Like the oceans Eddie Vedder so often writes about, Pearl Jam has a long and storied career of ebbs and flows. Breaking onto the scene like a tidal wave in August 1991, they were one of the biggest bands of the nineties and helped define what became known as the “Seattle sound” or grunge.
Throughout the years Pearl Jam have seen their fan base grow and shrink, though the hardcore seem to always see them through no matter what style or drummer they happen to be playing with. With ten studio albums and varying degrees of popularity over the years, there’s a good chance you missed a few rare Pearl Jam gems.
Video: Pearl Jam – Alive
Music video by Pearl Jam performing Alive. © 1991 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
Synopsis: A teen who finds out the man he thought was his father is actually his step dad, and his mothers guilt and attraction towards him leading to an incestuous relationship. This theme is continued in “Once” from “Ten” and the rare Pearl Jam song “Footsteps” also from the Ten era. Vedder has stated though the song originally represented a curse like feeling today the audience has transformed the song into a message of hope and promise.
Alive was a smash hit for Pearl Jam, and alongside its Ten compatriots Even Flow, Jeremy, and Black Pearl Jam entered the early nineties roaring, the pace of their world domination would not slow until 1996. It’s inside this hurricane we are going to search for our rare Pearl Jam songs.
With two gigantic followup albums in three years (culminating with Novemver 1994s’ Vitalogy), it would be easy to miss an obscure fan club only single from Christmas 1993. Inspired by the Beatles Christmas singles, anyone in the fan club would receive a vinyl 45 with two tracks on it. The real stand out of these early years is a song with former drummer Dave Abbruzzese on guitar with only Eddie singing overtop.
Video: Rare Pearl Jam – Angel
Song by Pearl Jam performing Angel. © 1993 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
Synopsis: This song is loosely based on the 1892 poem “The Eloping Angels” by William Watson. It describes the tale of two demons who embark on a journey to heaven. Upon arrival they find two angels in love but miserable as Angels are not allowed to marry. The demons offer the Angels to exchange clothes with them to head back to earth to marry while the demons stay in heaven.
Angel hasn’t been played since Dave left the band in 1994, making it live one of the most rare Pearl Jam experiences.
In the wake of the suicide of Kurt Cobain the band took a step back from the spotlight and started consciously pushing away from mainstream exposure. Unsatisfied with repeating the same things over and over the band went into 1996 with Jack Irons at the helm of the drum kit to add a more Tribal sound, and the result was the underrated album No Code. Pearl Jam lost many fans with this seemingly new direction, though they continued undaunted.
No Code has some of the most truly challenging and unique tracks in Pearl Jam history. Songs like Smile bring out a great bluesy side with harmonica, Off He Goes is somber and reflective not unlike Nothingman from Vitalogy. Stone even sings on Mankind! The most exciting track though, has to be “In My Tree”. Showcasing Jack irons rhythmic tribal beats are loose enough to create a grove for the band to hang in. Ament really works the pocket here perfectly complementing Irons. Truly one of Pearl Jams finest songs, a real treat to see live!
Video: Rare Pearl Jam – In My Tree
Song by Pearl Jam performing “In My Tree”, live in Berlin. © 1996 EPIC RECORDS
Synopsis: “In My Tree” Discusses getting away from it all to clear ones mind. The lyrics were written by Vedder at the height of his fame and express a need to be hidden away for a while.
Now active for over twenty years, Pearl Jam shows no signs of slowing and has many other overlooked treats, the first five years for the band were a typhoon of success and exposure that forever changed how Pearl Jam interacted with media. Though the last few albums have produced precious few b-sides, there’s no telling what the vault holds.I’ll be looking forward to more rare Pearl Jam in the future.
Interested in picking up Ten or No Code? head over to iTunes by clicking the album art below! If you’re looking for Angel it’s more rare Pearl Jam and eBay would be your best bet!