Why Did Pearl Jam Title Their Debut Album Ten?

In August 1991, Pearl Jam released their debut album Ten. While not an instant success, the album grew out to be one of the most defining records of the 1990s. Songs like “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Black”, and “Jeremy” are undoubtedly rock classics, and lesser-known songs like “Porch” and “Release” became fan favorites. But why did the Seattle-based band decide to title the album Ten? Let’s find out!

Why Did Pearl Jam Title Their Debut Album Ten?
By RaphCC BY 2.0

Pearl Jam titled their debut album Ten after the jersey number of basketball player Mookie Blaylock. The band was initially named after the NBA player – and even played a few shows under that name – but due to legal concerns, the band members were forced to pick another name after signing with Epic Records. After settling on Pearl Jam, the band decided to name their debut album Ten (after Blaylock’s jersey number) in memory of their old name.

In a 2008 interview with The Missoulian, Pearl Jam’s bassist Jeff Ament explained why the band initially chose Mookie Blaylock as their name. “When we were recording our first record, we had a per diem of about $10. So when we got lunch at the store across the street, we’d always buy a pack of basketball cards. When we turned in our tape, we didn’t have a name for the band yet so we put a Mookie Blaylock card in the case.”

“We were about to go on a tour and still didn’t have a name and needed one quickly. We were told it didn’t need to be the name that we were going to use forever, just something for the tour. Someone saw the Mookie Blaylock card and said, ‘How about Mookie Blaylock?’ We decided to go with it and did a 10-show tour with Alice in Chains as Mookie Blaylock.”

Pearl Jam played their first ever live show on October 22, 1990, as Mookie Blaylock at the Off Ramp Café in Seattle. Thereafter, they embarked on a tour opening for Alice in Chains in early 1991. Soon after, the band changed their name to Pearl Jam.

On November 12, 1991, Jeff Ament attended an NBA game in which Mookie Blaylock was playing. “He was walking down the corridor at the end of the game, and I, like, reached over and yelled his name and handed him a shirt,” Ament reflected. “He looked at me really puzzled. I don’t know what he thinks of it all.” Later, the two reportedly exchanged some memorabilia and played a game of basketball.

At the time of Ament and Blaylock’s meeting, Pearl Jam was still relatively unknown. It would eventually take until mid-1992 before Ten broke through to the mainstream audience. Many years later, the album ranks among the best rock records ever made and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide.

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