Edited by Kinsey Blake Haynes
The year was 1992. I was twelve years old, growing up in a small town in southern Missouri. I was a bit of an outsider – not much into the Country, Pop, or the 80s Hair Metal bands that were popular. My very short lived MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice phase was also waning. At the time I did not realize how much effect music would have on my life. Songs like “2 Legit 2 Quit” and lyrics such as “check out the hook while my DJ revolves it” only go so far to fill a void. Most of the music I was exposed to was like eating cotton candy for every meal. Sure, it might taste good and give you a sense of pleasure, but eventually you are going to get sick.
Like most families in my town, I lived in a [somewhat] sheltered home. We had between five and twenty television channels (20 if you lived inside the city limits. We didn’t), and these were the days before satellite TV and internet. I had the five local network channels out of Springfield, Missouri.
Most of my pop culture knowledge was learned from shows like Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Full House, Blossom, and Home Improvement. Church was also where we were greatly exposed to Christian music groups like DC Talk, Carmen, Petra, and The Newsboys. If you flipped through the radio stations, there were five religious stations, five country stations, a classic rock station, and one top forty station. That was the extent of our entertainment. None of it really spoke to me.
I was a bored, depressed, twelve year old kid in a dysfunctional family whose parents were on a crash course to divorce. I would lock myself in my room and I would do whatever I could to entertain myself, with no one really to relate to because what related to them did not relate to me. I guess you could say I was the typical 90s angst riddled teenager who needed an outlet.
In 1992, my parents, for the first time, took us on a vacation out of state. They rented a small beach house in Mexico City Beach, Florida. And it was that trip in which everything changed for me. Our rental had cable with more than fifty channels; one being MTV. I am not sure how much bad music I suffered through but right before I changed the channel, there it was: the video for Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow”. Which brings me to…
- The “Even Flow” video.
Who was this band? The music was emotional, intense, and most importantly, REAL. And who was this guy diving into the crowd with no regard for his well-being and doing it all for the sake of the performance? Eddie Vedder. The rebellion, emotion, attitude, everything about this band sucked me in.
I spent the rest of my time in Florida that week glued to MTV waiting for a glimpse of this amazing new music I had just been exposed too. In that week, I did not go to the beach. I just stayed in and watched MTV, taking in all the great music from bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Alice In Chains, but it was Pearl Jam that really opened my eyes. I’m actually happy my parents let me be the quiet detached teenager that I was, because I would have never found myself without this music.
When we got back home I asked my mother, who was attending night school, to buy the Pearl Jam Ten cassette for me after her class. I expected her to say “no” but instead she looked for it. To my surprise, she actually brought it home. It was probably the best gift I have received. Me, along with the rest of the world, would not realize how vital this album and the events during recording and following the release of this album would be. Which brings me to number two and three…
Ten is the definition of a classic album. It is an incredibly vital rock record which still makes new fans every day. It helped change the rock music landscape and it continues to be a large influence on new bands. But leading up to 1991-92, the world suffered through many years of a somewhat lame rock music scene, and this leads me to….
- Ten helped change rock music as we knew it
Along with Nirvana Nevermind, Ten was a game changer. For many young people of the early 90s, the waning 80s did not relate to them. Yes, at that time Pearl Jam still had the hair, but this was different. The music was alive, and most importantly, it had substance. Additionally, the album is still so dynamic the band continues to evolve the tracks from their original form every tour. One of those tracks that has evolved numerous times over the years is…
“Garden” is a progressive track that slowly builds to the chorus and explodes about midway through; and you can’t help but get lost in the music. But perhaps no cut of this track is more vivacious than the version from the April 3, 1994 concert in Atlanta, GA.
And just like this live version of “Garden”, many tracks off Ten are deeper than they appear, relating to people on a powerful level because…
- Ten is Therapeutic
Ten changed people’s lives. Personally, I had finally found my source for expressing my happiness, sadness, isolation, boredom, anger, and other emotions that I had trouble expressing. Those expressions were most prevalent in my favorite track from Ten…
After my mother bought Ten, it was on nonstop repeat for months. Every track was special to me. The entire album was a ride of emotions, but there was one track that stood out most, “Black”. The track built to progressive perfection and the lyrics, focusing on loss and regret, was the greatest example of the genius lyricist that is Eddie Vedder.
“All five horizons revolved around her soul as the earth to the sun. Now the air I tasted and breathed has taken a turn.”
