Pearl Jam is a popular American rock band formed in 1990 in Seattle, which enabled the band to become one of the "great four" of Grunge, alongside Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. The band formed out of the ashes of local Seattle band Mother Love Bone, whose singer Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990. Bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard began writing songs together, and eventually guitarist Mike McCready joined them. Looking for a singer and a drummer, they recorded a demo tape and gave it to former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, who declined the invitation but passed the tape onto his friend, San Diego surfer Eddie Vedder. Vedder was impressed by the tape, recorded his own vocals for a few of the songs and sent it back to Stone, Jeff, and Mike. Within a week, Vedder was hired, and flew up to Seattle to join the band.
The rest is rock history; their first album, Ten, sold over 13 million copies, with the singles "Alive" and "Jeremy" becoming massively successful. Vs., the second, reached #1 on the charts the week it came out, outselling the other nine albums on the top 10 combined. This led to some backlash from purist Seattle rock groups, especially Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who even alleged that the band had sold out to the mainstream. This led to Creator Backlash from Vedder, who decided to erase any pretense of commercialism from the band's music, which led to some tension between the band members; they had a Spinal Tap-esque Revolving Door Band of drummers around this time due to internal differences before eventually settling on Matt Cameron of the aforementioned Soundgarden. The four core members have nevertheless remained intact since the band's inception. note
Since then, the band has rebelled against their fame and stardom, first by boycotting and later suing the mega-corporation Ticketmaster, which would raise consumer ticket prices at band shows. Because of the boycott and lawsuit, the pool of venues available to the band for touring at the time shrunk drastically, much to the chagrin of their audience. Pearl Jam then decided to move away from their Arena Rock roots (for the most part) to more experimental sounds in Alternative Rock on later albums Vitalogy, No Code, and Yield. While not commercially well-received, Pearl Jam's material through the mid- to late-'90s was critically lauded before the band hit a period of stagnation at the Turn of the Millennium.note
They have since made a return to their hard rock origins with their Self-Titled Album, released in 2006note . Their following two albums, Backspacer (2009) and Lightning Bolt (2013), were domestically distributed through Pearl Jam's own label, Monkeywrench Records, with Lightning Bolt briefly holding the record as the best selling vinyl release in North America. Pearl Jam continues to tour constantly to give fans an opportunity to see them live.
Since 1998, their lineup has been:
- Eddie Vedder (vocals, guitar, ukulele)
- Mike McCready (guitar)
- Stone Gossard (guitar)
- Jeff Ament (bass guitar)
- Matt Cameron (drums), also a member of Soundgarden
- With Boom Gaspar (keyboards, touring member) since 2003.
- 1991 - Ten
- 1993 - Vs.
- 1994 - Vitalogy
- 1996 - No Code
- 1998 - Yield
- 2000 - Binaural
- 2002 - Riot Act
- 2006 - Pearl Jam
- 2009 - Backspacer
- 2013 - Lightning Bolt
- 2020 - Gigaton
- 2003 - Lost Dogs (B-Side compilation)
- 2004 - Rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 19912003)
- 2009 - Pearl Jam Twenty, aka Ten Legacy Edition note
- 2011 - Remasters of Vs. and Vitalogy, each with some bonus songs
- 2017 - A Remaster of the Self-Titled Album.
They also backed Neil Young on his 1995 album Mirror Ball. The band is also noteworthy for having loads and loads and loads of "Official Bootlegs," both to discourage piracy and also to reward completionist collectors with superior quality live recordings.
Jeremy troped in class today:
- Affectionate Parody: The song "Dirty Frank"note is a rather obvious style-parody of Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Give It Away" from Blood Sugar Sex Magik. This parody is complete with overtly sexual lyrics in the vein of Anthony Kiedis... albeit about a cannibal. The Peppers had also had their commercial breakthrough just around the time Ten was recorded.
- All Drummers Are Animals: Dave Abbruzzese's drumming was incredibly energetic, which forced the band to consider a massive shift in their style once he left. He also wrote "Go", which became a hit.
- Almighty Janitor: Vedder worked as a gas station attendant in the 1980's.
- Apocalypse How: "Do the Evolution" shows a post-modern dystopia eventually ending in nuclear war and the destruction of mankind.
- As the Good Book Says...: In the music video for "Jeremy", among the shots of words depicting others' presumed descriptions of Jeremy, there are two biblical allusions: Mark 5:13 ("the unclean spirits entered [into the pigs]"), which is actually an excerpt from the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man (Mark 5:1-20; see also Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39); and Genesis 3:6, which is also an excerpt from the creation of sin and the fall of man (Genesis 3:1-24).
