It all started with a 3-track demo of instrumentals, recorded by former Mother Love Bone members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, along with former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and guitarist friend Mike McCready. The tape was given to San Diego surfer Eddie Vedder by his friend Jack Irons, who was the original drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Eddie recorded his vocals over the instrumentals, and mailed the cassette, which became known as the "Momma-son Trilogy" with the 3 songs that became "Once", "Alive" and "Footsteps" back. Jeff, impressed with the results, called Stone, and they invited Vedder out to Seattle and Pearl Jam was formed, with drummer Dave Krusen. Krusen left the band before "Ten" was released, due to personal problems. Dave Abruzzesse came in and played on the next two albums before he was replaced by Jack Irons, who played on the following two albums before medical issues forced him to leave, at which time Matt Cameron officially joined the band, bringing the lineup full circle. After twenty years, over 60 million albums sold from 9 albums, a massive fan base, and no signs of stopping, Pearl Jam is using 2011 to celebrate the past and gear up for the future.
Pearl Jam got the anniversary celebration started when they reissued their massively successful debut album "Ten" on March 24, 2009, in four editions. Earlier this year, they released their 2nd live compilation album, "Live On Ten Legs", and another release is coming March 29th as their next two albums, Vs. and Vitalogy, are being reissued in three editions, similar to the "Ten" reissue treatment. The anniversary extravaganza continues with the documentary film "PJ20" by director Cameron Crowe, due late summer, which chronicles the band's entire career. Around the time that Crowe’s movie opens, Pearl Jam are planning some kind of two-day festival event somewhere in the middle of the country, with multiple bands and Pearl Jam headlining both nights. "We've played enough festivals that we know what makes them exciting," bassist Jeff Ament told Rolling Stone. "We want to give people places to go that aren't necessarily musical — second stages and all that kind of stuff. We're asking our friends if they want to play a couple of shows with us."
While the band is obviously proud and excited to celebrate the success from their first 20 years, it's the next chapter they really look forward to. “Ed and I were just going through old photos, journals and clippings for the box set,” says Ament. “By the end, we were both like, ‘Ugh, we’re done with the past for a while.’ We’re ready to work on new songs and get excited about what’s ahead.” I was very pleased with the Deluxe Edition of the Ten reissue so I can't wait to get the same package for Vs./Vitalogy. When Pearl Jam performed "Animal" for the first time at the 1993 MTV VMA's, it instantly became my anthem, mainly for its raucous energy, and "Daughter" remains one of my very favorite tracks of theirs, both are from the Vs. album. Similarly, Vitalogy hosts some great songs, some of their darkest. My favorites from that album are Corduroy, Nothingman, Betterman and Tremor Christ. If this pattern of reissues, continues, I'll be mostly excited to see "Yield" get the special treatment because it is my favorite Pearl Jam album, and if they double it up with its predecessor "No Code", even better.
Being only 20 years into their career, some may say these guys are a little premature to celebrate since many bands have been going for twice as long without making such a big deal about it. However, I think of Rush, who embarked on a 30th anniversary tour and released a DVD of that tour with a ton of extras. I think they played better than ever on that tour and I believe it had a lot to do with those guys celebrating the music they've made together. I think this anniversary celebration with all of its releases is a great way to give something cool to the fans and re-energize the band for the next 20 years (hopefully). Normally I have a huge problem with bands who reissue their old material because I feel it's just a way to get people to buy the same stuff again with different packaging, but Pearl Jam listens to their fans and these reissues are assembled with the concept of "what would the fans want". See you at the record store on March 29th, and THANK YOU PEARL JAM!