Given to Fly: Honoring 25 Years of Pearl Jam

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“Arms wide open with the sea as his floor”

March 10, 1991: Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament appear on Seattle radio station, KISW and reveal that their band would be changing its name from Mookie Blaylock to Pearl Jam. In Cameron Crowe’s PJ20 film, there is scene where Vedder humorously explains the change, “Yeah the name was taken by this guy named… Mookie Blaylock.” The next day, Pearl Jam would enter London Bridge Studios to begin recording their debut record, Ten.

A few short months earlier, October 22, 1990 to be exact, the band played their first show ever (as Mookie Blaylock) at Seattle’s Off Ramp after only knowing each other a few days. In between the first gig and the name change, Vedder packed all his belongings into his truck and moved up to Seattle from San Diego where he would join guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament, guitarist Mike McCready and then drummer Dave Krusen. The band would hunker down in a jam-space below the Galleria Potatohead, crafting up many of the songs that would appear on Ten. Having played 21 shows before the official recording began, a few songs were introduced to the public via these live performances and an occasional demo track played on the radio.

Ten would go on to be certified 13X platinum and sell more than 10 million copies. In addition to their unprecedented bootleg series, Pearl Jam has released ten other studio records including 2003’s Lost Dogs, which is a B-side/rare track compilation. With 2013’s Lightning Bolt (which debuted at #1) being the latest, there is talk of the band hitting the studio in the near future to begin work on the follow-up. Longtime band manager, Kelly Curtis, relayed in a fan chat back in December that there are plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ten, with exact details still to be announced.

Over the past 25 years, Pearl Jam have so positively impacted the lives of countless people around the world. They are unifiers whose music serves as the wave we all devotedly ride on with gleaming pride. Their epic live shows are experiences – where you can truly go somewhere else for three hours, getting completely submersed in the music.

Pearl Jam will play their 1,000th show by the end of this year (according to LiveFootsteps.org) with a 2016 spring and summer tour on the horizon. That would be 1,000 different setlists. 1,000 different experiences and at least 1,000 opportunities for fans to meet each other. Speaking of the faithful fans, they too are in a league of their own. Ten Clubbers – often congregate by the hundreds if not thousands, from city to city. The shared love of Pearl Jam’s music has introduced marriages, friendships and organizations like the Wishlist Foundation that strive to make an impact – another area where Pearl Jam has so generously shared their platform.

Their moto is simple. If you are going to shine this light on us and give us this stage, we will also use it to surface important issues in the world where if you’re likeminded, perhaps it will encourage you to have a voice too. Their Vitalogy Foundation for example, is a public non-profit formed ten years ago that supports the efforts of other nonprofit organizations working in the fields of community health, the environment, social change, arts and education. We’ve seen skate parks be built, dedicated research and funding efforts towards Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Team Gleason, EB Research Partnership and various efforts to make our planet more habitable. During the past few months alone, Pearl Jam along with partners, donated $300,000 to Flint, Michigan and pledged two songs in support of Eagles of Death Metal – Sweet Stuff Foundation. They lead by example in both music and the community.

Pearl Jam is built on fortitude, appreciation and passion. Three very necessary qualities to march 25 years strong without a single split or reunion needed. They make you as the listener feel high amongst the waves as if you are right there with them and the most exciting part – perhaps the best is yet to come.

To honor 25 years, I engaged numerous artists, athletes, friends, tour mates and fans to share their personal thoughts on the one and only Pearl Jam.

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BRANDON BOYD
Lead singer of Incubus, artist

Pearl Jam is one of those bands that made me want to be in a band. All the guys in Incubus really bonded over their first record along with a handful of others. I was an immediate fan after hearing Ten. I then remember hearing Vs. when it was released and thinking – they took a giant step forward here and are now in their own universe.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Go”

Favorite Pearl Jam Album:
Ten

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
A few years ago we did a festival run in Europe and a few of the shows were with Pearl Jam. I got to stand onstage and watch them for the first time from that perspective. I was blown away by everyone in the band, but it’s hard not to focus your attention on Eddie Vedder – probably one of the most charismatic front-people of his generation. I remember wondering if they still had it. By the first song I was like – holy shit, they are still insanely good. The crowd had this reverence that was almost religious. It was beautiful to watch.

