Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam
▪ 1995

      One of the most popular rock bands in the United States, Pearl Jam not only wrote songs about perceived injustices but also, in June and July 1994, actually testified before a congressional subcommittee about such matters. For their summer concert tour the group planned to set ticket prices at about $20, well below the typical rate of $50, simultaneously hoping to scale the average service fee of $6 down to less than $2. When Ticketmaster Corp., the nation's largest ticket broker, refused to comply with the service-fee reduction, the band canceled its summer tour and in May filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, asserting that Ticketmaster held a national monopoly on ticket distribution.

      It was not the first time that Pearl Jam had challenged convention, nor was it the last. In an unusual move the band's third studio album, Vitalogy, was released as a vinyl record in November 1994, a couple of weeks before the compact disc was made available. Despite their superstar stature as a band that typically performed sold-out shows in large sports arenas, they occasionally scheduled last-minute concerts at small venues and experimented with alternative forms of ticket distribution—such as organizing ticket lotteries (thus bypassing Ticketmaster), imposing two-ticket limits on sales, and offering local fan-club members opportunities to purchase tickets before the general public.

      The real power of Pearl Jam, of course, lay in their angst-ridden music and intense onstage showmanship. The most visible member of the group, vocalist Eddie Vedder (b. Dec. 23, 1965, Evanston, Ill.), wrote despairing lyrics about adolescent abuse that complemented his brooding baritone voice. Other members included guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready and bassist Jeff Ament. Drummers Dave Krusen and Dave Abbruzzese left the band in 1991 and 1994, respectively.

      Pearl Jam, named after a preserve Vedder's great-grandmother made, was formed in 1991 in Seattle, Wash., at the epicentre of the burgeoning grunge scene in alternative rock. Gossard and Ament had previously played together in Seattle with the bands Green River (1984-88) and Mother Love Bone (1988-90). After being joined by McCready, the trio circulated a demo tape of Gossard's music that caught the attention of Vedder, then living in San Diego, Calif. The tape formed the basis of the band's first album, Ten, which, after its release in September 1991, became one of the most successful debuts of a rock group.

      Pearl Jam's stock rose even higher with their subsequent concert tours, music videos, and various musical side projects. Their second album, Vs., met with even greater critical acclaim and popularity than Ten had, instantly topping the music charts and selling 350,000 copies on the first day of its release in October 1993. In another unconventional move, the album was issued without accompanying singles or music videos.

      (TOM MICHAEL)

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▪ American music group
      American band that helped popularize grunge music in the early 1990s. The original members were lead vocalist Eddie Vedder (original name Edward Louis Severson III; b. December 23, 1964, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.), rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard (b. July 20, 1966, Seattle, Washington), bassist Jeff Ament (b. March 10, 1963, Havre, Montana), lead guitarist Mike McCready (b. April 5, 1966, Pensacola, Florida), and drummer Dave Krusen (b. March 10, 1966, Tacoma, Washington). Later members included Jack Irons (b. July 18, 1962, Los Angeles, California), Dave Abbruzzese (b. May 17, 1968, Stamford, Connecticut), and Matt Cameron (b. November 28, 1962, San Diego, California).

      Pearl Jam came into being in Seattle in 1990 when Gossard and Ament of the glam (glam rock)-influenced rock combo Mother Love Bone decided to form a new band following the death of their group's lead singer, Andrew Wood. Named after the unusual homemade jam of Vedder's great-grandmother Pearl, the band released its first album, Ten, in 1991. alternative rock had already begun to receive mainstream acceptance, thanks largely to the popularity of Nirvana—who, like Pearl Jam, were part of Seattle's vibrant music scene—and Ten (featuring the major hits "Jeremy," "Evenflow," and "Alive" ) became a multimillion-seller.

      With angry, stadium-style rock highlighted by Vedder's impassioned baritone vocals, Pearl Jam joined Nirvana as the musical voice of Generation X. The group also earned a reputation for resisting the mainstream music industry. Notably, they refused to produce music videos (music video) for any of the songs on their second album, Vs (1993), and in 1994 they canceled a tour as the result of a heated battle over ticket prices. Instead, the band scheduled concerts at venues that were much smaller than the stadiums they usually played and experimented with unorthodox ticket distribution techniques.

      Vitalogy (1994), the group's third multimillion-selling album, explored longing and loss, and it included the Grammy (Grammy Award)-winning single "Spin the Black Circle." Pearl Jam backed Neil Young (Young, Neil) on Mirror Ball (1995), then released No Code (1996), whose stylistic departure disappointed some fans. Despite good reviews, Yield (1998) and Binaural (2000) were not commercial successes. Pearl Jam, however, remained a popular concert draw, and its 2000 European tour was chronicled on 25 live and unedited CDs. The politically charged Riot Act (2002) was a solid rock album, but its intensity did not approach the eponymous Pearl Jam (2006). Critics and fans embraced the return to the arena-rock sound of Vs, and singles like "World Wide Suicide" recalled the anger and urgency of "Jeremy." In 2007 Vedder made his solo debut with Into the Wild, the score for the Sean Penn (Penn, Sean) film of the same name. The film recounted the true story of a young man who turned his back on society to live in the Alaska wilderness, and Vedder's award-winning sound track captured the mood with stripped-down instrumentation and lyrics that recalled traditional American roots ballads.

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Universalium. 2010.

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