Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten': 10 Facts Only Superfans Would Know
When Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990, the future of its surviving members was uncertain. It took a while before guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament would agree to play together again.
Gossard eventually started playing with another Seattle-based guitarist from the band Shadow, Mike McCready, and they eventually reunited with Ament. Soundgarden's Chris Cornell recruited them for a side project called Temple of the Dog with drummer Matt Cameron, in which they recorded a single, self-titled album in tribute to Wood.
While they were working on the Temple of the Dog album, Gossard, Ament, McCready and Cameron had been jamming on some other material, which eventually found its way to aspiring San Diego musician Eddie Vedder. He flew up to Seattle to audition, got the part and even provided vocals on a Temple of the Dog track called "Hunger Strike."
This fledgling group would eventually be called Pearl Jam, and they would release their debut album, Ten, in on August 27, 1991 — that's right, before Nirvana's Nevermind. But little did this new band realize that they had just released what would become one of the best rock records in music history, and that they were a founding pillar of this new and dark "Seattle grunge" everyone was excited about.
Ten wasn't an immediate commercial success, but once it got the attention it deserved, it skyrocketed. It's since been certified 13x platinum and is one of the best-selling debut albums of all time. Here are 10 facts only superfans would know about the album.
1. Several of its songs were demos they used to recruit a singer.
Ament, Gossard, McCready, Cameron and Chris Friel recorded a collection of demo songs titled the Stone Gossard Demos '91, in which they sent out in order to recruit a singer.
According to a 2002 issue of Guitar World, Vedder got ahold of the tapes and wrote lyrics for several of the songs the following day. Initially titled "Dollar Short," "Agytian Crave" and "E Ballad," the three songs would actually become "Alive," "Once" and "Black," respectively.
2. One of the demos became a Temple of the Dog song.
"Footsteps" was another demo included in the aforementioned set. Vedder wrote lyrics for it as well, but it was left off of the finished album and instead released as a B-side to "Jeremy." It was also later featured on their 2003 Lost Dogs compilation album.
The song actually took more than one path. On the Temple of the Dog album, the music for "Footsteps" was turned into a track called "Times of Trouble."
3. Mookie Blaylock and the number 10.
The band originally called themselves Mookie Blaylock, after the NBA player they were fans of. Once they transitioned their name to Pearl Jam, they decided to name their debut album Ten, because that was Blaylock's jersey number.
4. The band's sole intention was to get on the road.
Though the guys knew they had something special, they definitely didn't see the album becoming as successful as it did. They just wanted a reason for their label to send them out on the road so they could play live.
"We knew we were still a long way from being a real band at that point, and we needed to tour," Ament admitted to Bass Player Magazine. "So essentially Ten was just an excuse to tour. We told the record company, 'We know we can be a great band, so let's just get the opportunity to get out and play.'"
"When it was released I figured if we sold 100,000 copies it would be a total success," he added.
5. Drummer Dave Krusen left after the recording sessions ended.
Dave Krusen joined Pearl Jam in 1990 because Cameron was unable to fully commit to the band while also being in Soundgarden. After the recording sessions for Ten were complete, Krusen left and checked himself into rehab. "They had to let me go. I couldn't stop drinking, and it was causing problems," he later confessed to Punk Globe. "They gave me many chances, but I couldn't get it together."
6. Three of the songs make a "mini-opera" called Mamasan or Momma-Son.
"Alive," "Once" and "Footsteps" — the track left off the album — work together to form a trio of songs that tell a very, very dark story. Vedder explained the sequence of events to Rolling Stone.
“Everybody writes about it like it’s a life-affirmation thing – I’m really glad about that,” the singer said. "But ‘Alive’ is . . . it’s torture. Which is why it’s fucked up for me."
"Alive" tells the story of a son whose father died, but he grows up to look so much like his father that his mother wants him in an inappropriate way. This, minus the incest portion, was partially inspired by Vedder's own experience of not knowing his own biological father.
Having to grow up and deal with so many conflicting and confusing emotions leads the character to become a serial killer, which is reflected in the song "Once." Finally, in "Footsteps," he is executed for his actions, which is also partly based on the events of the Green River Killer.
“I’m just glad I became a songwriter," Vedder smiled.
7. Pepper and fire.
Tim Palmer, who mixed the album in England, used sound effects from a pepper shaker and drumsticks tapping a fire extinguisher on the track "Oceans."
"At about 30 seconds into the song, you can hear the pepper shaker on the left and the fire extinguisher on the right," Palmer pointed out to Guitar World. "It is all fairly subtle stuff, really. The reason I used those items was purely because we were so far from a music rental shop and necessity became ‘the mother of invention."
8. The cover features an actual wooden cutout made by Ament.
Krusen described the concept of the album's cover, which depicts the band all reaching up together, as showing "unity."
"Jeff built this massive Pearl Jam wood cutout," he told Chad Brandolini. "That thing we're standing in front of was actual size! Jeff's an amazing artist through and through."
9. They would not allow "Black" to receive a video treatment.
Several songs from Ten were accompanied with a music video. However, Pearl Jam refused to do a video for "Black."
“Some songs just aren’t meant to be played between Hit No. 2 and Hit No. 3. You start doing those things, you’ll crush it," Vedder explained to Cameron Crowe. "That’s not why we wrote songs. We didn’t write to make hits. But those fragile songs get crushed by the business. I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t think the band wants to be part of it.”
10. Two videos were actually shot for "Jeremy."
Vedder became acquainted with Chris Cuffaro, who wanted to film a video for the band. He chose "Jeremy" of the set, but as Consequence of Sound notes, Epic Records wasn't willing to fund the video. Cuffaro funded it himself after selling some furniture and taking out a loan — and then Epic changed their minds.
Thus, the official video for "Jeremy" was directed by Mark Pellington. It was on heavy rotation on MTV and became one of the band's most massive songs.
You can view the original "Jeremy" video on Cuffaro's website.
The 30 Best Grunge Albums of All Time