Things do not happen overnight. Sometimes, it takes years for events to unfold. In 1985 farmers throughout the Midwest US struggled to keep the family farms that had been in their families for generations. Corporations hovered like vultures waiting to pick on the next farmer whose bank foreclosed on the farm. It was something right out of the Great Depression, albeit, 50 years in the making. The resulting crisis would cause Ronald Reagan to slightly bend his economic model to get the farmers through the crisis.
During the Great Depression, the Agricultural Adjustment Act began a policy of subsidizing farmers to not grow certain crops and to leave certain fields fallow. Due in part as a reaction to the Dust Bowl, but more so, the FDR administration wanted to raise the price of crops to help farmers. By controlling the supply, the government felt the price would fluctuate less. Due to mechanization fueled by gasoline power tractors, combines, and other farm equipment, the American farmer was producing more crops than ever before. For 40 years, the system worked and it worked well. However, things started to unravel for the American farmer beginning in the middle 1970s.
Several factors merged to create the crisis.
1. Technology continued to evolve. Not only were machines partly responsible, but also new methods of farming and irrigation along with new insecticides and herbicides combined with genetics changed drastically how much one farmer could produce. In 1940, one American farmer could feed 15 people. But 1960, that number increased over 400% to 65.
2. To keep up with the changes and to grow more, farmers leveraged themselves by borrowing money to support their expansion of their operations.
3. Interest rates were very low in the beginning of the 1970s. Farmers borrowed more because it was a good deal.
4. The price of oil and gasoline skyrocketed in the OPEC Embargo in 1973. The cost of farming grew immensely.
5. As a result, the economy turned south.
6. Jimmy Carter did not help. When the USSR invaded Afghanistan, the US placed an embargo on farm products to the USSR.
7. As foreign markets dried up, debt piled up. Farmers began to struggle to survive as farm prices continued to sink.
In 1978 and 1979, farmers drove their tractors to Washington to protest Farm policy. An estimated 3000 farmers went and some even stayed for the winter camping out on the mall. The policy did not change except for a moratorium on foreclosures from the FHA.
When Reagan took office, things were not much better. Bumper stickers could be seen around America to protest their plight.
Reagan’s economic philosophy did not mesh with the growing crisis. In fact, Reagan initially cut subsidies to farmers. When the economy did not improve, banks began to raise interest rates and the crisis grew. Foreclosures skyrocketed. Violence became an everyday aspect of rural life. If a farmer was having an auction to sell off machinery or to auction off the land, sometimes shots were fired, people were killed, or kidnapped. The banker and the auctioneer became the villains of the heartland.
Farm life had changed drastically since the 1930s. The number of farms shrank while the average size of the farm grew. It took fewer and fewer people to run a farm and the population of rural America was turning greyer. In Nebraska, it was estimated that 1/3 of all farms were at risk in the 1980s of being foreclosed. Farm support groups began to grow to help farmers save their farms. It was not enough.
By 1985, Reagan was wanting to end all subsidies and let the market dictate what the price of farm products should be. Deregulation was Reagan’s dream. However, the crisis was turning into a nightmare. Bob Dylan, in an off handed comment at Live Aid, said the organizers should take some of the money and give it to the farmers. Three people were listening that day: John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, and Neil Young. The three men would put together a benefit concert called Farm Aid to aid the farmers. It would be held at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.
As a soon to be college senior, I made the trip from west central Illinois with my friends, Jim Jones and Craig Schaeffer. We left at 6 in the morning and got home at 3 in the morning. It was a day filled with many memories of great acts (BB King, Beach Boys, Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar, Tanya Tucker, Bob Dylan, and many more). I remember it was cold, chilly, and overcast. When the concert started, the sun came out for a brief period but as soon as Bon Jovi was roundly booed, it turned in to an all day soaker. It did not let up until 8 p.m. However, the concert did raise national awareness about the farm crisis.
Mellencamp, who would routinely criticize Reagan, was from the heartland of Seymour, Indiana. His 1985 album, Scarecrow, contained the title track, Rain on the Scarecrow, about the farm crisis. It had been my impetus in attending. The title track laid out what was happening around the center of the country.
