The story has been told thousands of times, but it bears repeating: Pearl Jam should never have happened.
The ’90s had just begun. In March 1990, the promising Seattle rock band Mother Love Bone was about to unveil their debut album. But on the eve of the release, the band’s lead singer, Andrew Wood, died tragically of a heroin overdose. His band members, guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament were blind-sided, devastated, and decided to end the band. Over the next few months, Gossard slowly found his way back to music. He made a few demos that landed in the hands of a surfer from San Diego via Chicago who got them from ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons. The surfer’s name was Eddie Vedder. The songs he sent back? “Alive,” “Once,” and “Footsteps.”
Pearl Jam formed around the intensity of these songs. And on Aug. 27, 1991, they brought them into the open with their harrowing masterpiece, Ten. Musically, the album’s blend of classic rock, punk, and metal opened up the sonic possibilities for this new genre called grunge. Ten wasn’t an overnight success. There was a little buzz coming from their hometown of Seattle — that would come a few months later — but if you knew, you knew. Sub Pop was rapidly ascending. Soundgarden and Nirvana were set to unleash their fire and fury onto a new audience. Alice in Chains was already well on their way. But Pearl Jam was just … different.
In the months following Ten‘s release, “Alive” caught on, as did the band’s magnetic live show. MTV Unplugged was the perfect vehicle to display the catharsis of hearing Pearl Jam live and unvarnished. Ultimately, music videos like “Jeremy” and “Even Flow” catapulted them to stardom — another testament to the insane appeal of their sound, since none of the band members took much of an interest in promotional tactics.
Had it not been for strange twists, a confluence of serendipitous events, and instantly killer chemistry between the core four band members, the music world would be a much, much different place.
But they survived, endured, and carved out a legacy that seemed impossible 30 years ago. They continue to sell out arenas, stadiums, and festivals, and their influence is undeniable.
In honor of Ten turning 30 today, we spoke with 30 musicians who reflected on Pearl Jam and the album’s lasting influence.
Julian Casablancas, The Strokes
As a teenager, we’d hang out in our bedroom and listen to mixtapes, and one of Nikolai’s [Fraiture] older brother’s ‘cool’ friends (ah, older kids) had turned him on to “Yellow Ledbetter” (way before it was mega-in-the-know) was a B-side I think, but we thought it was some secret demo. Anyway, that is literally the moment that changed my life. It hit me in a bizarre and deep way, and I understood the dark mystery and power of music in that weird instant.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m seriously thinking about trying my hand at music as I just learned guitar and was drawn to music theory and finally had a knack for SOMETHING. I decided to (again on tape – I’m old OK, mean internet people) record myself singing over some Pearl Jam songs and sang my heart out over “Alive” and “Jeremy” and felt the power and felt like it was maybe pretty good, until I listened back. Horror and sadness overcame me as I realized like a punch in the stomach that in fact, I had a horrible voice. I recovered and decided I’d be a guitarist and try to improve other people’s songs instead. only slowly after getting good at writing songs and years of practice did I become ok (Nothing compared to Eddie Vedder obviously – the punk Freddie Mercury of our time).
Anyway, I still wear corduroy jackets and hope that Eddie Vedder will run for office. They were the Beatles of our time really. Anyway, thank you Pearl Jam, for everything. Also, I loved Mookie Blaylock, (the basketball player) which was their original name.
Corin Tucker, Sleater-Kinney
Ten hit our generation like the seventh wave in the ocean – the huge wall of guitars made gritty with the grunge sound, along with the epic wail of Eddie’s voice.
“Black” is my favorite song – the opening riff is so iconic. I remember when we toured with them around 2001, “Black” was usually the last song of their set. And Sleater-Kinney were lucky enough to guest on an encore song so there was a “spot” we were supposed to be standing on. But I couldn’t see Mike McCready play guitar from there! So I would sneak around to the other side of the stage for that song, making Dick Adams, the legendary production guy, freak out as he was running around trying to find our band! I remember thinking, I can’t believe this is my life right now!