“Black” always sounds great live, with my most fond memory during the 2013 performance at the Chicago Wrigley Field show. I felt my daughter kick for the first time in the womb when the crowd of 40,000+ was singing “do do do do doo doo doo” at the end.
Another track that has become one of the most identifiable tracks in the Pearl Jam catalog is….
Though the meaning of the track was something totally different, fans have turned “Alive” into a celebration of hope and just being Alive. During the taping of VH1 Storytellers, Eddie Vedder explains:
“In the original story, a teenager is being made aware of a shocking truth that leaves him plenty confused; it was a curse ‘I’m still alive’… But, the (the audience) lifted the curse. The audience changed the meaning for me.” The climax of the celebration usually includes the crowd chanting “Hey!” in unison at the conclusion of the performance.
“Alive” and “Black” are both known worldwide as a couple of Pearl Jam’s greatest hits. However, the last single that Pearl Jam released from Ten is not as well-known and is rarely played live, and that track is…
In 1998 I got to see Pearl Jam for the first time at Riverport Amphitheatre in St. Louis, MO. Even though I begged and pleaded to my parents to take me to the big city in 1995 for the infamous St. Louis Fox Theatre shows, my parents were still reluctant to let me loose at the tender age of 14. But in 1998, at the age of 17, I was starting to become an expert at the trait of rebellion, and I went with two high school friends to see Pearl Jam for the first time on their Yield tour. It was without a doubt one of the greatest nights of my life. And I wouldn’t realize just how significant it was in the realm of Pearl Jam fandom in the fact that they played “Oceans” as their opener. They have been playing it more in recent times, but for at least a good decade, hearing it live was a notch in my belt that not many fans had.
My next Pearl Jam show was back in St. Louis in the fall of 2000. This time I was sitting about ten rows from the stage thanks to the great Pearl Jam fan club that I joined the year before, which is….
- The Ten Club
Since joining, I have never been less than 20 rows from the stage at any show. The Ten Club has been innovator in the music industry, with many other bands following suit to provide fans with the best seats in the house for as little as 20 dollars a year. The best concert I have ever witnessed with Ten Club seats was July 8th, 2003 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. One of the highlights from that evening is a previously mentioned track, “Even Flow”, which brings us to number…
- Mike McCready’s “Even Flow” Solos
Mike McCready, channeling other worldly spirits, laid down the best “Even Flow” solo I have ever heard that evening at Madison Square Garden. Fellow guitarist Stone Gossard was shocked at how tuned in to the musical spirits McCready was in that moment, as evident at the 6:05 mark after already about three minutes of signature McCready face melting:
Another great track from Ten that has become a live staple is…
“Porch” is another track that has stood the test of time, and is just a great collaboration from the band every time it is played. I personally have some favorites from over the years, but I think many would agree that…
11. Pearl Jam’s 1992 Pink Pop performance was truly something special. This was the largest crowd Pearl Jam ever played for up until this point, and the band’s energy was something to witness.
Additionally, “Porch” is one of those tracks that would bring out Eddie Vedder’s infamous alter ego, dubbed…
- Crazy Eddie
Eddie would often do death defying stunts during Pearl Jam’s early career live performances, particularly on the Ten tour, such as jumping into the crowd, climbing the stage scaffolding and climbing back down with the mic cord, or swinging or jumping from the stage into the crowd from extreme heights. In the PJ20 documentary, Vedder said “We were going to take this to some level people are not going to forget, even if it means risking our life we are going to do it.”
- Lollapalooza ‘92
The iconic tour featured the likes of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden and a side stage that included up and comers Stone Temple Pilots and even select dates would feature Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell performing Temple of the Dog tracks. Bassist Jeff Ament said of the tour “I remember not being able to sleep an entire night after the shows because I was so buzzed.”
One of the greatest aspects of a Pearl Jam concert is that there is always a whirlwind of emotions, from the excitement that Crazy Eddie brought to the table to those tracks that makes you just get lost in the music. The next one on the list is an example of the later, which has set a magical tone as the opener on many occasions throughout Pearl Jam’s career…
“Release” is one of the most epic tracks Pearl Jam has recorded. It’s like a teaser of a Pearl Jam show all in one track. Starting out melodic, with Eddie and the band gradually building to when Vedder bellows “Release Me……” and by that time the band and the crowd are completely connected.