Scarecrow on a wooden cross, blackbird in the barn
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm
I grew up like my daddy did, my grandpa cleared this land
When I was five, I walked a fence while grandpa held my hand
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
This land fed a nation, this land made me proud
And son, I’m just sorry, there’s no legacy for you now
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
The crops we grew last summer weren’t enough to pay the loans
Couldn’t buy the seed to plant this spring and the farmers bank foreclosed
Called my old friend Schepman up to auction off the land
He said, “John, it’s just my job and I hope you understand”
Hey, calling it your job, ol’ hoss, sure don’t make it right
But if you want me to I’ll say a prayer for your soul tonight
And grandma’s on the front porch swing with a Bible in her hand
Sometimes I hear her singing, “Take me to the promised land”
When you take away a man’s dignity he can’t work his fields and cows
There’ll be blood on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
Blood on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
Well there’s ninety-seven crosses planted in the courthouse yard
And ninety-seven families who lost ninety-seven farms
I think about my grandpa, my neighbors and my name
And some nights I feel like dyin’ like that scarecrow in the rain
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
This land fed a nation, yeah, this land made me proud
And son, I’m just sorry, they’re just memories for you now
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
Copyright 1985 by John Mellencamp
Shortly after the concert, the Reagan administration began to take the crisis more seriously. When 15,000 farmers showed up for a rally in Ames, Iowa, the crisis had to be taken more seriously. It was turning in to a political issue. Throughout most of rural America, the Republican party is king. By not dealing with the crisis Reagan was threatening to alienate his constituency at the price of sticking to his economic morality of deregulation. Had Reagan stuck to his economic guns, the Republican party could have been lost. Instead, Reagan made the first of many deals to ensure the continuance of the American family farm. Beginning with the 1985 Farm Security Act and grain deals in 1986 and 1988, farm policy became a priority for Reagan. Kansas Senator Bob Dole spearheaded moves in 1986 to increase the aid, and along with Dick Lugar from Indiana, more aid followed in 1987.
Former Nebraska state senator Elaine Stuhr reflected back on the crisis.
“”No, they weren’t. And that’s one of the reasons I think that the women coming together and being supportive and partners in their family farming operations certainly gave them a better understanding of what we were going through. And times were very, very difficult. In fact I was looking at several clippings where bankers said that this was probably one of the most difficult times because of the very low prices. I think corn was like a $1.50 [per bushel]. And then our high interest rates – the rates of inflation [actually interest rates were] going to 19, 20 percent. Even over. We lost many, many young families. I think probably the biggest notice was farm women went to work in town. If there was any opportunity to find employment, this was the time when women would work just to buy groceries and have groceries on their table. It was a very difficult time. And I think one of the reasons was about in 1973 Russia bought corn. And prices were good, up to $3.00, $3.50. And land prices escalated, as well. And so, people were paying as much as $2,200, $2,500 an acre for land thinking the prices would stay up, the interest rates would stay low where they were. But then the culmination of all these things happening in the late 70s and early 80s and that just put the squeeze on many families. And they simply couldn’t make it.”
For many farmers, the way of life they always knew was threatened. More than $25 billion was poured into subsidies in1986. By 1987, there added an additional $4 billion and talked of overhauling the Farm Security Act. For most farmers, things did not change much after the Farm Security Act. Many still lost the farm and a way of life was shattered. Farmers relied more on grassroots groups than government. F arm Aid has given out over $37 million in aid in the past 25 years. Other grassroots groups continue to aid farmers today. While rural America continues to shrink under a growing urbanized country, the number of farms continues to shrink along with the number of farmers. Reagan, even after getting the aid for farmers, still wanted to deregulate the farm industry and price controls. And for many of the corporations that process the agricultural products, that deregulation did take take place just not in the price of crops and meat. While Reagan gave with one hand, the other hand oversaw the change in a deregulated processed foods industry. Today, only a few corporations oversee the processing of agricultural products. In addition, the selling of the products is now also done by a few regional supermarket chains.
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Throughout my almost 48 years, I have had several favorite bands. Depending on the time period of my life, the style of music has changed. There have been constants however. First, the Beatles are, and always will be, one of my favorites. Throw in early 80s U2, early R.E.M., and the Police you have most of my young life. In the 90s, that all changed. I th0ught Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Rage Against the Machine defined the 90s as bands. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of Pearl Jam and the release of Ten, their first album. For me, there was not a greater time for music. The band was fresh and new and released a lot of music in a short period of time between the album, CD singles, and soundtracks. In honor of the 20th anniversary, Cameron Crowe will be releasing a documentary, PJ 20, this fall on PBS and on September 3 and 4, Pearl Jam will be holding a 20 year celebration concert.
I have always loved Pearl Jam. I don’t really know why. Maybe it was the lyrics, the rawness, the fact that they rocked hard, or it could have been the fact their music was about their music and not their hair, sales, or clothes. The antithesis to the hair bands of the late 80s, so called grunge rockers looked like the kids and young adults around the block. Nobody went around dressing up like Poison unless they wanted to get beat up.
Now, I have waxed poetic about Pearl Jam before. Once about Ticketmaster, the other about Roskilde. Today, I will be writing and posting about what I think is the strength of Pearl Jam – their ability to play live. They are one of the best live bands of all time. What I would like to do is to put together what I think would be the ultimate Pearl Jam concert. It would include all my favorite songs by them and some covers. It would be full on rock, some acoustic moments, and some rare and obscure songs.
From time to time, Eddie Vedder is known for coming out and playing a few songs by himself. My ultimate PJ concert would start off in this format.
I have always loved the idea of just a singer and guitar. Part of it is growing up in the 60s and 70s, the other is I think you get to hear the song and singer in an unmatched format. For this ultimate concert, Angel kicks things off. Written by Eddie Vedder and one time drummer Dave Abrruzzese, this little sounding Hendrix-like ditty has always been one of my favorites!
Next, Eddie calms the crowd with the Hunters and Collectors campfire song, “Throw Your Arms Around Me”.
Next up is Eddie covering Bruce Springsteen’s “Open All Night”. He gets some of the words wrong but who cares!
Closing out the pre-show is Eddie’s take on Neil Young’s classic coming of age song, “Sugar Mountain”.
The set begins with the classic Release playing as the band takes the stage. They launch in to Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” and segue into “Corduroy” off the Vitalogy CD.
The pace is kept up with the burner “Go”.
No let up as the band breaks out the classic up tempo “Rear View Mirror”. Taped for a rehearsal on Saturday Night Live, the song takes on extra weight as their is no audience.
The band continues blazing by breaking out “Brother” from the sessions for Ten.
The band bookends “Brother” with “Alone”, also from the Ten sessions.
Ending the trip down memory lane is “Breath” from the Singles soundtrack
Next up is “Sad”, an out take from Binaural
Next the band slows it down with the rare, “Hard to Imagine”
Next up, Ben Harper makes his first appearance of the night to guest on “Red Mosquito”
Next up is the euphoric (for me), “Given to Fly”
Andrew Rehn gets the first of his three back-to-back-to-back ultimate requests with “Down”
“Inside Job” takes things to another level
The first set comes to a close with the fury of “Evenflow”
After a short break, the band would return for this ultimate concert with an semi-acoustic set. To kick it off, “Of the Girl”
Next up would be the much under appreciated “Oceans” off of Ten.
“Footsteps” makes its greatness known. The music originally was used on the Temple of the Dog song “Times of Trouble”.
Another under appreciated song, “Off He Goes” makes its beauty known!
The band takes “State of Love and Trust” out for a spin
“Lukin” is redone with string quartet!
The beautiful “Just Breath” takes your breath away.
The band returns for “Last Kiss”
In a surprise move, “Yellow Ledbetter” gets the acoustic treatment
An excellent version of “Present Tense” begins the second electric set!
“Do the Evolution” cranks up the sarcasm!
The full on power of the band just keeps flowing with “Blood”
One of my favorite songs, “I Got Id” captures the band at its finest!
“Leash” returns and is unleashed on an unsuspecting crowd!
This band just doesn’t quit when they break out a cover of The Who’s “The Real Me” in a powerful performance.
The recent “Unthought Known” does well and raises the roof
“Not for You” gets the crowd going even more!
The band breaks out some Bob Marley before turning into a poignant version of “Better Man”
“Leatherman” makes a rare appearance
Hail Hail revs up everyone’s engines
“Immortality” closes out the second electric set
The jam begins with “Daughter”
One of my favorites, “Last Exit” kicks it into overdrive!
“Alive” is brought back to life
Closing out encore 1 is the always great “Crazy Mary”
Encore 2 kicks off with a special guest…Mr. Ben Harper
Eddie does his best Daltry impersonation with this powerful version of “Love Reign O’er Me”
The band states its motto, “Five Against One” in the chorus of the bruising Animal.
The band ends the second encore on a high note….”Porch”
As people head for the aisles, the band returns for a third encore…with some special guests
Chris Cornell turns up to perform the classic, “Hunger Strike”
“Amongst the Waves” brings things up a notch
The classic “Black” appears in a ten minute tour de force
In a nod to the late Andy Wood, The band breaks out a Mother Love Bone classic, “Crown of Thorns”
The band breaks out a Neil Young classic, “F’in up”
The Godfather of Pearl Jam joins in to bring it home
The band takes a bow and collapses after playing the greatest show of all time.
There are a hundred other songs I could have put in, but these are my favorites. Let me know yours!
Not every path to success is a smooth road. Some bands rise slowly, others shoot across the sky like a meteor only to burn up after a few years. For Pearl Jam, they rose from the ashes of Mother Love Bone and in a matter of three years they grew so big they almost imploded from their fame. At the center of it all was control – How much control would Pearl Jam have over their career and how much would corporations have. In this case, the corporation would be Ticketmaster.
In 1990, Pearl Jam was started after the overdose of Mother Love Bone singer Andy Wood. Guitarist Stone Gossard recruited friend Mike McCready to play on some demos. Soon Gossard contacted fellow Mother Love Bone and Green River bassist Jeff Ament to join in, and Soundgarden Drummer Matt Cameron lended his talents for the demo. In search of a drummer and a singer, Gossard contacted former Chili Peppers skins man Jack Irons. While Irons did decline, he gave the tape to his surfing and basketball friend, Eddie Vedder. Vedder sent the tape back with lyrics and vocals for three songs – Alive, Footsteps, and Once. Within weeks, a new band was born: Mookie Blaylock. That’s right…Mookie Blaylock. The band named themselves after the NBA player. When the band went into the studio, they realized there could be possible litigation and they would soon change their name. In 1991, Mookie Blaylock became Pearl Jam and released their first album, Ten. The album sold slowly at first, but as of today, it has sold over 13 million copies in the US alone.
Word about the band’s live shows spread. They played anywhere with a mix of high energy and their songs connected with audiences. Their first video “Alive” was shot and recorded live. The second single “Evenflow” helped sales. Two events coincided to turn Pearl Jam into a household name. The first was their performance on MTV’s Unplugged. The show featured the band playing a six song acoustic set. The energy of the band in the acoustic setting highlighted their interplay along with Vedder’s voice. This was a band to be seen live.
Then came Jeremy. Of all the songs, Jeremy visually struck a chord with fans the most. The video would win three MTV Video awards. Based upon a true story, the lyrics tell the story behind the story of a school shooting. Eddie did not like the attention given to the song. He has always resented the record company and corporate media for killing the song through overexposure. As a result, Jeremy was the last video the band made for over 9 years. It was the first in a series of battles the band fought and won. After Jeremy, the record company wanted to release “Black” as the next single. Vedder and the band fought back to stop its distribution.
In 1992, the band felt overexposed. To go from being nobodies on the streets of Seattle to being part of the Grunge music scene was quite a shock. Along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden, the band did not want to be seen as poster boys of a generation. The band retreated to San Francisco to record their second album Vs. With the line “Five Against One” from the song “Animal”, Eddie summed up their attitude towards the music industry, the media, and the world in general. They would meet with success and failure. The failure tore apart the band, its fans, and Vedder.
The band redid things for Vs. Musical acts in the early 90s mainly released videos for singles. Because of the backlash against Jeremy within the band, they did make any videos for Vs. The first week of its release, Vs. sold an astounding 900,000 copies. The band felt validated to let their music do the talking. The tour was very successful and Pearl Jam was doing things on their own terms. However, they also stopped doing interviews with Rolling Stone and preferred independent magazines.
It was during the Vs. tour that the band noticed their fans were being charged surcharges by Ticketmaster. The band did not like this and vowed to change things. 1994 was not a good year. The band tried to tour as best it could but it was a giant mess without Ticketmaster. When Vitalogy was released in 1994, sales were brisk. The band refused to book any shows with Ticketmaster. The resulting tour or lack thereof was a disaster. Security, sound, and seating were terrible. The band wound up canceling the tour and alienating many fans. The Justice Department contacted the band and asked for details. Stone and Jeff wound up testifying before Congress.
Here are some excerpts of their testimony. The full portion can be found here:
A series of run-ins with Ticketmaster during our last tour illustrates quite clearly the power that Ticketmaster wields and the risk that any band undertakes in attempting to utilize an alternative to Ticketmaster’s distribution system. Last December, we had made arrangements with a local promoter in Seattle to perform at the Seattle Center Arena. A portion of the proceeds from this concert were to go to charity. We originally had an agreement with Ticketmaster under which they would distribute tickets for the concert and impose a service charge of $3.25, of which $1 would be donated by them to the charity, plus they would make an additional contribution from their revenues so that their total contribution would be $20,000 if the concert sold out. Pearl Jam also agreed to contribute $20,000 to the charity. At the last minute, just as the tickets were about to go on sale, Ticketmaster reneged, and threatened not to sell tickets if it could not raise the service charge by $1 per ticket to cover the amount of their contribution. After a tense impasse, Ticketmaster finally relented and agreed to charge only $3.25, but it limited its contribution to the $1 per ticket portion of its undertaking and did not make the full contribution it had originally agreed to make.
After this, our run-ins with Ticketmaster became increasingly threatening. In Chicago last March, Ticketmaster insisted on imposing a $3.75 service charge on top of the $18 price of a ticket to our concerts. We negotiated with Ticketmaster’s general manager in Chicago and obtained an agreement to identify that service charge separately from the actual price of the ticket. Then, just as tickets were to go on sale, Ticketmaster again reneged. It was necessary for us to threaten to perform at another venue before Ticketmaster backed down and agreed to sell tickets that separately disclosed its service charge. Even then, Ticketmaster told us that its concession only extended to our Chicago shows and we should not expect them to be willing to do it elsewhere.
Chicago was followed soon after by Detroit. In Detroit, we decided to try to bypass Ticketmaster by distributing tickets through our fan club and by a lottery system. We were informed that Ticketmaster threatened the promoter of this concert with a lawsuit for violating its exclusive Ticketmaster agreement by allowing this method of distribution to occur, and also temporarily disabled the promoter’s ticket machine to that it could not print tickets for the concert for that time.
In New York, where we played a show at the Paramount Theatre in April of this year, we tried to distribute some tickets over the radio. Using a city-wide promotion, tickets were sold through the Paramount Box office. Here again, we were informed that Ticketmaster threatened the Paramount’s management with legal action for supposedly allowing us to evade Ticketmaster’s exclusive rights.
While we were experimenting with these alternative distribution arrangements, Ticketmaster attempted to threaten and intimidate us. For example, at one point the person in charge of handling concert arrangements for us was told by Ticketmaster in essence that he had better watch himself and that if we didn’t back off he would be run out of the business.
After the conclusion of our winter tour, we began to plan for a tour this summer. In attempting to arrange that tour, we made it clear that we would only perform if the service charge imposed on our tickets was limited to 10 percent and was separately disclosed. Ticketmaster responded by spreading the word to promoters that it viewed our efforts as a threat to its business and urged promoters to refuse to deal with Pearl Jam. For example, as we disclosed to the Justice Department, in March of this year, Ben Liss of the North American Concert Promoters Association — a group of all major promoters in North America — sent a memorandum to the Association’s members in which he referred to them as “brother raccoons” and warned that:
“Ticketmaster has indicated to me that they will aggressively enforce their contracts with promoters and facilities. Ticketmaster’s stance is that they have been loyal to their partners in this business and they hope and expect their partners will reciprocate.”
As our memorandum to the Justice Department explains, Ticketmaster’s exclusive arrangements with promoters and venues are unreasonable restraints of trade, and its use of those arrangements to prevent promoters and venues from dealing with Pearl Jam amounts to a group boycott, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Ticketmaster is also a monopolist, having acquired and perpetuated that position through its acquisition of Ticketron and various other regional ticket services and the use of long term exclusive contracts. In acting to preclude Pearl Jam and other bands from distributing tickets to their own concerts other than through Ticketmaster, Ticketmaster is unlawfully exercising that monopoly power in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.
Since we brought Ticketmaster’s conduct to the attention of the Department of Justice almost two months ago, public support for us and more generally for efforts to reduce ticket prices has been overwhelming. Although our success as a band gives us a degree of power to try to stand up to Ticketmaster that newer and less established bands do not have, we do not consider ourselves to be crusaders. And while we recognize that the issues we have raised have implications that go beyond Pearl Jam, our interest is really quite narrow. We simply have a different philosophy than Ticketmaster does about how and at what price tickets to our concerts should be sold. We do not want to force Ticketmaster to do business on our terms, but we believe we should have the freedom to go elsewhere if Ticketmaster is not prepared to negotiate terms that are acceptable to us. That is the essence of competition. As we learned in attempting to arrange a tour this summer, given the current state of Ticketmaster’s dominance of the industry, that may well mean that we must play non-traditional venues and use non-established promoters or promote our own shows.
The level of the service charge is not the only problem that Pearl Jam faces in connection with the sale of tickets to its concerts. Beyond the excessive service charges there are the problems of ticket scalping, counterfeiting, and commercial advertising on tickets. For example, at some of our recent concerts, an informal poll of fans in the audience revealed that more than 40 percent of them bought their tickets from ticket brokers. At many of our concerts, we are experiencing a counterfeit ticket rate of about 2.5 to 3%. And at one recent concert in Boston, we learned that some of these counterfeit tickets had been sold to fans for $250.
Ticketmaster CEO Fred Rosen says he “intends on taking a very strong stand on this issue to protect Ticketmaster’s existing contracts with promoters and facilities, and further, TM will use all available remedies to protect itself from outside third parties that attempt to interfere with those existing contracts.”
On May 6, 1994, unable to find suitable venues to perform in that do not have exclusive contracts with Ticketmaster, Pearl Jam cancels its summer tour. Representatives from the U.S. Justice Department approach the band about filing a memo with them under their anti-trust division. Pearl Jam agrees. In the memo Pearl Jam claims that Ticketmaster, through its extensive exclusive contracts with major concert venues, controls a monopoly over the marketplace, and that Ticketmaster has pressured promoters not to handle Pearl Jam shows.
Despite the testimony of Stone and Jeff along with members of R.E.M., Ticketmaster never had charges brought up against it by the Justice Department or by Congress. On July 5, 1995, the Justice Department drops its Ticketmaster investigation with the following statement: “The Department of Justice announced today that it has informed Ticketmaster Holdings Group, Inc. that it is closing its antitrust investigation into that firm’s contracting practices. The Department will continue to monitor competitive developments in the ticketing industry.”
Attorney General Janet Reno, commenting on the Department’s dropping of the case, says,
“[i]t did not seem an appropriate time to continue to pursue the investigation…My understanding is that the division found that there were new enterprises coming into the arena and based on that evidence…we do not have a basis for proceeding.”
Pearl Jam responded that they were “disappointed” with the decision stating that “those who will be most hurt by the Justice Department’s cave-in are the consumers of live entertainment.” The band added that it “will continue to work on behalf of our fans to keep our tickets affordable and accessible to everyone.”
Vedder was devastated. He retreated back to Seattle. The band would come to a compromise with Ticketmaster for their next tour – if there was one. Members of the Pearl Jam Fan Club, Ten Club, would be given preferential seating and they would also be allowed to buy tickets ahead of the general public. The effects of this compromise would not be truly seen until the late 90s when Ten Club went online.
In 1995, the band hooked up with one of Eddie’s heroes, Neil Young. They recorded with Neil as his backing band for the CD Mirror Ball. They toured with Neil and the relationship transformed not only the sound of the band, but their songwriting and how they got along as a band. Pearl Jam would release an EP called Merkin Ball with some of the songs co-written by Neil Young. Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones said that being in a band was a young man’s game. Pearl Jam were now adults in their early thirties. In 1996, the album No Code was released to rave reviews but poor sales. Gone were the anthems of angst, alienation, and long guitar solos. The songs reflected a more mature band seeking to craft songs like their idols.
Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune stated in 1995,
“Pearl Jam’s revolt is informed by generosity and almost naive idealism; the band is staking its future on a battle to reform the entertainment ticketing industry that, it is hoped, would make concerts more affordable and accessible. It may sound quaint, and it’s certainly a gesture out of step with these cynical times. But, above all, it’s brave. Other bands have paid lip service to this goal, but none has followed Pearl Jam’s lead.”
However, the sale of their CDs has never reached the zenith of their early CDs. No Code, released shortly after the conflict, is the lowest selling CD in the Pearl Jam catalog. On the other hand, the band would rebound with Yield in 1998 and again in 2000 with Binaural.
The conflict marked several key turning points in the history of the band. They would no longer be the giant band of the early 1990s. The conflict changed them personally and it also changed their music. However, they did become legends by doing things on their own terms. Vedder’s role in the conflict reshaped what was of value to him as an artist, a human being, and as a member of a band. Today, the band still takes on the giant issues of the day. They may have lost some control but in the end, they ended up gaining more control of themselves.