John Doe, X
Like most people, “Alive” was the first song I remember hearing from PJ and even after one listen, I realized they and some others in Seattle were bringing real electric guitars back into mainstream culture. That was a good thing. It was evident that PJ took time to developed a sound that was intentional, accessible, exuberant w/ an honest soul. Though its influences could be heard, their sound was unique. Thank goodness they and the other Seattle bands saved us from hair metal.
Little did we realize our paths would cross in 2012 when X opened for them in South America and Europe. They shared members of their crew, recorded our sets, played with us during our show, invited us on stage during theirs and kept us safe inside the PJ bubble. Seeing 70,000 fans in Sao Paulo (and every other city) sing along to every song, brought home just how important a band they have become.
Nancy Wilson, Heart
In the early ’90s, it couldn’t have been hipper to be from Seattle. The explosion of the music coming out of the northwest was insanely great.
My best buddy Kelly Curtis who managed Mother Love Bone who then morphed into Mookie Blaylock which then became Pearl Jam, introduced me to the whole scene and all the amazing bands of the time. Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees.
Cat Butt, Sleater-Kinney, Nirvana and the list goes on.
I was lucky enough to watch each metamorphosis of Pearl Jam in clubs and stages around town. Then there was the summer I got to hitch my wagon to their European tour. There were so many wonderful moments and big laughs along the way. Every guy in Pearl Jam is a stellar human being. They have a truly beautiful brotherhood of love that always extends to their entire crew. The live shows were astounding as always and the raw energy was formidable. It seemed they spent most of the show flying through the air.
Ed carried this classic old tweed suitcase full of his writings around everywhere which often became a seat for waiting for some kind of transportation or another. There were beers in Edinburgh, wine in Paris, and the world’s best coffee in Rome.
Their fans are such loyal people and still to this day they know every syllable of every word to every Pearl Jam song. There is only one Pearl Jam and I am honored to have them as friends.
Perry Farrell, Jane’s Addiction/Porno for Pyros
I remember when I saw Pearl Jam for the first time. We had the same agent, Don Muller, so Don made sure that I was on the side of the stage to see them. And it’s one of those moments where…have you ever seen someone and fell in love with them at first sight? It was like that. These guys, they’ve got you know, they’ve got the right message, they got the right attitude. They’re rocking their asses off as if there’s no tomorrow. And we’ve been friends ever since. “Even Flow” was the song for me when I went “I like these guys.”
It’s a testament to them that they can last 30 years in this country in this world, as a group. To start off, not even to begin to speak about their music. Just that they’re there. I want to say like, their motivation, their message and their intentions. It’s a testament to who they are as people that it’s lasted this long.
Donita Sparks, L7
Gonzales Photo/Peter Troest/PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Well, I’ll always have a soft spot for “Even Flow.” L7 were playing Finsbury Park in London with Pearl Jam and some other bands in the summer of 1992. We were goofing off with Eddie Vedder backstage before Pearl Jam’s set. Our drummer Dee was late with her period and not feeling great so I started singing “Let Dee Flo-ow” and then Eddie started singing it better, of course. Later during their set, Eddie sang the line once or twice during the real “Even Flow,” which we thought was great. I always think of that when I hear that track. Brings a smile.
Jerry Cantrell, Alice in Chains
It [Ten] was a rebirth for those guys. They had such an unfortunate blow with the loss of Andy [Wood] right as their album is coming out. There was a real kind of a brotherhood between all of the artists in Seattle and it was really meaningful to see them pick themselves up, start again and invite Ed and Dave [Krusen] into the band. To have that record have the sort of impact that it has is really powerful. It was very right for those guys all find each other and we were really, really, really happy for that — I still am. They’re one of the greatest bands in the history of rock and roll and they made one really important record together.
“Black” is a great record, just as a piece of work, but every track on the album I think is really important. They started out with “Alive” in 91 and then “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” huge fucking song. But “Black” has always been my favorite from the record.
They deserve a ton of credit for fighting through adversity and starting anew. That record is still really powerful.
I first heard Ten when I was 16. What an age to be hit by that group of songs, guitar tones, and lyrics. The CD was in my player every morning on the way to school. I have vivid memories of closing my eyes and my bedroom door and trying to sing every one of those songs. That same year I saw Pearl Jam perform at a small amphitheater at the University of Hawai’i and it changed my life forever.