- Ate His Gun: The original cut for the video for "Jeremy" ends with the eponymous character shooting himself in front of his classmates. The MTV version edited it so that the gun isn't seen on-screen.
- Atomic F-Bomb: Eddie is known to turn the Precision F-Strike in "Jeremy" into this during live performances....Seemed a harmless little FUCK
- "Awesome McCool" Name: Stone Carpenter Gossard. Yes, that's his real name.
- Ax-Crazy: "Once", where the individual first seen in "Alive" has turned into a serial killer who has long since passed the point where he could control his urges.
- Badass Baritone: Eddie.
- Badass Beard: The bandmembers, Eddie in particular, go in and out with this.
- Book-Ends: Ten opens and ends on "Master/Slave", an instrumental driven by a fretless bass. rearviewmirror has one of sorts: it begins with the Ten opening track ("Once") and ends with an outtake from that album that it's the band's usual show closer ("Yellow Ledbetter").
- Boléro Effect: "Black" uses this.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: From "Jeremy", "At home drawing pictures/ Of mountain tops/ With him on top/Lemon yellow sun/ Arms raised in a V / And the dead lay in pools of maroon below."
- In "Daughter", Vedder describes that for the titular protagonist, "The shades go down in her mind." Then, later, on "Rearviewmirror", from the same album: "Finally the shades are raised."
- "1/2 Full" references "Porch" and "Love Boat Captain" in just two lines: "There ain't gonna be any middle anymore/it's been said before."
- "Love Boat Captain" references "Tremor Christ:" "Is this just another phase of earthquakes making waves?"
- "Lightning Bolt" references "Nothingman" in its chorus: "You've got to know youll never let her go/She's a Lightning bolt!"
- Calling the Old Man Out: "Better Man", according to Eddie Vedder, is "dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma" — his stepfather, with whom he didn't share the best of relationships. Inversely seen in "Release", written for his biological father, whom he hardly knew.
- Also "My Father's Son".
- Careful with That Axe: Vedder does it sometimes, especially on "Do the Evolution" and their cover for "Love, Reign o'er Me".
- Changed for the Video: The music videos for "Alive" and "Evenflow" are that of filmed live performances, not lip-synching to the actual singles.
- Christmas Episode: Like The Beatles, Pearl Jam would release singles every Christmas exclusively to their fan club. "Last Kiss" was originally one of them before it became one of their biggest hits.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Save You"
- Corrupt Church: "Mind Your Manners".
- Cover Drop: The road sign from Yield can be seen toward the end of the "Do the Evolution" video, being shot at its top left corner.
- Curse Cut Short: From the B-Side/Lost Dog track "Dirty Frank":That Dirty Frank was a bad mother—
Shut your mouth!
Hey man, I'm just talkin' about Dirty Frank!
- Distinct Double Album: Their only Greatest Hits Album, rearviewmirror, has an "Up" disk with rockers and a "Down" disk with calmer songs.
- Does Not Like Guns: "Glorified G".
- Fading into the Next Song: A bit of "Black"'s lo-fi guitar intro can be heard trickling in at the end of "Why Go."
- The first second of "Infallible" is heard at the end of "Lightning Bolt"
- Faux Affably Evil: The Perky Goth Grim Reaper in "Do The Evolution" comes off as this, grinning manically and blowing kisses as the world falls apart around her; at the end, she grins with delight as the world is completely destroyed.
- Filk Song: "Do the Evolution" is inspired by Ishmael (1992), and the author approved it.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Jeremy's suicide at the end of the titular video. The TV edit also removes the shot of him putting the gun in his mouth.
- Gratuitous Panning: The guitar fills during the second verse of "Even Flow" switch between being played exclusively in the left channel and exclusively in the right, and the remixed version of Ten tends to put the rhythm and acoustic guitars on one side and the lead guitar on the other.
- "Pendulum" employs this, as made clear by the title.
- Grief Song: They're amazingly good at them. "Black", "Release", "Man Of The Hour", "Come Back", "Sad", "Light Years", "Just Breathe", "Immortality", "Love Boat Captain" (inspired by the death of 9 fans during a 2000 show), and for an interesting twist, "Other Side" (written from the perspective of someone who's in the afterlife, but still grieves.)
- The Grim Reaper: Present as a pretty, black-haired lady in "Do the Evolution". For this reason alone, people often mistake her for Death of the Endless, whom the girl in this video is most definitely not (Gaiman's Death doesn't revel in humanity's self-destruction, for one).
