Legendary Seattle grunge band, Pearl Jam, released its debut LP, Ten, 30 years ago today, August 27, 1991. The 11-track album reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart by late 1992, as the then-new sludgy musical movement began to skyrocket with peers like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden.
Videos by American Songwriter
The two-time Grammy-nominated album featured global hits like “Once,” “Even Flow,” “Alive,” “Jeremy” and “Oceans.” The album, recorded in Seattle’s London Bridge Studios, also won four MTV Video Music Awards. But more than that, it was a cultural mainstay and helped to usher in new sounds.
Pearl Jam, which formed in 1990 and is today comprised of lead singer Eddie Vedder, guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron (though drummer Dave Krusen appeared on Ten), has since gone on to release 11 LPs, including Gigaton in 2020. And since its release, Ten has been certified platinum many times over.
On Wednesday (August 25), Artist Waves celebrated the anniversary with a song-by-song retrospective that the band shared on its Twitter page, including thoughts from R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, former Red Hot Chili Peppers multi-instrumentalist Josh Klinghoffer, rock journalist Matt Pinfield, pro surfers Kelly Slater and Rob Machado, bassist and frontman Isaiah Radke, My Morning Jacket’s founder Jim James and The Black Tones’ frontwoman Eva Walker.
Stipe recalled the first time he heard Ten and the track, “Even Flow”:
“My very first thought was that voice, Eddie’s voice—wow, this is fresh and new, and we hadn’t heard a voice like that since Bad Company Seagull’ era Paul Rodgers, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and Otis Redding – soulful and real, and pushing its upper registers, partly shouted, but really sung and tuneful and powerful. Like a roughed-up Neil Diamond or Argent or The Guess Who. It was really ready for radio but rough and real.
“Lyrically ‘Even Flow’ told a story. Songs didn’t much tell stories then, that was fresh and new, and they all looked cool, too. Not retro. Not punk. Just like pacific northwest-something-is-going-on, an attitude that the rest of the country hadn’t picked up on yet. Musically, it was The Feelies, Glenn Branca, and Presence Led Zeppelin. It deeply resonated emotionally, and spearheaded, and helped crystallize an era.”
Slater said of the album and the track, “Alive”:
“’Alive’ was an anthem in the early ’90s for my generation. It was also a song that a friend of Eddie’s and mine woke up singing after a heart attack and thinking he had died. Funny enough his name was Jeremy. RIP Jeremy ‘Wire’ Curtain.
“Prior to ever knowing anyone in the band, I was a huge fan of their music. I traveled with a friend named Shane Herring from Australia in the early ’90s and in ’92 all he listened to was Pearl Jam. That’s what introduced me to them. I won my first world title that year and Shane placed 4th. A couple of years later, Shane disappeared from pro surfing and got caught up in drugs and alcohol quite extensively. While going through a rough patch, I asked Eddie to call him and just lend him some support as a surprise. It was a touching gesture.
“Everyone has a band or song that accurately sums up what you think and feel and Pearl Jam has been that for me.”