Patrick Carney, The Black Keys
Josh Brasted/Getty Images
That time, in August and September 1991, was the 1968 of my generation with so much cool music with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica, all releasing albums within a small window. I think that sonically, those records kind of take you to that early ’90s place in a really good way. But some of those records from that time sound dated, but Ten holds up. There are some songs that I really liked off the first record like “Alive,” which introduced me to Temple of the Dog which introduced me to Soundgarden. I think it’s crazy that records turned 30 to think of all the insane fucking records that came out in that one little 60-day window is insane.
I started off as a big Nirvana guy when I was younger then became a team Pearl Jam because those dudes are some of the nicest guys you could ever meet. The first time we ever did a show with Pearl Jam was we played in Berlin with them. They asked us to play and we had our own show booked at some punk, small rock and roll club when we were on tour for Magic Potion but this special show popped up. They hooked us up and we had to play like 15,000 people and then we went and played our own show at like midnight that night and Eddie came to the show, sat and watched this play until 1:30 in the morning and the crowd freaked out that Eddie Vedder was at the club and it made us look really cool. Then I remember playing with them in Summer 2014, we were playing some festivals with them and I just remember getting to watch some serious World Cup soccer with Eddie Vedder and it was very enjoyable.
Ben Blackwell, Third Man Records
All these years later, it’s hard to even remember a time prior to Pearl Jam (and fairly, Nirvana too) having exploded onto the mainstream. In my head, it’s almost like I woke up one morning, age 9, and the entire musical landscape had changed. If I were to simplify my life into any sort of musical “before” and “after” it’s punctuated by the imagined image of Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder punching through some fog declaring they’re here for me.
As the years pile on, it’s a funny little exercise discerning my “favorite” song from Ten. At this point, the singles of “Alive” and “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” have been heard SO many times that they kinda just feel like something that’s been there my entire life. The love I felt for those songs as a pre-teen has definitely waned through their marked over-exposure. I find it difficult to still get excited by them. But that just lets me have a deeper appreciation of “Porch.” It’s impossible for me to think of the song without connecting it to the transformative performance of it during the MTV Unplugged session. Eddie writing “Pro Choice!!!” on his arm during the instrumental breakdown still feels powerful and important today and the song itself hits hard. “Porch” is the only song off Ten that I am guaranteed to listen to in full when a version pops up on SiriusXM Pearl Jam Radio. Enough said.
Laura Jane Grace
I cannot overestimate the impact that Ten had on me and my friend group as young teens. The album came out right as I was starting to play with my first band, and given that we had no original songs written, we covered Pearl Jam songs. This was down in southwest Florida, pretty much the polar opposite of Seattle, WA, but grunge became the sound.
After a couple of poorly received appearances at our church talent shows, my band made the big jump to playing at the Collier County Fair. There still exists a video of us playing a cover of “Porch” to a completely disinterested audience. But the funniest part was that everyone in the band was wearing a Pearl Jam shirt!
The really astounding thing, though, is how those songs have stuck with me. Here we are more than 25 years later and you could wake me from a dead sleep, hand me a guitar and I could bust out the riff for “Alive” on command. I’ll remember how to play those songs until the day I die. There’s nothing that could dislodge them from my muscle memory.
1. It’s as if they made their fifth record first. The music and musicianship is as fully realized as a band that’s prepared for its destiny.
2. No one had ever heard a voice like this in the history of rock, a voice that sounded as if it were coming from our hearts as much as it was from Ed.
3. Songs that range from three-to-nine minutes, that are lyrically as compelling as a timelessly penned novel or biography.
4. Finally a safe sonic space to replace our generational displacement.
5. They brought it/bring it to the stage live every night and raised the bar for all bands and fans as to what the intensity level of a show could reach.
6. The depth of their friendship and camaraderie with one another matches the depth of their music.
7. They revere their fans with the same intensity as their fans love them. PJ’s fan club, The Ten Club, is the gold standard for all bands.
8. Can we talk about Ed climbing the scaffolding?
9. They’d be the exact same people had Ten not done what Ten did.
10. I can’t wait for “Twenty.”
I could not have been at a more perfect age to appreciate Ten when it came out. I had just turned 13 and moved to a new school. I was hooked and so were the kids that were going to become some of my closest friends, still to this day. We bonded over that album.
