Pearl Jam: The Making of 'Ten'
As 'Ten' celebrates its 20th anniversary, the band tell the story behind the making of one of the most important albums of the '90s.
Cornell wrote all the lyrics and most of the music for the album, but Gossard contributed three songs of his own: “Pushin’ Forward Back,” which he had written with Ament during the jam sessions in his parents’ attic; “Four Walled World”; and “Times of Trouble,” which started life as the same instrumental that became “Footsteps.” Starting in November, Cornell, Gossard, Ament, McCready and Cameron spent their weekends working on the album, recording in London Bridge Studios with producer Rick Parashar (who had produced the demos that got another local band, Alice in Chains, signed to Columbia Records).
Everyone involved with the album still speaks of Temple of the Dog as something special, a project that came from the heart. Gossard event told Spin, in 2001, that “I still listen to it and think that it’s the best thing I’ve ever been involved with.” But for at least one of the musicians, it also served as a big step toward becoming part of a serious band.
“I think Temple was the first full-length album that McCready ever recorded,” Cornell told Spin. “You almost kind of had to yell at him to get him to realize that in the five-and-a-half-minute solo of ‘Reach Down,’ that was his time and that he wasn’t going to be stepping on anybody else. He started recording what was eventually the solo; halfway through it he got so into it that his headphones flew off, and he played half that solo without even hearing the song.”
When the album was released in 1991, on Soundgarden’s label, A&M, it would have Vedder singing backing vocals on a few tracks, and lead alongside Cornell on the song “Hunger Strike.” Cornell invited Vedder to sing on the album, perhaps as a welcoming gesture to the newest member of the Seattle music community. But the idea to include Vedder inadvertently came from the singer himself.
“When we started rehearsing the songs,” Cornell remembered, “I had pulled out ‘Hunger Strike’ and I had this feeling it was just kind of gonna be filler; it didn’t feel like a real song. Eddie was sitting there kind of waiting for a [Mookie Blaylock] rehearsal and I was singing parts, and he kind of humbly—but with some balls—walked up to the mic and started singing the low parts for me because he saw it was kind of hard. We got through a couple choruses of him doing that and suddenly the light bulb came on in my head: this guy’s voice is amazing for these low parts. History wrote itself after that; that became the single.”
Three months after the Temple of the Dog sessions ended, Mookie Blaylock reentered London Bridge Studios with Parashar, this time to record their own full-length, for Epic Records. Had things gone differently, the album would have been recorded for PolyGram; because of the contract Mother Love Bone had signed with the label, it owned any music the band members made on their own. But Gossard and Ament had grown unhappy with Polygram—the A&R rep who had signed them, Michael Goldstone, had recently left, and no one else at the label could seem to remember who they were—and had asked to be released from their contract. The label agreed to grant their request—as long as the band paid off a $500,000 debt. Goldstone, who had recently switched to Epic and who wanted to represent Gossard and Ament’s new project, proved once again to be the band’s savior: he talked his new bosses into footing a multithousand-dollar loan so the band could gain its release.
Mookie Blaylock had already gone into London Bridge with Parashar on January 29 to record a more professional demo of their best songs. This session produced the tracks that would make up the group’s first EP: “Alive,” “Wash” and a cover of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling.” That same version of “Alive,” with an additional lead guitar overdub, was used for the full-length. The rest of the tracks would be taken from the recording sessions that began on March 27. The band had already written most of the album’s material by then, and the sessions went quickly, ending less than a month later, on April 26.
“I basically told Michael at Epic, ‘If you want us on the label this is the schedule of things that have to happen,’ ” Ament told Jennifer Clay of RIP magazine in 1991. “We had a schedule of when we wanted to make a record. It was only six or eight weeks after we’d been a band. It was exactly what we didn’t do with Mother Love Bone, and that was to actually get some of the spontaneity and freshness of the songs, to get really close to them when they were written… I wanted to get back to making a record that was a little bit more raw, with a little more emphasis on getting the intensity.”
Making their first appearance on tape at this point were the songs “Porch,” “Deep” and “Why Go.” The latter was another of Vedder’s songs inspired by people he knew, in this case a friend who, after getting caught smoking pot, had been hospitalized. Also based on true events was the song that, with its visionary video of a tormented teen, would finally break the band on a large scale: “Jeremy.” The track is based on the life of a troubled 16-year-old named Jeremy Wade Delle, who fatally shot himself in front of his English class in Richardson, Texas. The song, which was written by Ament, was first recorded sometime in January or February; during the recording process, an outro was added that featured a cello, played by Walter Gray, and Ament on a 12-string Hamer bass. Ament played that same bass on “Deep” as well as on “Why Go,” which he also wrote and on which he debuted the instrument. McCready, when describing the 12-string part of “Why Go” to Jeff Gilbert in Guitar School in 1995, said it “sounded like a piano in your face. It was pretty intense.”
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