When you have a band that hits you with such a great opener, they have to hit you with a great closer, and that track is…
- “Yellow Ledbetter”
Yes, it’s not on the original Ten tracklist, but it’s an unofficial member of the Ten family. Recorded during the Ten sessions, it became one of the most well-known tracks in the Pearl Jam catalog but only available at the time as the b-side to the “Jeremy” single. Often being the closer at a Pearl Jam show, it gives one more opportunity for McCready to give you something special one last time before you head home for the evening. Throwing in a snippet from Jimi Hendrix “Little Wing” or a full rendition of ”The Star Spangled Banner,” McCready is always there to ensure the crowd leaves with something special.
Speaking of the Jeremy single…
“Jeremy”, a track that has one of Jeff Ament’s well-known bass lines, was the song that was responsible for making Pearl Jam a worldwide phenomenon. But in particular…
- The “Jeremy” video tackled the epidemic of childhood bullying before it became a well-known social issue. It was the first insight into the activist aspect which would become a massive part of the band. The seriousness in Vedder’s eyes piercing through the television screen was like telling the world that Pearl Jam were going to speak out and stand up for what they believe in, while making great music all along the way.
Ten had its big hits, but another great aspect of the album is…
- The tracks from the sessions around the recording of Ten that didn’t make the cut. Tracks like “Wash”, “”Footsteps“, ”Dirty Frank”, “Hold On”, “2000 Mile Blues”, and “Brother” all ended up as b-sides or tucked away somewhere in Pearl Jam warehouse, however, all ended up getting released over the next few decades. With all quickly become a fan favorites.
The last two, “Brother” and “2000 Mile Blues” were only available on…
- The 2009 Ten reissue
The Ten reissue was an extraordinary release for any Pearl Jam fan. With Ten being only early Pearl Jam release that was not produced by Brenden O’ Brien, the reissue gave fans that exact thing. O’Brien produced and mastered the album for the Redux version. The result was fans having the sentiment that the reissue was like listening to the album again for the first time. Thouged in their earliest forms on the reissue are…h the original recorded version was what made Pearl Jam a household name, the remixed/remastered version gave Ten that edgy recording feel that was more evident in Pearl Jam’s second and third releases, VS and Vitalogy. Band members had always thought the original recording of Ten was more polished than Pearl Jam’s other early releases and they were not satisfied with the finished product. However, O’Brien insisted on including the original mix along with the newly remixed/remastered version because it was that version that became a classic. Two additional tracks that were included in their earliest forms on the reissue were…
In the late 90s, it was the epitome of a fan favorite. Rarely played, at one point in the late nineties hundreds of fans held up “Breath” signs petitioning the band to play it. Finally, on September 11, 1998 at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the band gave in.
- “State of Love and Trust” included a great melody, smart chorus, and catchy lyrics, later ended up a hit from its release on the Singles soundtrack. Speaking of the Singles soundtrack, one of the performances that became a huge turning point for how they conducted business was…
- The Singles Promo Party on September 9th, 1992
Gossard mentioned in the PJ20 documentary that the band had one day off that week and were then scheduled to play the party. They found some tequila and then embarrassed themselves on stage. As Gossard stated in the PJ20 documentary, that night was the beginning of saying “No” which was one of most important events that led to Pearl Jam becoming a more independent band.
From one performance the band would like to forget, to one that has been etched in Pearl Jam history is their first acoustic performance…
- Albani Bar of Music, Winterthur, Switzerland, February 19, 1992
Finding themselves on an extremely tiny stage, the band elected to play an acoustic show for the first time. Even in this small space, Vedder climbed to the second floor and fell into the crowd. MTV got word of the show and invited them to play one of their most iconic performances the next day, which is…
- MTV Unplugged
Many tracks from Ten were played during Pearl Jam’s 1992 Unplugged performance, playing an acoustic stripped down set that would still be talked about 25 years later.
However, probably the most important aspect of the album, setting it apart from many of its contemporaries is…
- Ten has reached many people on a very intimate level, including many members of Alternative Nation’s staff who have sent me their adoration for the album to include in this piece:
Jeff Gorra: Ten opened my eyes to a whole new musical experience. It made me realize that music (and art for that matter) can be an outlet of expression laced with – and triggering – real life feelings that I could relate to, as opposed to just entertainment. Though the record is stunning from front to back and a true collection of art, it’s the little things that make it a masterpiece to me. Take “Porch” for example: the emphasis on the “take a good look” lyric during the outro/third chorus and Eddie Vedder’s vocal twist of the word “beside” during the line “lie beside me” had such a profound impact on me. The fact that Vedder put so much emotion into ending the song that way still gives me chills all the way through. Then you have the one word titles (aside from “Even Flow”); it’s a minor dynamic, but packs such a heavy punch. It was another example of having a “Who else does this?” type of reaction that Ten exudes in so many ways. Lastly, what really got me was how the band delivered the record live. Each time I saw a performance on TV (whether it was a video, unplugged, or a live performance) I was hit with a surprise left, jaw dropped wide-open on how intense, emotional and powerful the band was. It was something I needed and didn’t even know it. It was – and forever will be – totally enthralling.
