Arguably the most successful of the four main grunge bands of the early ‘90s, Pearl Jam is still one of today's more successful rock outfits.
The band was founded by bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard, both of whom were in Green River and Mother Love Bone. Vocalist Eddie Vedder remains one of the more distinct singers in the business, and lead guitarist Mike McCready is the butter to Gossard’s bread.
After cycling through a few drummers (most notably Dave Abbruzzese and Jack Irons), Pearl Jam added then-former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron in 1998; he has been with the band ever since.
Pearl Jam released their first album, Ten, in 1991, just as grunge music was beginning to take off. With Nirvana providing a punk style, Soundgarden an alternative style and Alice in Chains a heavy metal style, Pearl Jam gave grunge a classic rock feel similar to The Who and Neil Young. Ten went on to achieve Diamond status in the U.S. and spawned numerous hits, such as “Alive,” “Jeremy,” “Black” and “Evenflow.”
As Pearl Jam’s success grew rapidly in 1992 and 1993, the band rejected the mainstream attention they were receiving. Vedder specifically was outspoken about their success, and Pearl Jam refused to put out any more music videos and boycotted Ticketmaster.
Off the success of Ten, Pearl Jam released Vs. in 1993, once again to great critical acclaim and record sales. Vs. included the hits “Daughter” and “Animal,” both of which still receive airplay.
For Vs., the band brought on Abbruzzese, who added a hard-hitting, energetic style. Vitalogy was released in 1994 and spawned “Better Man,” the band’s biggest hit to that point. “Better Man” was Pearl Jam’s first real pop hit, and was written by Vedder many years earlier.
After Vitalogy, Pearl Jam became much more experimental with their music. Jack Irons came in to replace Abbruzzese, and before their next album, No Code, the band worked with Neil Young and put out the EP Merkin Ball.
No Code was once again critically acclaimed, but outside of “Hail, Hail,” no major single off the album has had lasting appeal commercially. In 1998, Pearl Jam released Yield, something of a comeback album commercially, and spawned the major hit “Given To Fly.”
In 1999, Pearl Jam released the cover “Last Kiss” as a simple Christmas single to fan club members, but the song would eventually garner radio airplay and become the band’s biggest hit. Pearl Jam would go on to release Binaural in 2000 and Riot Act in 2002, now with Cameron on the drums. Both albums were still experimental. In 2006, Pearl Jam released Pearl Jam. a return to the band's rock roots. It spawned the hit “World Wide Suicide,” Pearl Jam’s most played single since 1999.
In 2009, the band would follow up with Backspacer, another successful rocker that spawned the new-wave inspired “The Fixer” and the acoustic hit “Just Breathe.”