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KELLY SLATER
Professional Surfer, 11X World Surf League Champion

Prior to ever knowing Eddie Vedder or 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 90’s 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 thru a rough patch, I asked Eddie to call him and just lend him some support as a surprise. They played phone tag, but never got to speak. Shane called me crying that he had missed him and that Eddie even knew who he was. It was a touching gesture.

When Vs. came out I was going through a breakup and the album became my therapy. The day it released, my brother and friends and I sat on our roof at night watching the stars and listening to it over and over, studying the lyrics and finding images in the clouds above. Not sure why I remember that so well, but it made a huge impression and Eddie’s lyrics seemed to somehow connect my thoughts almost perfectly. Everyone has a band or song that accurately sums up what you think and feel and Pearl Jam was that for me for many years.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Alive”
It was an anthem in the early 90’s 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.

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Vs.

Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
Pearl Jam came out to the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii just after I won my 8th world surfing title. They played a private show for about 3-400 people at Waimea a couple nights before their own gig and opening a show for U2. They invited me onstage to play a song with them and handed me a guitar. By the end of the song I realized it was customized with the logo Quiksilver had made for my world title and that it was mine. I was just stoked to play a song with them and didn’t realize they had something up their sleeves. Not sure it gets much better than that when you’re a fan of a band.

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DANNY CLINCH
Acclaimed photographer, filmmaker and director

I met Eddie Vedder at Lollapalooza 1992 when my friend Tim Donnelly invited me along to an interview he was doing with him for Surfrider Foundation. I found that after meeting him I really wanted to check out the music more thoroughly. What a payoff!

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Wishlist” for one mood, “State of Love and Trust” for the other

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Vs.

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
Playing harmonica on “Red Mosquito” live at ACL and also traveling with band and filming them for Immagine in Cornice throughout Italy. It was incredible. The fans were amazing and welcoming.

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KENNY MAYNE
ESPN – SporsCenter, Mayne Street, Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports

I first heard Pearl Jam on the radio along with a ton of other great music. I lived in Seattle then and again now. The intros at first were, “here’s another local band,” but several songs were quickly internationally known. A couple years into their run I met Jeff Ament when I did a story on his relationship with Shawn Kemp. Jeff played basketball some in college and he went to a ton of Sonics games. I knew I liked him right away. I remember walking with him down toward where he lived at the time near the Coliseum. He gave some advice to my niece on my tape recorder because she was taking bass lessons at the time. She’s a bit of an artist now. I should have her make a Pearl Jam picture as she did recently for Marshawn Lynch as the return favor. That would be an imbalance in time as Jeff and I talked about her for only a minute. But she’ll probably do it. Like most of us, we are proud of them.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Untitled”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Live at Benaroya (Seattle)

Favorite Pearl Jam Experience:
That Benaroya show. I was covering a Sonics pre-season game. Brent Barry (a Sonic at the time) asked if I instead wanted free tickets to the Benaroya show. We’d driven by the “Sold Out” sign earlier that day. I went into the Sonics’ locker room, grabbed his keys and went to his hippie van to get the tickets. It was an amazing show. Brent and I became friends since that night.

I’ve gotten to know Jeff the best. I’ve played for the Pearl Jam Flag Football Team the last two years at Mike McCready’s big event at Century Link field for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and have had a chance to meet most of the guys one way or another. They are superstars at what they do. They are just neighbors otherwise. I took my daughters once to see One Direction in Seattle. Ed was doing the same thing.

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JIM JAMES
Lead singer of My Morning Jacket

We were so lucky to have a band like Pearl Jam be HUGE when we were coming of age. I didn’t have an older sibling or anyone to teach me about new music and I feel like the great thing about bands like Pearl Jam/REM/Nirvana was that they taught us about all the bands that came before them as well as other great new bands who might not have been getting all the hype they were getting.