Then after school, it was just me, my little yellow sports walkman (with Ten in it) and my skateboard, outside for hours. Occasionally coming inside to catch a glimpse of the “Jeremy” video and watch Aeon Flux. Just better times.
It’s going to have to be between “Even Flow” and “Alive” as my favorite songs on Ten. Even though people think I’m the quintessential favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, I’m a sucker for big choruses. I found it enjoyable to try to imitate Eddie Vedder and could sing these two songs all day long.
Being a huge sports fan and knowing the story behind the whole Mookie Blaylock inspiration for Ten sealed the deal for me as Pearl Jam being the perennial band that restored my faith in classic rock.
Taylor Momsen, The Pretty Reckless
It’s hard to put into words the raw emotion that Pearl Jam puts into their music. In the past few years, I’ve been looking for music that inspires me, and without fault, every time a Pearl Jam song comes on, I’m whisked away into the angst of the vocal and the lyrics, and surrounded by the playing of one of the most energetic bands of all time. Of course, Ten delivers this to perfection status. It’s no wonder that in a time when the competition was so high, that this record shines through, holding its own, and mostly surpassing its peers. It’s every band’s dream to have their sound captured on tape, and Ten simply does it with seeming ease. You feel like the band is in your living room with you. The songs themselves are the star of the show, with their unique storytelling and poetry to match. Easily a record I put on when I want to be reminded why I traded my life for this obsession we call rock and roll, and as soon as it starts cranking, I feel vindicated in my decision. The record sounds as if The Doors and The Who had a baby, who was raised by Neil Young, and then that baby made stadiums rock. Love it.
Scott Lucas, Local H
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
We’d been around for a little bit before that record came out. My sister’s husband at the time had it, so I listened to it and I didn’t really like the way it sounded. I thought it was a little too reverb-y and it wasn’t totally my cup of tea. But, Eddie’s voice was this thing. It was just like that guy sounds amazing. I would listen to it, basically, because of his voice. Then when I saw them live at The Metro in Chicago, it was great. And they were so good live, and they’re still good live and are one of the few bands that can navigate those stadium shows.
I really liked “Release” a lot, just the way it built and the way that vocal really rose up. I remember thinking with “Black,” “What was going on with that song?” It had this really weird production where almost sounded like a Survivor song from the ’80s or something, but there was this crazy emotion going on it. That really did stick out to me. What was also interesting to me is that they didn’t keep doing that type of song. It seemed like people wanted them to keep doing a song like that. And they were like, “Yeah, no we don’t want to do that anymore.’ They took a left turn and all these bands sort of showed up and the wake and were like “We’ll do it,” but no one did it better.
When we released our song “Eddie Vedder,” there was a certain amount of snark in it on our part, but also some real honesty. Everyone on the radio at that time sounded like Vedder, which was embarrassing to everyone else. Then somebody told me that that kind of bummed Eddie Vedder out and I didn’t want to do that. I remember finally meeting him in Chicago, like only a few years ago, and brought it up. I was like, “Hey, you know, I wrote that song and somebody told me that you were bummed out about it. I apologize and I really didn’t mean to do anything like that.” He was like, “Yeah, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Somebody must have given you some bad information. Never crossed my mind.” So that was pretty funny. We ended up singing along to some Who songs off the jukebox after that.
I met Eddie Vedder before I saw Pearl Jam play live in person. It was Aug. 12, 1992, Lollapalooza Waterloo Village. A year after Ten‘s release. My friend Tim Donnelly was doing a story on Eddie for the Surfrider Foundation newsletter and invited me along to the interview with my camera. We were having trouble getting backstage so EV jumped over the backstage fence, into the public space to sit down with us for a conversation. I felt such warm vibes from him right from the start.