Hanna Graf: In 2012 something happened to me. I fell ill, suffered from a burnout with depression and anxiety as a result. I had to start making changes in my life and slow down. That’s when music became a central part of my life. A soothing, comforting and healing power. I started exploring new areas and went through my husband’s extensive record collection. And suddenly, there was Pearl Jam. I found Ten, and didn’t need to look any further. I began listening one night and there was no going back. I could not believe that I’d missed this for over 20 years. Like a rocket Ten went straight up to top 3 on of my list of all-time best albums. The band, the singer, the songs… Perfection. It’s the strongest debut album I’ve ever heard. When I think about the fall of 2012 I think of Ten. I listened to it every night. As darkness fell, I sat curled up under a blanket listening to Ten in my headphones, feeling all comforted and warm inside. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this album saved my life, but it certainly helped a lot to make my anxiety and depression more bearable, and heal my soul. It still has the same effect on me. When I’m feeling either down or stressed out, I put Ten in my record player and it soothes me.
Paul Carr: I have a slightly different perspective on Pearl Jam Ten as I am English. In 1992, Pearl Jam was nowhere near my radar. At the time I was an avid Metallica fan after hearing them for the first time on the radio at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert. My peers were just discovering indie bands such as the Stone Roses or blaring out novelty rave songs with sped up vocals. Neither of which resonated with me. To me it all felt either too disposable or insignificant. I didn’t know it at the time but I was primed and ready for Ten to set me off on my musical listening journey. In the US the album may have been everywhere but in a provincial city in England, the radio played either chart hits or golden oldies. You needed an older, cooler sibling, friend or family member to turn you on to good music. In my case it was my cousin who filled that role by giving me three recorded cassettes that undoubtedly changed my life: R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, U2’s Achtung Baby and Pearl Jam’s Ten. Naturally, I can’t remember hearing it for the first time but I remember ‘Once’ made a huge impression from the beginning. It had an urgency and tension to it that I hadn’t heard before. The lyrics seemed so compelling even though I couldn’t make out half of them. Everything about the album seemed so purposeful from the drum sound to the lyrics, it had a substance that I didn’t realise music could have. I had no access to MTV at the time so I was never seduced by Vedder’s maniacal stare in the “Jeremy” video. All of the images for that song and the others came from my head. All of the information I could obtain about the band came from small pieces in melody maker and I had no idea which songs were singles so each song felt as important as the next. This all added to the mystery behind the album that made it so appealing to me. I think that mystique is still present today despite the myriad of articles I have read on the creation of the album and its impact. For me, that is why it still sounds so fresh and (pun intended) so alive. I often wonder what I would be listening to now if I had never heard that album. If my cousin had given me his favorite Deacon Blue album instead. Maybe I’d have been a happier teenager but I think I would have also felt there was something missing. Nothing to get my teeth into or hang my teenage angst and anxieties on. I appreciate the album more and more as I get older. Not only is it a link to my childhood, it is representative of me as a person. I have a family now and I hope that my children are lucky enough to stumble across a life changing album, like this one, in the same way that I did.
Kinsey Blake Haynes: Ten was actually not my first introduction to Pearl Jam. Being born in 1995, I was late to the game and the first album I vividly remember is Yield. As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen how Ten has shaped people just as Yield shaped me. Having seen Pearl Jam 12 times so far, I can see how Ten takes people back to a fond moment in their lives. My first PJ show, Hawaii 2006, “Oceans” was the opener. Even today, I can still hear that crowd scream as that first note hits. Ten brings audiences together. People who have never met wrap their arms around each other and scream the words to “Alive”. So today, 25 years later, Ten is still a formative album. It will stand through time and continue to inspire and unite all who love it, just like I do.
Joe Hughes: To me Ten represents the purity of Grunge. There is nothing manufactured about it. It epitomizes the pureness of a cultural and musical movement. No one put Pearl Jam in a room and said “sound like this.” They invented this beautiful sound that countless acts to follow would be compared to; and try to copy.