- Grow Old with Me: "Just Breathe"Yes I understand, that every life must end
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go...
Hold me 'til I die
Meet you on the other side...
- I Am Not My Father: "My Father's Son"
- I Am What I Am: "I Am Mine".
- I'm a Humanitarian: "Dirty Frank" is about a cannibal.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: "Misheard Pearl Jam" videos are quite common.
- Special mention goes out to "Yellow Ledbetter". When Eddie Vedder was asked about it in an interview, the first thing he said was "Wait... you mean there's lyrics?"
- In the Style of...: A few songs are deliberate attempts to imitate other artists: "Soon Forget" to The Who (Pete Townshend is even thanked on the lyric sheet), "Sirens" to Pink Floyd, and "Dirty Frank" is a style parody of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, particularly "Give It Away" (and it also contains a line which parodies Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft."). McCready has also said that the outro lead parts of "Black" were him "attempting to be Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a pretty poor attempt at that."
- Isn't It Ironic?: "Better Man" is heard in weddings. You know, a song that goes "She lies and says she's in love with him..."
- Last of His Kind: With Chris Cornell's suicide, Eddie Vedder became this among the Big Four Grunge frontmennote . "I'm still alive," indeed.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Eddie Vedder in the early years. One of the more unkempt examples alongside Kurt Cobain.
- Long-Runner Line-up: They've had the same crew since 1998, after going through several drummers.
- Long Title: They usually have one word-title songs. They eventually got tired of it and wrote "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town". That title especially stands out on the back cover of Vs, which is otherwise entirely one or two word titles.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- All over the place ("Even Flow," "Alive", "Better Man"...). Some get into Misaimed Fandom.
- "Alive" is a striking example, given the song sounds very hopeful, but the lyrics are actually about Parental Incest.
- More recently, there's "Force of Nature" — an uptempo riff rocker, with a rousing, upbeat final solo, which is about a man waiting, perhaps hopelessly, for his love to return to him.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: 6-7 for songs like "Blood" and "Spin the Black Circle;" 2-3 for ballads; 1 for oddities like "Sometimes." Every studio album, but Binaural and Riot Act is mostly in 4-5 territory (those are mainly 2-3).
- Miniscule Rocking: "Pry, To," "Lukin," and "Red Dot" are all just over a minute long. Due to some motormouth vocals, "Lukin" actually manages to fit in two verses, and a chorus in that time. "Arc" is slightly longer, but also miniscule in its instrumentation (droning music and Eddie yelling nine times, in homage to the deceased fans at the 2000 Roskilde show).
- Mondegreen: The chorus of "Glorified G" is easily misheard as: "glorified version of a pelican." The band knows about it, and occasionally sings it with those lyrics in concert. Also, the liner notes to Vitalogy, include a mondegreen for "Better Man," scrawled beneath the real lyrics: "Can't find the butter, man."
- As most of the band, including Eddie Vedder, are huge NBA fans, one can't be blamed if they hear "lick the dirt off Olajuwon's feet" instead of "lick the dirt off a larger one's feet" in "Rats". After all, vs. was released in 1993, when Hakeem "The Dream" was one of the NBA's top players.
- Mood Whiplash: Normally their songs are fairly depressing, but especially "Indifference." It starts off appearing to be a simple, "You'll never break me song," but what it is actually is Vedder lamenting, why he does the things he does, even though they make little difference, in what he wants to change.
- New Sound Album: After Ten and Vs., most albums got really experimental.
- Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: The lyrics and video to "Jeremy."
- Non-Appearing Title: Quite a few ("Corduroy," "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," "The Fixer," etc.)
- One-Man Song: "Johnny Guitar."
- One-Word Title: Most of the songs on Ten (except for "Even Flow" and "Why Go") and several on Vs.; averted with "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town." Most of their album titles too.
- Packaged as Other Medium: The cover of Vitalogy resembles on old book, which carries over to the inner booklet.
- Parental Incest: "Alive;" the band members stated the story is continued in "Once" (the guys snaps up and kills people), and the B-side "Footsteps" (the guy is on the death row).
- Past in the Rear-View Mirror: "Rearviewmirror."
- Perky Goth: The Grim Reaper in "Do the Evolution," of the Faux Affably Evil variety.
- Precision F-Strike:
- In "Jeremy:"Clearly I remember, pickin' on the boy // Seemed a harmless little fuck.
