I fell in love with Pearl Jam for their attitude. It was crazy how they could be so intelligent and articulate even though all they wore were loose thrift store clothing, paired with long, mangy hair. Seriously though, they looked like scruffy homeless people who hadn’t had the chance to shower or change clothes in a year. But, the weirdest part was they didn’t even care. They were going to do what they wanted, how they wanted, and that was that. And in fact, that was how they found so much appeal to the public.
Pearl Jam first started in Seattle as Mother Love Bone, but after the death of the singer Andy Wood, they knew they needed to start a new band. The band was so close to making it in the music industry when the untimely death of Andy Wood occurred. But, the group knew they had to keep going, and eventually found a new singer: a surfer named Eddie Vedder who lived in San Diego. Vedder came to Seattle to be with the band, and within a week had written the eleven songs for their hit album, Ten. The band was hurled into prominence with the release of the album. And, this was great because this was what they had always wanted, right? They would have absolutely no shortage of money and being able to do what they actually liked all day long! But as they soon found out, the success that they always thought they had to achieve, was the complete opposite of what they wanted.
After finally accomplishing what they had worked their whole lives for, Eddie Vedder and the rest of Pearl Jam began trying to resist fame, and all of the things that came with it. They didn’t like how Ticketmaster, a ticket reseller, would buy up all of the tickets to sell to their fans at extortionate prices. Pearl Jam wanted all of their fans to be able to see their concerts, and since most of their fan were young people, this meant that the tickets would have to be cheap. So Pearl Jam ended up testifying against Ticketmaster in court. However, the case was ultimately dismissed, it brought into the light how much of a business America really is.
Another problem they faced was the media trying to commercialize them. Pearl Jam (and many other bands from Seattle) were labeled as grunge by the media. The band felt this was just another way to commercialize them since this word defined their look. Pearl Jam, and Eddie Vedder especially, were bothered when the cheap, run-down clothes they had always worn were selling for an extravagant price. This is what inspired Vedder to write their song “Corduroy.” In an interview, he revealed, “that song was based on a remake of the brown corduroy jacket that I wore. I got mine for 12 bucks, and it was being sold for like $650” (Onion AV Club, and Eddie Vedder). This was very exasperating to the band because the media was charging an extraordinary amount of money for a style that was actually just old, mundane clothes the band had to wear because they didn’t have any money. This seemed really fake to Pearl Jam because now models were wearing very pricey clothing made to look old and tattered. And why? They did it just because Pearl Jam was the “it” band at that time and they wanted to imitate them. These people didn’t even know the band, so how could they possibly want to be like them so much that they copied their sense of style (or lack of for that matter). This agitated Vedder, as can be seen when he unnervingly wails, “take my hand, not my picture,” showing he felt it was odd how much people idolized him and would take his picture, although the didn’t know him at all. They just admired the image of him but had no idea what he was like as a person.
The real problem was that making the band mainstream was taking its toll on the band. Although they had always wished to become famous musicians, they didn’t anticipate that this would mess them up, making them lose their identity and their focus on music. As Eddie Vedder himself ragingly bellowed at fame “the waiting drove me mad, you’re finally here but I’m a mess.” In spite of this, they were determined to make the music they wanted to play, not what they thought would sell. However, the music industry and their record label didn’t share the same thoughts. Since Pearl Jam was the “it” band at that time, they wanted to make as most money out of it, booking the band for as many events as they could and pressuring them to release another album. Although the band originally felt this was their dream, they were horrifically awakened when they discovered they were basically being used and run ragged by their record company, just so the company could make as much money as possible. Eddie Vedder showed he would not stand for this anymore fiercely shouting in his song, “I don’t want to limp for them to walk.”
In the end, after achieving what they thought was their dream, they wished it had never happened. As Vedder put it, “I’m already cut up and half dead,” showing the toll the fame took on them. They knew they were just going to be chewed up, then spit back out eventually. You could tell they were fed up with this whole situation and just wanted it to be over with already after Vedder hauntingly hollered, “oh to live and die, let it be done, I figure I'll be damned, all alone like I began.” Thus they wished it never even happened, and they could return to just being a small band, playing for the love of playing.
This is the problem people face in this country. In America, everyone feels pressure to become successful. Whether it is making big as a musician, climbing up the corporate ladder in business, or rising up the ranks in the military, everyone has dreams of success and prosperity. But the difficult part of this dream is that it’s not just to reach success, it’s to keep becoming more and more successful. Many people measure each other and themselves by how much success they’ve achieved and how much money they’ve earned. Their ultimate American Dream is to be the most successful they can. However, the problem with this is that money and success doesn’t equate to happiness. People don’t realize that success doesn’t take away your struggles. Everybody has their own kinds of restrictions and struggles in every situation they are in. So although people dream of success and money, this ideal won’t actually remove your trouble and forge happiness in your life. As Eddie Vedder put it himself, “everything has chains, absolutely nothing's changed.”
I guess what I’m trying to say here is people in America should try to just be happy with where they are in their life and grateful for what they have. There is no way to tell if something will be better for you or if it will be worse. Just trying to become more and more successful is a road to nowhere. You just have to watch out because your American Dream could turn into your American Nightmare if you push it too far.