Quiet and humble, he cared about the ocean and Mother Earth and was very generous with his time. Eventually, I asked to take some portraits of him and I had my old Nikon FE and my Rolleiflex twin-lens camera ( for you camera geeks out there ) That I still have to this day. The short session was relaxed and he was very present in the moment. Subtle collaboration at its best. One of these images ended up on the cover of SPIN. Eventually, Eddie walked through the crowd saying hello to people and then scaled the fence to backstage. I didn’t realize at the time that climbing on things was something Eddie was very good at. You wouldn’t know that if you hadn’t seen a live PJ show.
Fast forward to the show and Pearl Jam came out on FIRE. My thoughts were, THIS is the guy we were chilling with a short while ago? Stomping all over the stage with an incredible energy force. They played all songs from Ten aside from the encore “Rockin in the Free World” by Neil Young. Which of course they still do. So eventually, during the set EV begins to climb the scaffolding right above Tim Donnelly and I, and I realize at this moment that my motor drive batteries ran out and I had to plan on one frame to capture this moment. It never occurred to me until recently since getting to know him and how observant he is, that he probably spotted us in the crowd, and as I waited patiently, he leaped off of the scaffolding right over the top of us, I saw my moment and grabbed it. Bam. I had a moment of meeting someone and watching them transform on the stage into some incredible performer who connected with the audience with the support of a monster band and just fell in love with this record. It became such a part of my life moving forward. A soundtrack for my ears and my eyes. Now we have PJ on the Beach in Asbury Park at Sea Hear Now. First show in three years. I wonder what they have in store for us.
Myles Kennedy, Alter Bridge
It’s interesting because I knew of the former entity Mother Love Bone. So after Andrew passed away, no one really knew how they were going to be able to replace him and how that was going to pan out. I think the first song I heard might have been “Alive.” I was like, “Wow, that’s, that’s great!” That’s really good that the new guy is an awesome singer and little did I know just how big that was gonna get in the coming year. And it just exploded. I think once they put out “Jeremy” it was, I hate using this phrase, but game-changer in a lot of ways.
It’s one of those situations very similar to what happened with AC/DC, where you had Bon Scott pass away and how are you going to replace Bon Scott? And then they make the biggest record of their career with Brian [Johnson] right after that. So it was kind of the same dynamic. It was really exciting because those of us who live in Spokane to see these bands in Seattle, not just have some success, but literally changed the landscape of pop culture in an instant. That was really something to was inspiring. We were very proud of all those bands, what they were doing.
David Lovering, Pixies
When I’m going back to that time, which was ’91-’92, that was the era of it. We were still a band, the Pixies were still and going and I was still married at the time and living in Los Angeles. I was married to a publicist who worked at Epic Records and was working with Pearl Jam, so I had an early introduction to them. Of course, I heard them not on a record or anything, but it was a tape. I think if there’s any song that struck me, I think it’d be “Even Flow.” I think that’s a little harder, at least of the popular songs on it, compared to “Jeremy” or something like that. But I think that I was more I enjoyed more of that emerging grunge kind of thing of them. Back in that day, I saw them five or six times.
And the reason I say that is because again, I was married at the time, we would go to the show when they came to L.A., or we would travel to wherever because she was working it so I would see Pearl Jam a lot. That was my indoctrination to it and stuff like that. I still enjoy the shows and they were fantastic.
Even before the album was released, Eddie wanted to meet me through my wife because he was a little unsure of being in a band and had some questions and stuff like that. So we went to lunch one day, and this is before I even heard anything, it was just brand new before anything came out and I heard bits and pieces of it. We were talking we’re getting along great and I was saying, ‘Hey, just enjoy yourself and stuff like that. And I’m thinking ‘Oh yeah this band. it’d be interesting. I don’t know how they’re going to do and whatever like that.’ Of course, Baboom! They just blow up and stuff like that. So that was funny. And then I’ve seen Eddie throughout the years because we remember that time we met. He’s a wonderful guy and everything like that and it’s great whenever we connect.
Pearl Jam has always been a band that has meant so much to me. Not only is the songwriting profoundly relatable, Eddie’s voice has always struck a note of understanding within my soul. A debut like Ten…where do I even start? To think of the history of that band in the Seattle scene, Jeff and Stone having been such staples and already having experienced much through Green River and Mother Love Bone, and then recruiting Mike, thrills me. Then inviting Mr. Vedder into the picture from California to begin their journey. Dave Krusen joined in and they were a band. I love the lore of their formation and what lead to Ten.