- In "Why Go:"She's been diagnosed // By some stupid fuck // And Mommy agrees.
- In "Porch:"What the fuck is this world coming to?
- Eddie also audibly murmurs "Fuck it up" before one of the solos in "Even Flow."
- In "4/20/02:"So sing just like him, fuckers.
- Gigaton has become their first album since Riot Act to be given a Parental Advisory, with "Superblood Wolfmoon" and "Quick Escape" each containing an F-bomb, and "Seven OClock" containing a use of "bullshit".
- In "Jeremy:"
- Protest Song: A few in the self-titled album.
- Remaster: The first three albums have been remastered and re-released, each with a number of unreleased songs and demos; Ten and the 2006 Self-Titled Album were also remixed by producer Brendan O'Brien.
- Rearrange the Song: After the departure of Dave Abbruzzese (whose drumming was a vital part of the song), "W.M.A." was reworked, adding an acoustic guitar part to play the main riff, removing the emphasis on percussion, and slightly changing the lyrics, to reflect harassment of Hispanic immigrants in Arizona.
- In My Tree was reworked following Jack Irons' departure, as well.
- Recycled Soundtrack: "Footsteps" and Temple of the Dog's "Times of Trouble" share the same melody, even though they are two distinctly different songs, not to mention "Footsteps" has a slower tempo and is performed only by a solo acoustic guitar.
- Rock Band: The second game has the entirety of Ten and Backspacer as DLC, "Life Wasted" and "Even Flow" are in Guitar Hero 2 (Xbox 360 version) and 3 (all versions) respectively.
- Shout-Out: Originally named "Mookie Blaylock," after a basketball player the guys admired. While they had to change their name, their first album, Ten, is Mookie's jersey number.
- "Yellow Ledbetter" to Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," "Given to Fly" to Led Zeppelin's "Going to California." The title of "Yellow Ledbetter" is partially a reference, to blues singer Huddy Ledbetter, better known by the Stage Name Lead Belly.
- "Love Boat Captain" includes the line: "It's already been sung, it can't be said enough, all you need is love."
- The last lines of "Rats" are a direct quote of Michael Jackson's first big solo hit — "Ben, the two of us need look no more."
- the Live Album Live On Two Legs is a play on the Queen song "Death On Two Legs" (as well as the fact that it was recorded over two "legs" of one concert tour)
- Slasher Smile: The Perky Goth Grim Reaper from "Do the Evolution" is constantly wearing one.
- Solo Side Project: Eddie Vedder did the soundtrack for the film Into the Wild, while Pearl Jam were still together. He also released a solo Ukulele album.
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein / The Unintelligible: Vedder's vocals often are a mix of these.
- Stage Names: Edward Louis Severson III took the Vedder, from his mother's birth name. Yet one of the guitarists' birth name is Stone Carpenter Gossard.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Stone Gossard sings "Mankind." When Jack Irons was still in the band, he sang lead on the compilation track: "The Whale Song," with Eddie Vedder doing backup vocals.
- Take That!: The song "Sweet Lew" serves as this, to basketball player Kareem Abdul Jabaar.
- Title Track: Amusingly, "Lightning Bolt" is their first after 11 albums (unless you count rearviewmirror).
- Uncommon Time:
- "Low Light" is largely in 13/4.
- "Push Me, Pull Me" is largely in 13/4.
- "Cropduster" has verses in 7/4 and choruses in 10/4.
- "Blood" has choruses that start in 13/4.
- "Get Right" has verses in 14/4 and choruses in 20/4.
- "Alone" has choruses in 9/4.
- "Satan's Bed" has 5/4 choruses.
- "Last Exit" has 5/4 verses.
- "The Fixer" (and an early version released on "Pearl Jam Twenty" called "Need to Know") is largely in 5/4.
- "You Are" has verses largely in 10/4.
- The band has stated that "Yellow Moon" and "Pendulum," wouldn't have made it onto Lightning Bolt, if not for some changes to the time signature.
- As it happens, "Yellow Moon" switches between 11/4 and 12/4, but "Pendulum" just sounds like 4/4.
- War Is Hell: "World Wide Suicide," and, from the point of view of the family left behind, "Army Reserve."
- Wham Line: "Jeremy spoke in class today..."
- Yarling: Eddie Vedder is the Trope Codifier for this style, to the point that "sounds like Eddie Vedder," or some variation thereof, is frequently used to describe this style.
- You're Not My Father: In "Daughter", the aloof speaker tells her mother, "Don't call me daughter." Theories abound.