Book Review

I Just Got My Copy of Pearl Jam 20

It’s like being granted a retroactive backstage pass.

By Matthew Halverson September 13, 2011

Pearl Jam turns 20 this year. How old do you feel?

Here’s my favorite quote from Pearl Jam 20, the exhausting exhaustive documentary-in-book-form that’s out today:

“All of a sudden, these guys I’d vaguely met were as famous as Elizabeth Taylor.”

First of all, that comes from R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. Yes, he moved here from Georgia in ‘93, right as Pearl Jam was blistering MTV and radio, but come on, his perspective is an odd one, given that R.E.M. and Pearl Jam were from such different worlds. What I really love, though, is that he’s comparing the band that kicked a hole in rock ‘n’ roll convention to…Cleopatra. Really, Pete? Really?

The book itself is massive: more than 350 pages of photos, scans of set lists and concert tickets, and day-by-day recreations of the band’s “first 20 years,” as director and band buddy Cameron Crowe writes in the forward. (It’s also one of a handful of releases and events—including a documentary by Crowe that screens at Seattle Cinerama from Sept 20-22 before airing on PBS—celebrating the anniversary.) The fact that it’s full of random little insights like Buck’s means the tome will border on TMI for the casual fan; but for PJ obsessives, it’s like being granted a retroactive backstage pass. I fall somewhere in between the two camps, but I can definitely see myself reading Pearl Jam 20 for hours with a pair of headphones in, blasting “State of Love and Trust” on repeat.

Pearl Jam 20 (Simon and Schuster, $20) is on sale Sept 13 at

Flashback 1992…MTV Unplugged

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