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How Led Zeppelin influenced Pearl Jam

It’s safe to say that grunge heroes Pearl Jam are the sum of their parts. Featuring vocalist extraordinaire Eddie Vedder, guitar heroes Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, bassist and master of rhythm Jeff Ament, and legendary drummer Matt Cameron, the band relentlessly pushed forward. If you were to take any of the members out of the fold and replace them with someone else, it just wouldn’t be the same. 

Pearl Jam have a combined power that has enabled them to dazzle audiences since they first broke onto the scene in the early ’90s and continue to pack out global stadia easily. 

Ostensibly the last survivors of the grunge scene, Pearl Jam are something of a rare commodity when it comes to music, as in many ways, they also represent something of the last genuine classic rock band. Whilst countless rock bands have emerged since Pearl Jam’s zenith in the ’90s, none, aside from Greta Van Fleet, have made music as concerned with the loose collection of bands that we regard collectively as classic rock. 

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Taking their musical cues from the likes of The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Kiss, it is not hard to imagine that if the Seattle band had broken through during the counterculture, their name would have featured on the bumper lineup of the original Woodstock festival. As with classic rock, there’s a deep blues influence running throughout the band’s music, and although this isn’t the only type of music they draw from, it’s certainly the most apparent. 

Following this, it may come as no surprise to hear that English rock heroes Led Zeppelin have had a significant effect on Pearl Jam’s writing process over the years. Speaking to Bass Player in 2020, Jeff Ament revealed all, and it turns out that it is Stone Gossard who is the biggest fan of Jimmy Page and the rest of the band. The admission came when Ament discussed his use of the fretless bass and the task of fitting what is traditionally not a rock instrument in with Gossard’s guitar playing style.

“Stone was always writing from kind of a Zeppelin angle, so seeing if the fretless could work in that realm was exciting,” he said. “Even on Gigaton, there’s fretless on a couple of songs, and with the writing that I’ve been doing in the past three months, I’m trying to use it more because I think it’s a very under-utilized instrument.”

This isn’t the only way that Led Zeppelin has influenced Pearl Jam. Their 1998 single ‘Given to Fly’ takes many cues from Zeppelin’s iconic cut ‘Going to California’, and as soon as it was released, it was clear to fans and critics just where they took their inspiration from. Speaking of the song, Mike McCready explained: “It’s probably some sort of rip off of it, I’m sure… Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, but that was definitely one of the songs I was listening to, for sure. Zeppelin was definitely an influence on that.”

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