They have always seemed very generous about helping to turn their fans on to other music. It has also been so inspiring to see how hard they fight for good causes and speak up for what they believe in. I feel like they have been such a good “big brother” style influence on a band like us.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Oceans”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Ten

Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
I was 13 when my little brother was born and when he would wake up I would sing him “Oceans” sometimes to put him to back to sleep. Also opening for Pearl jam and getting to perform with Eddie. We thought it was so amazing that he would take the time and effort to come sit in with us. It was incredible to get to sing with him and the rest of the guys, especially Jeff, were always very warm, welcoming and treated us so well.

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ANN WILSON
Lead singer of Heart

I first heard Pearl Jam when they were still called Mookie Blaylock at a Seattle club called the Off Ramp. They were very powerful and very Seattle club band in those days. Memorable.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Jeremy”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Ten

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
At Cameron Crowe’s Singles movie release party in LA. Ed onstage in a helmet swigging red wine from the bottle, getting security all upset and setting off a minor riot….after which Chris Cornell quipped, “nobody died.” The crazy Ol’ days!

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DANNY MASTERSON
Actor – That 70’s Show, Men at Work, The Ranch

I fell in love with “Hunger Strike” from Temple of the Dog. Then I heard “Alive” and actually lost my shit. Finally a genre of rock created for my head space (a man can only take so many years of hair metal). I’ve been to over 50 shows. Each one was the best I’d ever seen.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“In My Tree”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
No Code

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
Calling in sick on a movie (94/95?) to drive down and see them play San Diego with The Ramones opening.

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MATT NATHANSON
Singer-songwriter

I first heard Pearl Jam in the fall of 1991 in my freshman college dorm, on my boom box. I had no idea what they looked like. I had never been to Seattle. I only had the album cover and the music and it felt like the best musical mystery ever. The record was a journey. The way it starts and ends with Jeff Ament’s fretless bass, it was like hippy metal, but with these incredible lyrical images – dark and so fucking passionate with Eddie Vedder’s voice beamed in from Mars.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Rearviewmirror” and “Release”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Yield

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
I saw Pearl Jam in the spring of 1992 at the Ventura Theatre. It was typical transcendent early Pearl Jam – Eddie climbing on everything and the band killing. They opened with “Once.” I had never seen Fugazi or Bad Brains or anything even close to this passion. Kids losing their minds, like religion.

My most prized possession for a long time was a cassette bootleg of the first time Pearl Jam played the Bridge School benefit in 1992. They opened with “Footsteps” and ended with “Daughter,” “Angel” and a Little Steven cover, “I am a Patriot.” Four unreleased songs! (Technically footsteps was a B-side.) Man, I wore that cassette out. I still can’t listen to Eddie sing the “across the waste of space and fields of air I glide alone at night” part of “Angel” without crying. Spooky, magical stuff.

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JON LEIBERMAN
Creative Director and Executive Producer at SAP TV and correspondent at the Howard Stern Show

I remember first hearing Pearl Jam as a teenager and I loved them right away. They are the greatest band on earth.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Rearviewmirror”

Favorite Pearl Jam album:
No Code

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
Seeing them at Barclays in Brooklyn in 2013, surrounding Lightning Bolt. It was amazing!

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MARK ARM
Lead singer of Mudhoney

I first heard Pearl Jam when they played the Off Ramp as Mookie Blaylock. My memory of that night is super hazy due to the fact that I was totally wasted. They are a great live band. The addition of Matt Cameron kicked them into overdrive and they are better now than ever. They manage to excel in large venues without resorting to gimmicky theatrics. I love that the band was able to create its own alternate machine and navigate through the pitfalls of success and fame unscathed. That each member of the band is a down to earth mensch is an added bonus!

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Do the Evolution”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Their more recent albums like Lightning Bolt, Backspacer and Avocado

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
There are so many: first playing with them in ’93 and reconnecting with Jeff and Stone, SE Asia in ’95, South America in ‘05, PJ20 and the subsequent Canadian tour.

