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Members include Dave Abbruzzese (born c. 1968; left group 1997), drums; Jeff Ament (born on March 10, 1963 in Big Sandy, MT), bass; Matt Cameron (born on November 28, c. 1964 in San Diego, CA), drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals; Stone Gossard (born July 20, 1965 in Seattle, WA), keyboards, vocals, drums, lyricist, guitar; Jack Irons (left band 1998), drums; Dave Krusen (left band 1991), drums; Mike McCready (born April 5, 1966 in Pensacola, FL), slide guitar, piano, lyricist; Eddie Vedder (born Edward Louis Seversen III, on December 23, 1964, in Evanston, IL; married Beth Liebling, 1994), lead vocals, lyricist, rhythm guitar. Addresses: Record company--Epic Associated, Sony Music Entertainment Inc., 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022; 2100 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404; Fan club--Pearl Jam Ten Club, P.O. Box 4570, Seattle, WA 98104 E-mail: email@example.com.
Pearl Jam, the pearl of the early-1990s grunge explosion in Seattle, was one of the most successful musical acts of the decade. The band was formed in Seattle by guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament; they approached drummer Jack Irons from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but he declined to join. However, he recommended a vocalist named Eddie Vedder. Gossard and Ament sent Vedder a demo tape; Vedder wrote lyrics, added his vocals, and sent it back to them. They encouraged him to come to Seattle, where he joined them, lead guitarist Mike McCready, and drummer Dave Abbruzzese. Their debut album, Ten, was released the same year--it sold a whopping 6.9 million records.
Led by the moody, reclusive Vedder, Pearl Jam swam straight against the current of their success. "I don't want to be a star," Vedder was quoted by Brisbane's Courier-Mailas saying. "It's not worth it to have my picture taken and my face everywhere. All that you need is the music." Fueled by anti-rock-star fervor, Pearl Jam refused to produce a videos or single for its next record, 1993's Vs. Even without, the album broke a first week sales record, moving 950,378 copies and eventually selling nearly six million. The band also insisted that its records be released on vinyl as well as CD. Such stances were seen by some observers as typical rock star posturing. Those opinions were belied, however, by the benefit work Pearl Jam did regularly for the pro-abortion groups Rock For Choice and Voters For Choice as well as for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Seattle Arts Center and the Rhett Syndrome Foundation.
The most serious test of Pearl Jam's principles was set in motion in 1994 when it went head-to-head against Ticketmaster. The group felt--passionately--that the country's largest distributor of tickets for sporting and entertainment events was abusing its leading position in the market by charging inflated service fees that frequently boosted the price of tickets by $20. Pearl Jam conceived a "low cost" tour that would be affordable to its teenaged fans. It instructed Ticketmaster that tickets should cost no more than $18.50, with a maximum service charge of $1.80. Ticketmaster refused, claiming it had to charge at least $2 to cover its costs. Pearl Jam responded by filing a memorandum with the U.S. Department of Justice that accused Ticketmaster of monopolistic behavior.
Without Ticketmaster, it proved nearly impossible to put a concert tour together--at least in the short run. The 1994 tour was cancelled, losing the band an estimated $9 million. Nonetheless, defying the ticket mega-company touched a nerve. A host of musical superstars, Soul Asylum, Garth Brooks, Neil Young, U2 and Bad Religion, lined up to support Pearl Jam's position. In June 1994, Gossard and Ament traveled to Washington to testify in Congressional hearings on whether contractual agreements between Ticketmaster and most major stadiums and concert promoters have violated federal antitrust law.
Ament later expressed disappointment over how the hearings went. "I really thought we were going go have some impact," he told USA Today. "But somehow it didn't feel like they took [the issue] seriously. They seemed like they were more interested in getting autographs for their children." Ultimately nothing came of the Justice Department investigation either. In July of 1995, Attorney General Janet Reno ended the probe, saying there was insufficient evidence. Pearl Jam's experience with the government in the Ticketmaster affair was partially responsible for their support of Ralph Nader's presidential candidacy in 2000. Although the band was sometimes forced to work with specific Ticketmaster venues when it wanted to tour later in 1990s, Pearl Jam went out of its way to avoid using the company whenever possible, coming to an uneasy truce only at the very end of the decade.
