The making of Pearl Jam's Ten: from the depths of despair to a bold and defiant debut

Pearl Jam play live at the ULU (University of London Union), London, 2nd March 1992.
(Image credit: Mark Baker/Sony Music Archive via Getty Images)

The letters, when they started coming, all began in the same way. “I was recently considering suicide,” they said, “and then I heard your music.” The letters were often about a song called Black, and they were always addressed to a band called Pearl Jam.

The catalyst for the letters was a performance the band had given on MTV Unplugged in May 1992. The Seattle quintet had released its debut, Ten, about half a year earlier, but the record had yet to grow into the stupendous hit it would become. At the end of the group’s rendition of Black, a quiet memorial to heartbreak, singer Eddie Vedder, intense with emotion, sang, “We belong together…together.” They were evidently words that hundreds of lonely teens needed to hear.

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