Top Ten Songs by Pearl Jam

Welcome back to the grunge nineties. Throw on that flannel shirt and denim jeans, lace up your Timberlands, and spin a little Pearl Jam, the most popular American rock and roll band of the 1990s. Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten was recorded in early 1991 with lead vocals performed by San Diego surfer Eddie Vedder. Ten wasn’t an immediate success. In fact, it didn’t begin selling in large numbers until 1992, after Nirvana paved the way by mainstreaming alternative rock. By fusing “riff-heavy 70s stadium rock” with “the grit and anger of 80s post-punk,” Pearl Jam created a unique and exciting sound that drew audiences worldwide. Pearl Jam soon surpassed Nirvana in sales and led the modern alternative rock era.

Pearl Jam was not your conventional American rock and roll band, not in their sound and certainly not in the way most successful band’s conduct business within the music industry. When Pearl Jam’s 1993 album Vs. was released, the band refused to follow with any videos or singles. Still, Vs. became a multi-platinum success.

Pearl Jam also refused to tour like other successful rock bands of their era. Declining to play at conventional stadiums and arenas, Pearl Jam instead played smaller venues, including a bunch of shows on college campuses. The band went as far as canceling their 1994 summer tour because Ticketmaster’s pressure on promoters to charge higher prices did not allow ticket prices to dip below $20. Pearl Jam even brought allegations of unfair business practices by Ticketmaster to the Justice Department. Despite Pearl Jam’s best efforts, the Justice Department eventually found in favor of Ticketmaster.

At the end of 1994, Pearl Jam released their third album, Vitalogy. Originally released only as a limited vinyl record, the album did go multi-platinum when it was finally released on CD, and it went multi-platinum fast.

No Code was Pearl Jam’s fourth album. It was released in late summer of 1996 and although it received critical acclaim and debuted at number one, it disappointed many of Pearl Jam’s fans, causing the album to slide quickly down the charts. Fans were disappointed by Pearl Jam’s new sound, a fusion of rock, world beat, and experimentalism. The band’s inability to launch a tour because of their battle with Ticketmaster didn’t help matters.

Despite a rather conventional tour during the summer of 1998, Pearl Jam’s fifth album, titled Yield, was not an overwhelming commercial success. Although it debuted at number two, the album quickly dropped down on the charts. Yield seemed to be for Pearl Jam and the music industry the end of a thrilling era in alternative rock and grunge.

Pearl Jam’s cover of Last Kiss, a J. Frank Wilson oldie but goodie, returned the band to the music spotlight in 1999. Last Kiss became Pearl Jam’s highest hit on the pop charts, and it is the first of my list of Pearl Jam’s top ten songs.

Number two is Jeremy from Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten. A great beat with a unique theme and interesting video, Jeremy could be heard on just about any American college campus at any time in the early 90s. Of course, in the song Jeremy was a troubled kid who shot himself in front of his entire class at school.

Even Flow, number three on my top ten list, can also be found on Pearl Jam’s debut album. Eddie Vedder’s vocals make Even Flow a song that can be listened to over and over again.

Chances are if someone starts you off, you can recite all the lyrics to Pearl Jam’s ballad, Eldery Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town, even if you can’t remember the full title of the song. Number four on my list, Eldery Woman is a great song to kick back and smoke a joint to. By joint, I mean a lawful tobacco cigarette, of course.

If you want to get revved up by a Pearl Jam track, there is the rare song, Dirty Frank, about a serial killer. I wrote an English paper about this tune in college for an assignment to dissect the meaning of a song. That’s right, Mrs. Henderson, I still enjoy it whether you did or not.

Dedicated to “the bastard that married my mama,” Better Man is a sad tune about settling that can be found on Vitalogy.

You might be asking yourself, “What the hell is he saying?” but Pearl Jam’s Yellow Ledbetter is nonetheless classic. Whether you can decipher the lyrics or not, you’re still likely to sing along.

Number eight is another quieter song from Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten. Titled Black, it was a radio favorite for much of the 1990s.

Number nine is Daughter from Pearl Jam’s second album, Vs. The live version from Pearl Jam’s performance on Saturday Night Live includes part of the band’s rendition of American Pie.

Finally, on Vitalogy, you will find number ten: Not For You. Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But the least you can do is give it a listen.

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