When they released their debut album, Ten, in August, 1991, Pearl Jam were a band of young unknowns to anyone not from Seattle, Washington.
At home, Pearl Jam were practically a supergroup – founded in 1990 at a crossroads of classic rock, Seventies heavy metal and hardcore punk, just as that city’s underground scene was about to go worldwide.
Bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard played in the proto-grunge bands Green River and Mother Love Bone; Mike McCready was a highly regarded lead guitarist steeped in Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Matt Cameron of Seattle elders Soundgarden played drums on Pearl Jam’s early demos, finally joining in 1998 after a parade of drummers including Dave Krusen. Singer Eddie Vedder was an out-of-town wild card, a San Diego emigrant whose baritone howl, aggressively emotional lyrics and jubilantly unhinged stage presence quickly made him a universal symbol of the personal trials and cleansing rage at the heart of Nineties alternative rock.
Propelled by the hits “Alive” and “Jeremy” (about a high school student’s suicide), Ten sold over 13 million copies in America, launching a singular career of enduring commercial success (ten Top Five studio albums, half of them Number Ones) and staunch idealism. In the mid-Nineties, Pearl Jam challenged monopolistic practices in the concert-ticket industry; in 2000, they took the live-tape-sharing aesthetic to a new fan-friendly extreme, initiating a series of soundboard-quality live releases from every show – a now-common practice among bands big and new. Pearl Jam have also collaborated extensively – as a group and individuals, on stage and records – with a long list of inspirations including Neil Young, the Who and the Ramones. Twenty-five years after Ten, Pearl Jam are still one of the most reliably explosive, vigorously committed and truly modern rock bands in the world.