Pearl Jam – Rock from Seattle

I’m not one to compartmentalize any band into one specific genre. Especially nowadays considering all the cross over things that musicians and bands are currently doing during these pandemic times. For me, I never stuck to any specific genres growing up, I was always all over the place music-wise. Like most people should be.

When Pearl Jam’s 1991 album Ten came out, I was working in music retail and at the time and even then, I knew this band was something special.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Because the album started out shaky at first, but then once MTV started playing the hell out of it. The next thing you know, there’s a new genre called grunge happening. I’m not one to be trendy, for me it was still rock with some pissed off angst added for good measure. 

The Band Members – Causing Chaos

Forming in Seattle in 1990, the band’s line-up consisted of founding members Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), and Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), as well as Matt Cameron (drums), who joined in 1998. Keyboardist Boom Gaspar has also been a touring/session member with the band since 2002.

Drummers Jack Irons, Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlain, and Dave Abbruzzese are former members of the band. Furthermore, being hailed as “the most popular American rock & roll band of the ’90s”. “Ten” stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for nearly five years and has gone on to become one of the highest-selling rock records ever, going 13x platinum in the United States.

Pearl Jam – Live at Lollapalooza

In 1992, I saw Pearl Jam at the Fillmore in Miami and then a few months later at lollapalooza. The reason why I know this is because both shows were over the top and shortly after lollapalooza, Hurricane Andrew, tore up South Florida and then moved up the coast causing chaos.

Despite the stress of a hurricane looming over the gulf nearby and coming our way, 30,000 music fans showed up to see Ministry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, Jesus and Mary Chain, Pearl Jam, and Lush. Plus, circus sideshow, art exhibitions. Crazy? Yes!

But a lot of bands don’t come to South Florida, so the diehard music fans travel to see the bands. Despite pulling myself out of a mosh pit during Ministry’s set, the live performances were epic! Then to have Al Jourgensen from Ministry join Pearl Jam on stage to sing “Rockin’ in the Free World” Epic, is all I can say. There’s a blurry video of the performance somewhere on YouTube.

Crazy Mary Cover 

Victoria Williams originally wrote this song and to this day, people still argue over what the song and it’s story is really about. Let it go, and just enjoy whatever version you like. Although, on the video and live performances of this by Pearl Jam, keyboardist Boom Gaspar’s solo knocks it out of the park! It’s fantastic! This cover is one of my favorites of Williams songs. Besides, we all have a few Crazy Mary’s in our families or close friends nearby. Is it from a woman’s point of view or a from a man? It doesn’t matter, it’s a great song and story in whatever way you interpret it. 

The Ups & Downs and In-Betweens

Unlike most bands, they had issues with making videos, Vedder felt that the songs should be left to listeners exploring their own interpretations. Krusen left the band in May 1991 and is replaced by Matt Chamberlain, who left for another gig, Chamberlain left to join the Saturday Night Live band and suggested Dave Abbruzzese. They hated giving interviews, they were touring constantly.

Vedder said that “playing music and then getting a shot at making a record and at having an audience and stuff, it’s just like an untamed force…But it didn’t come from jock mentality. It came from just being let out of the gates.”  A very apropos comment during this time. But as some say, success can be great, or it can be a burden and Pearl Jam was teetering between the two. 

With the VS. album, they decided to scale back on the commercial efforts, they capped their ticket prices, hell they even took on Ticketmaster about price gouging! But sadly, someone always loses everything on Monopoly! Amid all the chaos, they fire Dave Abbruzzese and replaces him with Jack Irons who is officially announced as their new drummer in 1995.

Vitalogy  releases first on November 22, 1994 on vinyl and then two weeks later on December 6, 1994 on CD and cassette. The CD became the second-fastest-selling in history, with more than 877,000 units sold in its first week. With their boycott with Ticketmaster, they couldn’t tour in the U.S. What you do? you record…No Code, Yield, a documentary, and an animated video!

In April 1998, Pearl Jam once again changed drummers. Jack Irons left the band and is replaced with former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, they finally tour again in 1998 and do a live album, Live on Two Legs, which featured live tracks from the tour. 

They take a short break after then afterwards they release Binaural their sixth album. Which takes a right turn from what they have been doing and the sales show it. They release Riot Act and do a tour; they take a step back and re-evaluate their situation and make the necessary changes and moves forward. 

Flash Forward to 2020 – Gigaton

So, with this album, some of the music critics were vicious and at times aloof about what they were really trying to say. But for me, I like it! Because it offers up a lot of musical choices for fans to embrace. After all the reflections on the past and all the bullshit they went through, my theory is that they’re still a band, they have a lot of heart, hope and courage to keep trudging forward. And seriously, that’s all we can ask for from a band with this much talent.

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