band for the next two albums.
was on the cover of the October 25, 1993 issue of Time
magazine, as part of the feature article discussing the rising popularity of the grunge
movement. Vedder has made it clear that he hates the photo and how Pearl Jam was represented in the article.
Pearl Jam became a key member of the Seattle grunge explosion, along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. Nirvana's Kurt Cobain angrily attacked Pearl Jam in interviews because he saw them as commercial sell outs, although some believe that Cobain was motivated by jealousy that Pearl Jam had become more successful than Nirvana on the Billboard charts. Cobain later reconciled with Vedder and reportedly became friends. (See Green River).
Pearl Jam's debut album Ten contains eleven tracks dealing with dark subjects like depression, suicide, loneliness, and murder. The album, released in 1991, produced three hit singles: "Even Flow", "Alive", and "Jeremy". The video for "Jeremy" was a huge hit on MTV and won four video music awards, including Video of the Year and Best Group Video.
Album cover of Vs.
, their second album. (1993)
In 1993, Pearl Jam's second album Vs. set an all time record for copies sold in the first week of release (950,000). Vs. included the hit songs "Daughter", "Dissident", "Go", and "Animal". Vs. was originally titled Five Against One (taken from the lyrics of "Animal"), but was changed to Vs. shortly before release of the album. Some early pressings are labelled with the Five Against One title, and are considered to be valuable Pearl Jam memorabilia.
Pearl Jam's third album, Vitalogy, was released in 1994, with a vinyl version released two weeks before the CD and cassette versions. The CD became the second quickest selling in history, with more than 877,000 units sold in its first week. The song "Spin The Black Circle", an homage to the seven-inch single, won a Grammy Award in 1996 for best hard rock performance. Vitalogy also included the hits "Not For You", "Corduroy", "Immortality", and "Betterman".
In 1994, Pearl Jam fired Dave Abbruzzese "due to artistic differences" according to the band. They announced his replacement in 1995: Jack Irons, close friend of Vedder and the former drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers who had originally introduced Vedder to the band.
In 1995, Pearl Jam backed longtime idol Neil Young on his album Mirror Ball. Contractual obligations prevented the use of the band's name anywhere on the album, but the members were all credited individually in the album's liner notes. Young then returned the favour by playing with members of Pearl Jam on their two-song EP, Merkin Ball.
Pearl Jam's popularity began to decline over the next few years, partially because of their decision not to produce music videos and partially because an (ultimately unsuccessful) anti-trust lawsuit against Ticketmaster hindered live tours.
On August 27, 1996, exactly five years after the release of Ten, Pearl Jam released their fourth album. Although the album debuted at #1, it quickly fell down the charts. No Code included the singles "Hail, Hail", "Who You Are", and "Off He Goes". Although it marked a sales fall-off, No Code is a cult fan favourite , and "In My Tree" is considered the greatest Pearl Jam drum performance from the highly experienced Jack Irons and one of Eddie's best lyrical performances . It also stood out with its emphasis on subtle harmony ("Off He Goes"), eastern influences ("Who You Are"), and spoken word ("I'm Open").
Album cover from Yield
In 1998, Pearl Jam released its fifth album, Yield. The album was proclaimed as a return to the band's early, straightforward rock sound, but was Pearl Jam's first album not to peak at #1 in the Billboard charts since Ten in 1991. Yield debuted at #2, but like No Code soon began dropping down the charts. However, the album did go platinum in the US, selling 1,500,000 copies. For the first time since 1993, Pearl Jam released a music video. The band hired famed comic book artist Todd McFarlane to create an animated video for their single "Do the Evolution". Yield also included the singles "Given to Fly" and "Wishlist".
The same year, Pearl Jam once again changed drummers. Jack Irons left the band due to health problems and was replaced with former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, who has remained with them since. Gossard, Ament, and McCready had worked with both Cameron and former Soundgarden (and current Audioslave) vocalist Chris Cornell on the Temple of the Dog album prior to the release of Ten.
In 1999, Pearl Jam recorded the song "Last Kiss", a cover of a 1950s ballad by Wayne Cochran . Recorded on a minimal budget and released first as a fan club single, the song became a smash hit, with many requests from its fans to be released to the general public as a single. The band decided to include the song on a charity compilation album, No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees. "Last Kiss" peaked at #2 in the Billboard charts and became the band's most commercially-successful single to date.