Internal Stresses and Mirror Ball
Pearl Jam released Vitalogy in 1994 and like the two earlier records it shot quickly to the top of the Billboard charts. The band released a vinyl version two weeks before the CD came out which made Vitalogy the first vinyl record in years to hit the charts. In its first six months in stores, 4.8 million copies were sold. It was a minor miracle that the record even saw light of day. Their unbelievable success combined with the Ticketmaster fight had raised tensions in the band to almost unmanageable levels. "Nobody was communicating well at that point," Ament told USA Today, admitting that the group had nearly disbanded.
However, by February of 1995 (only two months after Vitalogy's release), the band went into the studio to make a record with Neil Young. They had performed together at Young's induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner in New York in January and quickly turned it into a project. Young cancelled his scheduled appearances in the Lollapalooza tour, and within three days of working together in Seattle, they had finished writing five songs. Young's Mirror Ball was released in the summer of 1995 followed by a joint tour. Young saw no problem playing with musicians old enough to be his children. "In many ways, I feel like Pearl Jam is older than me," he told Time. "There's an ageless thing to the way they play."
Pearl Jam continued to push the limits of rock with their own albums. No Code was released in the summer of 1996. It was recorded in a number of cities--Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Seattle. Its songs managed to be "gently reflective without losing their underlying tension," in the words of Newsday's Letta Tayler. The record drew a variety of responses from reviewers, from gushing praise to verdicts of unlistenability from others.
Between No Code and 1998's Yield, drummer David Abbruzzese left the band and was replaced by Vedder's old friend, Irons. Irons was credited by some members with lowering still-latent tensions in Pearl Jam and helping the band work better together. Along with other band members, Irons also contributed a song to Yield. It was the first Pearl Jam album on which Vedder sang lyrics he had not written. Shortly after Yield's release, however, Irons left and Pearl Jam signed on yet another drummer, Matt Cameron, formerly of Soundgarden.
In early 1999, Pearl Jam recorded a version of "Last Kiss," a ballad done by J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers in 1964, which it sent as a single to members of its fan club. By March, "Last Kiss" was getting regular airplay on Los Angeles's KROQ-FM. It quickly spread to other stations in the country, which did not please Pearl Jam, which had refused to release a single since its first album. It found a compromise when it agreed to the single's inclusion on No Boundaries, an Epic Records compilation to benefit Kosovo refugees.
Fighting Bootlegs with Bootlegs
Yield showed the power of the Internet for bootleggers when five excerpts from the album were posted on a fan website. In December of 1997, a Syracuse, New York, radio station played a DAT of the record it had somehow obtained without authorization. A fan taped the broadcast and put parts on his fan site. "It came off the radio, so I put it up," said the site's owner. "The whole idea of the site is to have rare stuff."
Throughout its career, Pearl Jam has been famous for changing its set list dramatically from show to show and, like the Grateful Dead always did, it always encouraged its fans to tape its shows. It even permitted live FM radio broadcasts of many of its concerts. An unwelcome result of these decisions was a thriving market in expensive Pearl Jam bootlegs. In 2000 the band took an unusual and extreme step against bootlegging. It announced it would release every concert it played in its upcoming European tour. Approximately 70 were originally scheduled, but the tour was abruptly cut short and only 25 sets were released in the fall of 2000. Originally they were meant to be sold only via the Pearl Jam web site, at the bargain price of $10.98 for each two-CD set. However, Epic Records eventually made them available in stores as well, generally at a much higher price. Forty-five shows from a subsequent tour of the United States were later released.