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JOE BUCK
Fox Sports Broadcaster, host of Audience Network’s, Undeniable

When Pearl Jam first came out, I had never heard anything like it. It was all Eddie Vedder to me. The voice. The power in it. It’s hard to deny.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Release”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Backspacer

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
Hanging with Eddie in his dressing room after the 2010 St. Louis show. To get the opportunity to just sit there and talk about things like baseball, books or movies was pretty special. To hear him say in years past, he couldn’t wait to get out of there and get to a bar and now he’s taking a calligraphy class and can’t wait to get back to his room and practice calligraphy, you realize he is just a regular guy with a family and kids. He’s got a lot of the same worries and concerns as all fathers with daughters across the world. Just connecting with him on a man to man level and not a star struck level was really cool.

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BRETT SCALLIONS
Lead singer of Fuel and 1,2,3 GO! (bandmates with Mike McCready)

My introduction to Pearl Jam was by seeing the Even Flow video. One of their debut singles and they decided to release a live video which is really unheard of. The energy captured was enthralling. Pearl Jam’s release of the Ten record was a game changer for music. Overnight people threw away their spandex and replaced it with flannel. The music was and will forever be undeniable.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Even Flow”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Vs.

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
Seeing them a few years ago at the LA Forum. THEY KILLED IT.

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STAR ANNA
Singer-songwriter

I listened to Pearl Jam in high school, but didn’t really start digging them until after. I just remember the first time I truly realized what a force they were. Eddie Vedder’s powerful voice, not just strong, but so emotional, has been such an inspiration to me. I was listening to a cassette tape in my car while driving over the pass and it just hit me, the depth of the lyrics, Eddie’s voice and the band as a whole.

To me, Pearl Jam is the go to for what a band should be. They’ve managed to stay together and continue to put out powerful, meaningful music, as well as each venture out on their own. They inspired millions of people and bands, but their sound is still their own and nobody can touch it.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Blood”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Vs.

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
The first time I got to see them live was at Pearl Jam 20 and I got to be one of the opening bands. Getting to watch them from the side stage was surreal. They put on such a monster show, so many bands just don’t do it like they do anymore. Hours of giving their all. It was incredible.

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MATT PINFIELD
Acclaimed music personality, Sirius XM radio host, MTV and VH1 show host

I’ll never forget seeing the band at a Gavin convention show when they were still called Mookie Blaylock.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“I Am Mine” and “Leash”

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Vs.

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
Getting to do all the interviews for Storytellers at the old Limelight in New York City.

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*photo #14 & 15 by Danny Clinch

BRENT BARRY
NBA Analyst – NBA TV, Former NBA player- 1995-2009 (Seattle SuperSonics 1999-2004), 2X NBA Champion

Jeff Ament, some of his friends and I have been friends for many years and I have been very fortunate to share some incredible experiences that mean the world to me. I tell him that often. They have spanned times of great joy for me and times of great personal growth as well. Accompanying his friendship, there has been more strengthening of an intimate relationship that I have had with the band and their music that has endured.

Favorite Pearl Jam Song:
“Go”
During my playing days in Seattle, I would break out of the team meeting and step into a small weight room adjacent to the team’s locker room. The weight training coach and his assistant would be standing by a small stereo component system and when I walked into the room, I would turn off the lights and they would hit play. I would marinate in the opening thunderous drums and wait for Mike McCready to hit the opening riffs. I would then be in a good place to go and do my job for the night. If this wouldn’t get you ready for an NBA basketball game I’m not sure what would.

Favorite Pearl Jam Record:
Ten

Most Memorable Pearl Jam Experience:
To list all of the things that Jeff has invited me to be a part of that surround the Pearl Jam family, I think becomes a bit braggadocios. However one story that I feel is worth sharing is the day that Jeff, Eddie and I drove my Volkswagen van down to San Onofre State Beach to get an epic day of surf at one of surfing’s most iconic breaks, one that I frequent with my boys. I’ll never forget Ed singing some pop songs on the radio and Jeff massaging my board on a few rocks on his way in from his paddle.

The Pearl Jam family extends so far beyond the members of their band, their management crew, their fan club devotees, the “this is my 100th show” concertgoers, to the new generation of fans that will see them for the first time this year. They’ve woven a fabric of music, message and meaning that has transcended their craft and made them one of America’s true music treasures. Thankfully it is a free world and they keep rockin’ in it. Thank you PJ.

FOLLOW JEFF GORRA ON TWITTER / [email protected]