The AV Club has a serious looking back at “alternative” culture in the early 1990’s — best epitomized by grunge, Seattle and that Cameron Crowe movie Singles. The third part examines Pearl Jam’s rise to fame and their subsequent disappearing act. It’s an exceptional piece of music history/writing by Stephen Hyden.
Ten was already in the upper reaches of the Billboard chart by the time Pearl Jam’s third video, “Jeremy,” went into heavy rotation on MTV in August ’92. Watching it now, the “Jeremy” video has lots of cringingly obvious imagery, not the least of which is sad lil’ Jeremy wrapped in the American flag while surrounded by flames. (I’m going to go out a limb and suggest that director Mark Pellington was trying to make a larger point about the tenuous state of American youth in the early ’90s.) But at the time, “Jeremy” was probably the most emotionally overpowering video I’d ever seen. The song itself had also been juiced up for MTV; the most moving part of “Jeremy” is the outro, where Vedder lets out the same epic “whoa!” that Bruce Springsteenshould’ve trademarked in 1978 after he released Darkness On The Edge Of Town. The single version of “Jeremy” was remixed to extend Vedder’s climactic “whoa!” for several extra beats, a slight but important change that amped up the song’s dramatic impact. (Vedder’s greatest vocal performances tend to be practically wordless; see Ten’s mush-mouthed closer, “Release,” and the essential “Jeremy” B-side “Yellow Ledbetter,” which fans have been trying to decipher for 18 years.)