Sunday, July 7, 1991

Pearl Jam “Alive” released as debut single


Pearl Jam

Writer(s): Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard (see lyrics here)

Released: July 7, 1991

First Charted: August 3, 1991

Peak: 16 AR, 18 MR, 16 UK, 9 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.4 UK, 0.44 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 147.54 video, 410.53 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Pearl Jam became one of the cornerstones of the grunge movement with their 1991 debut album Ten. The group’s history, however, went back much farther than their formation in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. Guitarists Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard were previously in Green River, a pioneering grunge band (1984-1988), and Mother Love Bone (1988-1990). When the latter group’s lead singer, Andrew Wood, died from a heroin overdose, Ament and Gossard collaborated with singer Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron from Soundgarden to release the one-off Temple of the Dog tribute album in 1991.

The album included guitarist Mike McCready and singer Eddie Vedder, who formed Pearl Jam with Ament and Gossard and drummer Dave Krusen. After Mother Love Bone’s demise, Ament and Gossard had circulated a demo tape of instrumentals to find a singer. Jack Irons, the former drummer with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, gave it to Vedder, a singer formerly with San Diego band Bad Radio. He wrote lyrics to several of the songs, including one originally called “Dollar Short” which became “Alive.” The lyrics came to Vedder while he was surfing. It was the first song for which he recorded vocals for the band. WK The band, then known as Mookie Blaylock, recorded their first demo of the song in January 1991 at London Bridge studio.

Vedder’s lyrics were a somewhat autobiographical accunt of finding out that the man he thought was his father was actually his stepfather and that his biological father had died. Vedder was only a year old when his mother divorced his real father, Edward Severson III, who died in 1981 from multiple scierosis. SF Vedder added a fictionalized element which found the mother weirdly attracted to her son because he resembled his father. WK

Vedder said that the original message from the song’s protagonist that “I’m still alive” was that it was a curse. However, audiences responded to the quintessential grunge classic as a celebratory song. As Vedder said, “They lifted the curse. The audience changed the meaning for me.” WK’s Steve Huey described the “tough-survivor anthem” AMG as having “a big, stadium-ready chorus” AMG and said “it was also subtler, less macho, and less grandiose than true arena rock.” AMG The song gave Vedder “a chance to…show the gentle side of his rich, sonorous voice” AMG


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First posted 11/1/2022.

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