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Pearl of Wisdom: Our 1991 Pearl Jam Feature

(Credit: Lance Mercer)

This article originally appeared in the September 1991 issue of SPIN. In honor of Pearl Jam’s Ten turning 30 today, we’re republishing this article here.

It’s a rock ‘n’ roll comfort thing—you wouldn’t understand. Especially if you’re a guard at Harrod’s department store in London, where Seattle’s Pearl Jam discovered that the ensemble the band wears—cut-off fatigue shorts accessorized with electrical tape, tie-dyed long underwear, and rock T-shirts—is completely misunderstood. The members of the seductively churning rock band found this out when a guard asked them to leave the premises, even though vocalist Eddie Vedder offered to go straight to the men’s department and buy something else to wear. He was denied, and Pearl Jam was escorted from the store.

The guard obviously didn’t get the fact that the Pearl Jam style comes from a tight musical community, and unless you’ve been living on Mars you know that the Seattle scene is a mighty one. Guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament were in the seminal grunge outfit Green River with Mudhoney’s Mark Arm in the late ’80s, after which Gossard and Ament joined Mother Love Bone. After Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood passed away last year, they got together with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron to record a tribute project, Temple of the Dog, with Pearl Jam’s Vedder and its master of long guitar leads, Mike McCready.

“This year Seattle had a convention and it was just like being in L.A.,” says Ament. “There are bands who’ve moved away who are putting ‘From Seattle’ on their flyers. So I guess it’s a draw.”

So much of a draw that Cameron Crowe filmed his new movie, Singles, in Seattle with Matt Dillon, who plays in the fictional band Citizen Dick with Gossard, Ament, and Vedder. The movie is a veritable lovefest of local musicians. “It was kind of a nightmare when we were making our album, because the movie was going on and we just wanted to finish recording and go out on the road,” says Ament.

So Pearl Jam went far away from home to work in a 500-year-old house in England, surrounded by tennis courts and lots of sheep. The band mixed its debut album, Ten, and watched the NBA Finals, which were sent over from America on video. Basketball is important to Pearl Jam. Only recently the band played under the name Mookie Blaylock, after the New Jersey Nets point guard. When the guys asked Vedder to join the band, this was the chain of events: “We had five days of rehearsals, we wrote ten songs, and then we played a show,” says Vedder. “On the seventh day we went into the studio and then to see the Bulls play the Sonics in the Kingdome.”

Gossard adds, “Then we went to the mountaintop and rejoiced.”