A Dissident is Here: A Timeline of Pearl Jam’s Defiance

By Alex Rice

“THIS IS NOT FOR YOU!” Vedder loudly proclaimed on VITALOGY. This is, however, an abbreviated timeline of Pearl Jam’s defiance. For you.

“Black”ed out on promotion
After the release of Ten, things got really big really fast. The newly-christened Pearl Jam entered the studio in March ’91, unleashed their landmark debut in August and, by the following summer, were refusing to release a fourth single. Epic pleaded them to put out “Black,” but wary of even more fame and noting the song’s personal lyrics, Pearl Jam wouldn’t budge. It still hit #3 on the Billboard rock chart and endures as one of their signature tunes.
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“We’re all wasted” at the Singles premiere
Vedder, Gossard and Ament appear as members of the band Citizen Dick in Cameron Crowe’s grunge-era classic, Singles. You could argue that PJ were citizen dicks of the premiere party, drunkenly performing the soundtrack’s “State of Love and Trust” and The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” Showing his disdain for Hollywood culture, Vedder slammed his mic into an amp and tore down stage curtains. They sheepishly recall the event in Pearl Jam Twenty.

Pearl Jam Vs. the music industry
Pearl Jam took their new anti-publicity stance one step further for the hotly-anticipated follow-up to Ten, 1993’s Vs. No music videos would be produced and scant interviews would be granted to promote their sophomore effort. As with “Black,” Vs. still flew off the shelves. Despite sporting an evil little goat on its sleeve, the LP set a record by selling 950,000 copies in its first week - on the way to being certified 7x platinum.

Killing Bono at the VMAs
There was one exception to Vedder’s unabashed industry take-down. After Bono pointed out the contradiction of rallying against fame while playing big venues, Eddie mockingly suggested the VMA “Moon Man” resembled the U2 singer while accepting the trophy in ’93. Bono wasn’t there, but The Edge was. Vedder sought him out to make sure there were no hard feelings, but Edge told Ed that Bono was “hurt and crying,” in mock-seriousness.

Ticketmaster/Slave
Pearl Jam spearheaded the convenience fee resistance in the mid ‘90s. Furious at Ticketmaster after they tacked on charges for a two-night stand in Chicago, PJ filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the corporation and organized a doomed tour of non-TM venues in ’95. That trek culminated at a Golden Gate Park gig where Vedder lost his voice and Neil Young stepped in to sing, resulting in the classic NY-PJ joint LP from later that year, Mirror Ball.

Reading Bush the Riot Act
Pearl Jam was also relatively early on the Bush-bashing. Vedder and co-lyricist Gossard pulled no punches on “Bu$hleaguer,” from 2002’s Riot Act. The tune takes the 43rd President to task through baseball metaphors, such as “Born on third, thinks he got a triple” and “He’s not a leader, he’s a Texas leaguer.” There’s footage of PJ performing this at the Nassau Coliseum in 2003, and let’s just say they knew how the Dixie Chicks felt three years later. 
 
Alex Rice is the founder of Bandbox. His writing has appeared in the Denver Post, Guitar World and Minneapolis's City Pages.