In lieu of the coming 30th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s debut full-length, Ten, which was released on Aug. 27, 1991, Eddie Vedder and guitarist Mike McCready recall the album’s titanic success, and it’s titanic weight on the band following its intractable success in a recent feature from the latest issue of Classic Rock magazine.
Upon its release, it didn’t do that well. That is, until it gained traction after MTV put “Jeremy” in heavy rotation. The band wasn’t expecting such a sudden jump into the limelight and was overwhelmed. Vedder thought that, with the mass popularity of the album on their backs, fame would do them in. “It’s getting too big too quickly,” he remembered. “We were going to be crushed, our heads were going to pop like grapes.”
Even after releasing their sophomore follow-up, Vs, their debut kept flying up in sales and continued to sell copies eventually earning the title of eighth best-selling album of 1993 after being out for two years.
The pressure was already mounting to the verge of a breaking point. So, of course, Sony CEO Tommy Mottola demanded they release “Black” in hopes of keeping the revenue in an upward flow. “And the band was saying: ‘No. This is big enough,’” the band’s manager Kelly Curtis said, turning down everything from tours to TV specials.
The sudden inundation of all these opportunities made the band fumble. Vedder admitted that their conduct “wasn’t graceful, the way we were handling it. At the same time, it’s like being graceful in an alley fight. You’re just trying to get out of there alive. We held tight to each other and held tight to music.”
McCready, on the other hand, wanted all in. “I remember not wanting to pull back, saying: ‘This is what we’ve wanted since we were kids. Let’s keep doing this. Let’s do videos, let’s keep going, let’s embrace this.‘ But they weren’t into it. They said: ‘No, we’ve got to, because this is all gonna fall apart if we don’t.’ And I think they were right.”