On May 16, 2000, Pearl Jam released their sixth studio album Binaural. This was the first studio album with Matt Cameron. Binaural included the singles "Nothing As it Seems" and "Light Years". While touring to support Binaural, Pearl Jam hit upon a unique idea. Noting the popularity of illegal bootleg recordings and the desire of fans to own a copy of the shows they attended, Pearl Jam decided to professionally record each and every show on their tour. They originally intended to release these "official bootlegs" only to fan club members, but their record contract prevented them from doing so. Pearl Jam released all of the albums in record stores as well as through their fan club. They released 72 live albums, most of them double CD sets, and set a record for most albums to debut in the Billboard Top 200 at the same time. A further 72 albums were released from the 2003 tour, and Pearl Jam continued to releasing more of their "bootlegs" on subsequent tours, although they pared down the number of concerts offered considerably.
Pearl Jam's 2000 European tour ended in tragedy on June 30, with an accident at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Fans were crushed and suffocated as the crowd rushed to the front. The band stopped playing and tried to calm the crowd when they realized what was happening, but it was already too late. Nine people were killed. The two remaining dates of the tour were cancelled, and the band seriously considered retiring after this event. Pearl Jam was initially blamed for the accident, but the band was later cleared of responsibility when officials found that the safety measures employed by the festival organizers were inadequate.
A few months after the European tour, the band embarked on their two-leg 2000 North American tour. The song "Alive" was purposely omitted from all shows on this tour until the final night in Seattle, Washington. The band performed for over three hours, playing most of their hits along with selected cover songs such as "The Kids Are Alright" and "Baba O'Riley" by The Who, one of Pearl Jam's biggest musical influences.
On April 5, 2002 Layne Staley of Alice In Chains died of a heroin and cocaine overdose. Upon hearing the news on April 20, 2002, Eddie Vedder wrote a song dedicated to him entitled, "4/20/02".
Album cover from Riot Act
On November 12, 2002, Pearl Jam released their seventh album, Riot Act which included the single "I Am Mine". The album sold only 500,000 copies, less than Vitalogy and Vs. sold in their first weeks. The album featured a much more folk-based and experimental sound, evident in the presence of keyboard player and new band member Boom Gaspar on songs such as "Love Boat Captain." The track entitled "Arc" was recorded as a vocal tribute to the nine people who died at the Roskilde Festival in June 2000. Eddie only performed this song nine times on Pearl Jam's 2003 tour and left the track off of all released bootlegs as an act of respect. The band's liberal political activism also made its way into the album's lyrical content with "bu$hleaguer", a commentary on President George W. Bush. At many shows during their 2003 North American tour, Vedder beat effigies of Bush.
The beginning of 2003 included a large Australian and American tour. Of particular note was the three-day set of Boston shows in 2003, in which Pearl Jam played a completely different set list each night, covering some eighty-six songs with only one repeat between the three shows, namely the popular concert-ending Yellow Ledbetter, and even that was merely because fans were shouting for it at the end of the third night.
In June 2003, the band announced they were officially leaving their label of twelve years, Epic Records, a Sony imprint. Pearl Jam stated that the group has "no interest at this time" of signing with another label and was "excited about our freedom". Pearl Jam is due to release a new studio album in May 2006, Pearl Jam, on the J Records label which is part of the BMG music conglomerate, which is 50% owned by Sony and includes Epic Records. This gives weight to accusations that international artists at least can never really escape the "big four" record companies (Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, EMI Group and Warner Music Group).
2003 also saw the release of a two-disc collection of rarities and b-sides, Lost Dogs. In 2004 Sony released Rearviewmirror, a Pearl Jam greatest hits collection spanning 1991-2003.
Director Tim Burton approached Pearl Jam to request an original song for the soundtrack of his new film, Big Fish. After screening an early print of the film Pearl Jam recorded the song Man of the Hour for Burton. "Man of the Hour" can be heard in the closing credits of the 2003 film, and was nominated for a Golden Globe award that year.
Pearl Jam had supported Ralph Nader's presidential campaign in 2000, but during the 2004 campaign Pearl Jam members appeared in Rolling Stone to promote the candidacy of John Kerry. Pearl Jam also performed on the Vote for Change tour.