Elements of each member’s past can be heard in that record. Tones of Jimi, Jim Morrison, punk, straight-up poetry. But the coolest thing about Ten is that the amalgam of each member’s musical core made for a sound that was fresh and untouchable. I had never heard a song like “Jeremy.” It still remains in a league of its own. As do all the songs on Ten. What an anthem to sing “I’m still alive.” Those words will never tire. And the ballads are some of the best parts. From the airy pleas of “Release” to the tumbling melody of “Oceans,” there is depth and questioning to this album that continues to evolve for me. “Why Go” always piqued my feminist mentality, and that is another thing I have always respected about this band. They care about women. Ten is grungy and pissed, but open and tolerant. Eddie lets you in on his family history. Mike wails out the riffs, and Stone, Jeff, and Dave hold it down with a visceral groove.
A very special record that will always mean something to the world and an introduction to a band that forever changed the musical landscape.
Adrian Quesada, Black Pumas
I had just started to play guitar when I came home with Pearl Jam’s Ten on CD from the local mall. I was obsessed with hip hop at the time and the musical excess of hair metal at the time had kept me away from guitar-based music but the trio of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam (who all released a seminal album within a month of each other) quickly shifted my attention to rock music. It felt like a rebirth for rock and roll and came at just the right point in my life. When I first heard “Alive,” my first impression was how unique the guitar riff was and it was likely the first song I learned off tablature.
Stone Gossard had one of the most original approaches to the guitar and Eddie Vedder’s voice also seemed to have no precedent, not to mention the rest of the band kicked ass and also looked cool as shit to me – a rock band wearing basketball jerseys! Stone would become one of the more influential guitarists at a formative time for me, I even went so far as to get a Les Paul and a Peavey Classic 30 amp because of him. Thirty years later, the band has been a prime example of how to establish longevity with integrity, creativity and grace, and I’m forever grateful for the groundwork they’ve laid.
Dan Gleason, Grouplove
When I was seven years old my mom had to go away to receive treatment for a few tough stretches. My brother Sean and I would listen to “Release” every night just to know that someone else had felt a piece missing and come out the other side. It gave us hope it would be alright. When my father passed recently, “Release” was the first piece of music I went for. “I’ll hold the pain, release me” is somehow brave, sad, longing, and defiant. It’s the eye of the grieving process. It still makes me feel connected. It still gives me the same hope. Ten was my first musical and emotional road map and I’m forever grateful for it. Here’s to 30!
Dave Hillis, Engineer of Ten
Looking back over the last 30 years, I’m not sure I fully appreciated the gravity of the situation at the time. Pearl Jam’s Ten was one of the first real label projects I had worked on. I wish I had taken the time to really appreciate how special that moment was. We all came up together in the scene and I was just so focused on doing my job that I took it for granted.
What strikes me now, and probably had the greatest impact on my career going forward, was the level of focus and dedication that the band and Rick [Parashar] had on the art. They were very intentional and laser-focused on getting great sounds, finding the groove and getting the perfect performance. There were no “tricks” or “frills” in those sessions. I continue to be impressed with how honest it really was. My production style today continues to rely on many of the lessons I learned from them back then.
I was going into eighth grade in the autumn of 1991, and after band practice at my friend Craig’s house, we got into his dad’s liquor stash and put on MTV. They had just started to play the video for “Alive,” and while Craig turned his nose up at Pearl Jam in favor of Glenn Danzig’s satanic appeal, I was transfixed. They had plenty of hallmarks of older rock and roll; McCready’s playing sounded like Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Vedder often dipped into Roger Daltrey territory, and Ament’s bass playing had plenty of soul. At the same time, to my young ears they had something completely new. They had an intense energy, and I could hear the Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, and even Fugazi in what they were doing. And it just seemed like something my friends and I could maybe accomplish if all the stars aligned and we just had a few inspired band practices.
I had seen all I needed to see, and I’ve been a Pearl Jam fan ever since. Ten was the soundtrack to the rest of that year: getting high and going to soccer practice, getting cut from the team and cranking “Once” on my Walkman on the ride home. Falling head over heels into teenage love, getting my heart broken and listening to “Black” on repeat. For 30 years I’ve played that record every autumn and it always sounds great to me, taking me back to being that wild-eyed kid trying to come to grips with what I was starting to see as a world gone mad. I’m so glad that record found me.
