Way Back Machine – Pearl Jam Fan Club

I can’t recall where I heard Pearl Jam first, but I know where I read about them first. And that was in this article from the October 31, 1991 issue of Rolling Stone.

Suffice it to say, I was intrigued. If only for the nod to Jesus Jones.

A lot of people don’t realize that Pearl Jam’s Ten (8.27.91) was released before Nirvana’s Nevermind (9.24.91). That’s not a slag against Nirvana, Nevermind certainly took hold of the world before Ten did.

All these years later, the two albums still serve as some sort of bizarre (and unnecessary) diving rod for music of that era. Silly, but true. They’re both great, but yea, everyone has a preference.

While I like both albums, it was Ten that struck a chord and resonated with me. I suppose that’s a discussion for another time. But for the first time in my life, I decided to join a fan club.

As a kid, I had never joined a fan club. I don’t really know why, but I’ll go ahead and blame my parents. However, in retrospect, I suppose I lacked the emotional maturity for anything I listened to as a kid to warrant it. . . and I’m guessing my parents wouldn’t give me the money.

Looking back now, I think it’s just a testament to how much Ten hit me that I thought enough to join the fan club. To be honest, it didn’t hurt that I was a college kid and joining the Ten Club was free.

Here I was a proud, card carrying and recently anointed by author Douglas Coupland “Gen X’er”, joining a fan club. And I didn’t have one iota of shame or embarrassment.

Back then I loved Ten. Oh, who am I kidding, I still do. It’s flawless. And in the fall of 1991 and into 1992, I would tell anyone who would listen.

I’ve never been one of those music fans who wants the bands they like to stay small. I wanted everyone to hear my favorite bands. I was a huge R.E.M. fan and when they signed their huge deal with Warner Bros. Records in 1988, I was excited. It meant they were going to reach more people. Now, I didn’t always liked what they released on Warner Bros., but that proved to be the case.

For about six months from ’91 into ‘92, I would prattle on and on about Pearl Jam to just about anyone who would listen. I wouldn’t shut up about them. Every chance I could I would talk them up. Unfortunately, everyone was all about Nirvana at the time. Pearl Jam was lumped into a Nirvana “bandwagon” band (history has corrected that. . . but again, a different discussion). So a spirited debate would usually ensue. 

The Program Director at my college radio station referred to Pearl Jam as “corporate cock rock.” A totally unfair characterization that time has fixed. History has also shown that Nirvana had much more corporate power behind their breakthrough than Pearl Jam did during those beginning months.

It took four months of annoying him (and many beers at the Christmas Party ) to finally convince him to add Ten to the stations library. He absolutely refused to put it into rotation.

And then it took another four months of cajoling, begging and pleading for him to work the record label rep’s to get me an interview with the band. Eventually, he did. I interviewed then drummer Dave Abbruzzese at a Boston Holiday Inn on April 8, 1992.

At that point, the Pearl Jam train had left the station and the band was gathering serious momentum. A few days after my interview, and that night’s show at that Axis Club in Boston, Pearl Jam would make their live network debut on Saturday Night Live.

People tuning in got to hear, and see, what those of us early adopters had heard.

Of course, my college radio station wouldn’t actually air my interview Dave Abbruzzese. I settled for it being printed in the school paper. Even that took some aggressive flirting with the editor.

In any event, way back in 1991 the Pearl Jam fan club, the Ten Club, was just a photostatic copy of stuff on a legal sized paper sent out to people. That was it. You could order t-shirts, a sticker, but that was it.

But membership did have its privileges. Even as a fan club member then, they sent out Christmas singles pro-bono (I have those too somewhere).

I guess this was the last free newsletter. In it, they ask for $5.00 to join the club. I had been a member since the beginning, I should’ve been grandfathered in. Dammit! Being an arrogant dummy, I got indignant about it and wouldn’t pay. Big mistake on my part (I’ve since re-joined). Membership still has its privileges (too many to list, but they exist).

Pearl Jam has been as dedicated to their fans as their fans have been to the band. It’s as symbiotic as a relationship can be between one of the worlds biggest bands and its fans.

Through all the moves and nonsense over the years, I’ve held on to those photostatic copies. So, I thought I’d share one of them. I’m guessing this must’ve been the third one, judging by the 3 on one of the pages. I’m sure the others are in some box around here somewhere.

Some notes from this one:

  • Supporting Neil Young (guessing for the first time)
  • Supporting U2 (also guessing for the first time)
  • Beginning stages of “Jeremy” video
  • Formation of Stone’s side project Brad
  • They must’ve begun working on Vs.

In any event, hopefully you’ll enjoy this as much as I did then. Frankly, still do: