Although Nirvana was the band that broke the mainstream market open for Grunge and Alternative Rock combos, it was their fellow Pacific Northwest outfit Pearl Jam who rode the Grunge boom to the longest and most commercially successful career. The Seattle quartet merged a heavy but melodic sound with an ambivalent attitude towards the trappings of success and a resistance to such standard music-industry practices as music videos and high ticket prices. That stance doesn't seem to have hurt the band’s popularity, however, considering Pearl Jam’s worldwide album sales of over 60 million.
Pearl Jam was launched by guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament after the demise of their previous band Mother Love Bone, whose promising major-label career had been cut short in 1990 when singer Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose. After Wood's death, Gossard began writing new music and jamming with guitarist Mike McCready. Adding Ament, they recorded a set of instrumental demos, giving a copy to former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons. Irons passed the demo tape on to little-known San Diego singer Eddie Vedder, who wrote lyrics and recorded vocals for three of the songs. Gossard, McCready, and Ament were so impressed with the results that they flew Vedder to Seattle to audition and eventually hired him. With the addition of original drummer Dave Krusen, the band was briefly known as Mookie Blaylock, in honor of the NBA basketball player of the same name.
After signing with Epic Records, the band became Pearl Jam, releasing its first album, Ten, in 1991, in time to benefit from the then-current Grunge explosion. Combining catchy choruses, dark lyrical subject matter, and the band's melodic roar, the record struck a chord with the public, selling more than 13 million copies and remaining on the Billboard chart for more than two years.
Ten — along with relentless touring to support it — established Pearl Jam as a major commercial force, a status the band has maintained in the years since, with such popular albums as Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, Yield, Binaural, Riot Act, Pearl Jam, Backspacer, and Lightning Bolt. Pearl Jam also backed influence Neil Young on his 1995 album, Mirrorball.
Pearl Jam battled with Ticketmaster over the service charges that the company added to the price of the band's concert tickets, leading to Gossard and Ament testifying before a Congressional subcommittee in 1994 as part of an investigation of concert industry pricing practices. The band's feud with the powerful company resulted in a considerable loss of income for the group, who cancelled a summer 1994 tour after Ticketmaster wouldn’t agree to lower its service charges. In another unconventional move, the band decided to release professional recordings of all 72 shows of their 2000 tour; they would continue the practice on future tours, although not in such elaborate quantity.