Zane Lowe, Apple Music
Pearl Jam landed so significantly in New Zealand — it really was a vacuum that sucked us all into it. Ten is such a taut record, start to finish really great songs that hold up as some of the greatest of that era. Even the most cynical music fan who disregarded Pearl Jam in the early years would go back to Ten and recognize just how great a record that is. Most artists don’t get past a debut album like Ten. No one can deny the quality of the body of work and the power of Pearl Jam to be able to get beyond it.
Melissa Brooks, The Aquadolls
Courtesy of the Aquadolls
Pearl Jam’s Ten influenced ’90s pop culture by taking the grunge rock sound of the DIY scene and showing it to a mainstream audience, as rock music was truly the thought-provoking pop music of the time. The true guitar tones, crystal clear pounding drums and raw emotional vocals provided by Eddie Vedder helped pioneer a brooding yet powerful sound that continues to influence music to this day. My favorite song, “Jeremy,” always gives me heaps of nostalgia when I listen to it. It reminds me of my childhood and watching the music video before school on VH1, preparing myself for a rock n roll day. I’m grateful my band has shared the stage with Eddie Vedder at Ohana Festival, as I got to hear his powerful vocals live in action.
Sam Wilkerson, White Reaper
Pearl Jam might have one of the best debut albums of all time. If you take it out of the context of the ’90s, it still rocks harder than most shit now or 50 years ago. No one else could write or play these songs like they did. It’s an anthem from front to back. To top it off, they come from a real place, they listen to good music, they are the realest band, the nicest band, and everyone’s favorite band. The first song I heard off of this album was “Jeremy.” I think the rhythmic qualities and bass harmonic in the beginning had a lasting effect on me. The production touches are flawless. The world would be a different place without Ten.
Jason Narducy, Bob Mould/Superchunk/Split Single
In 1991, the world took to Pearl Jam right away. My girlfriend (now wife) loved them. She even wore combat boots. But it took me a little longer.
The third single from Ten, “Jeremy,” was the one that hooked me. My first concert was Cheap Trick and their bassist, Tom Petersson, played (and actually invented) the 12-string bass. Jeff Ament’s melodic opening to “Jeremy” is on a 12-string bass so it was a familiar sound to me. Eddie Vedder’s lyrics evoked a children’s book that was important to my family (Where the Wild Things Are). “Gnashed his teeth,” “ruled his world,” “unleashed the lion,” etc. But Eddie’s vocal melody on “And he hit me with a surprise left” was the final straw. Powerful and infectious. I wanted to learn more about this band.
There are so many layers in Ten that I’ve come to appreciate over the years. Dave Krusen’s playing on this album is too often overlooked. He brought swing and swagger to the songs. Jeff’s fretless bass (very uncommon in rock songs) adds a unique foundation to “Alive.” Stone Gossard’s guitar voicings on “Black” and “Garden” provides a simmering depth and mood. Ten was an introduction to a band that has become better since its release. The addition of drummer, Matt Cameron, in 1998 made the band chemistry stronger than ever. Pearl Jam are a great rock band. The world and my girlfriend were right.
Me and my then-boyfriend were listening to the first album and were laughing at the poor executives trying to slap a label on what “kind” of music it was. And we also thought that the name Pearl Jam sounded super dirty and we figured they’d get hassled about it.
Jeff has always been so cool and welcoming to me as a bassist. He just likes to laugh at stupid shit and talk about music, so we got on like gangbusters. He sent me some of his solo stuff and it’s my favorite music I’ve heard in ages. He can play everything with the same amount of ease and looseness. it’s completely obnoxious to know someone so talented and so humble.
Ten is one of those albums that you grew up listening to, and you just naturally understand that everyone in the band is a shredder. Definitely continues to inspire me daily with the number of legendary tracks that will last a lifetime.
The strongest memory I have with this album is legit just playing the song “Even Flow” as loud as possible in my car and trying to sing like Eddie Vedder!