In 2005, the band embarked on a Canadian cross-country tour, stopping in cities such as Saskatoon, Quebec City, St. John's, and Halifax, where they had never played before. The official "bootlegs" for these shows were made available online through Pearl Jam's website. The music downloads were accompanied by pictures from individual shows.
Pearl Jam also played a benefit concert to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief. The concert, which took place October 5, 2005, at the House of Blues in Chicago, Illinois, also featured Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame.
On November 22, 2005 Pearl Jam kicked off their first South American tour, beginning with two shows in Santiago, Chile, two in Buenos Aires, Argentina, five in Brazil (Porto Alegre, Curitiba, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro) and two in Mexico (Monterrey city and Mexico City). It is to mention that Mudhoney opened for Pearl Jam during the whole tour. During the tour, Vedder emphasized how much he missed Johnny Ramone, his friend and guitarist of The Ramones who died in 2004. As a tribute to Johnny, the band played the Ramones' song "I Believe In Miracles" at every show on the tour, including a performance with Marky Ramone behind the drum kit at the Porto Alegre show.
Pearl Jam has officially announced that their eighth studio album, Pearl Jam will hit the stores on May 2, 2006. Unlike with Riot Act, only two of the new songs have been played live: one, originally entitled "Crapshoot Rapture" (renamed "Comatose") was premiered live in March 2005; the other, "Gone", debuted in October 2005. Plans to debut additional new material on the 2005 Canadian tour were scrapped. Eddie Vedder has stated that he wants fans to hear the songs on the album first, and has also mentioned on several occasions he feels this is the best work the band has done .
"World Wide Suicide" is the first single from the album. In late February, the band made a 15-second clip of the song available on the Internet, which was then played on numerous North American radio stations. The snippet revealed a hard-rocking sound with a noted return to the dominant vocal styles of Vedder's earlier work. Many claim the song is reminiscent of Vs., as also mentioned by Mike McCready in 2005 . On March 3, 2006, the single was played on Seattle's 107.7 The End and soon leaked on the Internet. Pearl Jam then early-released the single online two days later.
The single hit digital music stores March 14 acommpanied by the upbeat B-Side "Unemployable", which will also be part of the new album. "World Wide Suicide" reached #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart,#2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart & #41 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On March 19, unmastered versions of Comatose, Severed Hand, Parachutes and Life Wasted were leaked online. These 4 tracks came from a 6 track promo sampler (the other 2 tracks being World Wide Suicide & Unemployable) that was played for media outlets & magazines for preview. On April 6, the rest of the songs leaked, but the noisy low qualitiy files were even worst than the first leaked ones. As of April 10, its source remained unknown.
Preorder, touring and Esky
Fans can pre-order the new album on the band's site which will also include a digital download in MP3 format available at 12:01 a.m. on the day of release, May 2. Official website preorders will be accompanied with a bonus disc of the band's 1992 New York City New Year's Eve show.
The first leg of the 2006 tour was announced March 7; It includes stops throughout North America and an early April 20 date at the Astoria in London, England which will be a 3 hour show including the entire new album plus rare favourites and greatest hits. My Morning Jacket was scheduled as an opening act.
Pearl Jam was awarded an Esky for best live act in Esquire's 2006 Esky Music Awards. The blurb called Pearl Jam "the rare superstars who still play as though each show could be their last."
Pearl Jam will be surprise headliners this year at the Reading and Leeds Festival. It's been six years since they last toured Europe and this will be their only UK festival appearance in 2006. Pearl Jam headline Leeds Festival on Friday 25th August, and Reading Festival on Sunday 27th August
*Vitalogy holds the interesting regard that while it was released first on vinyl (on November 22, 1994, more than two weeks before its release on cd ), it still debuted at number 55 on the Billboard Top 200, the first vinyl record album to chart since the introduction of the compact disc format.
Live albums and compilations
*In addition to the live albums Live on Two Legs, Live at Benaroya Hall and a myriad of live versions of studio songs spread across singles as b-sides, the band has continued their official bootlegs series released a double-disc (and sometimes triple) album of live recordings for each show of each tour since their 2000 European tour.
- ↑ http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:o3n20r6ac48b~T00
- ↑ http://www.vh1.com/shows/dyn/the_greatest/62188/episode.jhtml
- ↑ http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001477891
- ↑ http://www.theskyiscrape.com/song_menu/albums2.php?album_id=3
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