The band's summer of 2000 European tour was cut short because of a tragic incident that struck at a performance at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark in June. Security provided by the promoters was lax and poorly trained in responding to emergency situations. They were completely unprepared for the flood of fans that occurred. Nine people were crushed to death in the mob scene. An investigation of the incident absolved Pearl Jam of any blame for the deaths, but the group returned to America stunned and shaken. Once back, the musicians and crew attended counseling to help them deal with the blow. Reportedly, Vedder was depressed for weeks afterward. They decided to handle safety planning for all future shows themselves.
In October of 2000, Pearl Jam, the grunge rebels of the early 1990s, celebrated their tenth anniversary in an unlikely locale, the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. The show drew fans from all over the country. Despite the party in the glitter and gambling center, Pearl Jam has remained loyal to most of the principles it espoused throughout the decade: It continued to avoid most interviews, it did not release videos and only rarely singles, and it performed on behalf of organizations involved in worthwhile activist efforts. After a few months in stores, Pearl Jam's last album, Binaural, had sold only one million units, down significantly from the millions of sales Ten had generated. But Pearl Jam accepted the "decline" philosophically. Such success couldn't last forever, and anyway, the other grunge bands that had emerged from the Seattle scene were long since history. Pearl Jam were the survivors. What lay ahead in their next ten years? "The danger for a band that goes into its second decade is the temptation to start recycling yourself, but we've always been conscious of that," McCready told Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times. "We have insisted on moving forward and trying new things. That's what makes me think there is a lot of life still in the band."
by Gerald E. Brennan
Pearl Jam's Career
Band formed in Seattle, WA; signed with Epic Records, released debut album Ten, 1991; tour collapsed during feud with Ticketmaster, Gossard and Ament testifed before Congressional hearing on Ticketmaster's monopoly practices, 1994; vinyl Vitalogy hit Billboard charts, 1994; recorded and toured with Neil Young, 1995; pre-release tracks from Yield posted on Internet, 1998; drummer Jack Irons left the band, 1998; "Last Kiss" recorded for fan club, 1998; double-CD sets of 70 live concerts released, tenth anniversary celebrated at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, 2000.
Pearl Jam's Awards
Platinum records: Ten, 1992; Vs., 1993; American Music favorite new artist, pop/rock and favorite new artist heavy metal/hard rock, 1993; MTV Video Music best video of the year, best group video, and best metal/hard rock video, "Jeremy" (director: Mark Pellington); Rolling Stone Artists of the Year, 1994; Grammy Award, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Best Hard Rock Performance for "Spin The Black Circle" from Vitalogy,1996.
- Selected discography
- Ten , Epic, 1991.
- Vs. Epic, 1993.
- Vitalogy Epic, 1994.
- (With Neil Young) Mirror Ball , Reprise, 1995.
- No Code Epic, 1996.
- Yield Epic, 1998.
- Live on Two Legs Epic, 1998.
- (Contributor) "Last Kiss," No Boundaries Epic, 1999.
- Binaural Epic, 2000.
- Live (series of live double CDs), Epic, 2000.
November 11, 2003: Pearl Jam's album, Lost Dogs: Rarities and B-Sides, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/rock.jsp, November 12, 2003.
December 2003: Pearl Jam teamed up with Amazon.com to release the CD single "Man of the Hour" from the Big Fish soundtrack, becoming the biggest act to participate in Amazon's Advantage for Music Program. Source: E! online, www.eonline.com, December 18, 2003.
June 2004: Pearl Jam signed with BMG to release a live recording taped at Seattle, Oregon's Benaroya Hall on October 22, 2003. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, June 17, 2004.
July 27, 2004: Pearl Jam's album, Live at Benaroyal Hall: October 22, 2003, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_4/index.jsp, August 5, 2004.
- Contemporary Musicians, volume 12, Gale Research, 1994.
- Courier-Mail(Brisbane, Australia), August 29, 1996.
- Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1997; March 28, 1999; October 19, 2000.
- Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 3, 1998.
- Newsday,February 8, 1995; April 9, 1995; September 30, 1996.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 1, 1994.
- Time, July 3, 1995.
- USA Today, June 8, 1995; June 18, 1995; February 17, 1998.
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