Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s most successful album, Ten. It spawned several hit singles, helped push the Seattle music scene to the forefront, and sold over 13 million copies in the US alone.
Here are ten things perhaps you didn’t know about Ten.
1. Ten was recorded on a relatively low budget.
According to bassist Jeff Ament, the band spent $25,000 to record it, and about $75,000 mixing the album. The band had formed out of the demise of Mother Love Bone, after lead singer Andy Wood died of a heroin overdose in March 1990. Surviving members then formed Pearl Jam, and were determined to avoid the excesses the previous band failed to overcome.
2. Ten peaked at Number Two in both the US and Canadian album charts, because of two artists hogging the #1 spot.
In the US, it was Billy Ray Cyrus (believe it or not) that prevented Pearl Jam from being the top-selling album in the country. His debut Some Gave All spent 17 weeks at #1, and Ten just couldn’t outsell Billy Ray and that flowing mullet.
In Canada, it was Barenaked Ladies’ debut, Gordon, that blocked Pearl Jam from #1. Gordon was the best-selling album in Canada for seven weeks in a row in the summer and fall of 1992.
3. “Even Flow” may have become one of Pearl Jam’s biggest hits, but it took forever to record.
In an interview in 2009, guitarist Mike McCready said the band recorded it at least 50 times during the album sessions and it just never sounded right. In the end, Pearl Jam was never really satisfied with the end result, and even re-recorded again for the soundtrack to the 1992 film, Singles.
4. Mike McCready’s guitar solo in Alive was inspired by Ace Frehley.
He was a really big fan of the Kiss guitarist, especially on his lead work in the Kiss’ song, She. McCready had that in mind when recording the lead parts for Alive, and it worked well with the chord progressions Stone Gossard had written for the song.
5. Alive was actually a demo recording.
In January 1991, Pearl Jam–who were recording under the name Mookie Blaylock–recorded several songs including Alive at Seattle’s London Bridge studio as part of a demo session. When it came time to officially record the album a couple months later, Pearl Jam felt the newer recordings lacked the power and energy of the original demo. So they decided to use that demo, and overdubbed a new McCready solo for the ending.
6. Pearl Jam refused to have Black released as a single.
Epic Records had wanted the emotional ballad as the album’s fourth single, but the band felt the song was too personal for heavy airplay and wasn’t meant to be a single. Regardless, radio stations picked up on the song due to listener demand, and Black peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks in 1993.
7. Eddie Vedder wrote the lyrics to Oceans while being locked out of the studio.
Oceans was a perfect example of Vedder’s impressive ability to come up with lyrics for entire songs in the spur of the moment. He had accidentally been locked out of the rehearsal space the band had rented, after leaving to refill a parking meter. Vedder decided he might as well write something in the rain, between attempts to get back inside.
8. Oceans also featured an assortment of unusual percussion instruments.
The final mixes of the album were completed in June 1991 at Ridge Farm Studio in the UK. Because of how remote the studio was located, producer Tim Palmer had to improvise some last-minute percussion overdubs. He ended up using a pepper mill and a fire extinguisher, because (as he told Guitar World in 2002), “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
9. The “Pearl Jam” lettering in the album cover’s background was made by Jeff Ament.
It may look superimposed, but the giant lettering was actually a wooden cutout made by the band’s bassist. Ament was credited as art director in the album’s liner notes, and the lettering you see on Ten is the actual size.
10. Vinyl pressings of Ten weren’t available until three years after it came out on compact disc.
By August 1991, vinyl production was being phased out in favour of the mighty CD. Vinyl records were only made at that time for superstars, and Epic didn’t peg Pearl Jam as such. But when Ten soared to multi-platinum status, vinyl pressings hit the shelves by late 1994.