Rock stars and myths go hand-in-hand. This is especially true when it comes to how they name their bands. Led Zepplin misspelled “lead,” because they feared Americans would mispronounce it. Velvet Underground’s name came from a porn mag one of its members found in the gutter. The Pixies supposedly flipped to a random page in the dictionary.
Back in 1991, when Pearl Jam was on the cusp of dominating rock, Eddie Vedder gave an interview to Rolling Stone wherein he laid the foundations for a little rock’n’roll myth — or a helping of total bullshit if you’re more jaded — about how the band got their name. In the nearly 30 years since, the band’s name has been debated by fans, refuted, and mythologized into something it most likely is not.
Still, as John Ford once sagely surmised about Americana, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
This all started with Eddie Vedder being a young daredevil in Seattle, back in ’91. While he was in the midst of an interview with Rolling Stone writer Kim Neely, the Cheshire cat-like Vedder began showing signs of his nascent disregard for gravity and famously — and maybe a little foolishly — mused about climbing through the barriers on the Seattle Space Needle to walk out on a beam and steal a single lightbulb.
Luckily (for all parties), Vedder thought better of this move. He and Neely moved on. Once back on the ground, the conversation invariably turned to how the then one-year-old band came up with its name.
“Great-grandpa was an Indian and totally into hallucinogenics and peyote,” Vedder told Neely in ’91. “Great-grandma, Pearl, used to make this hallucinogenic preserve that there’s total stories about. We don’t have the recipe, though.”