Watch Pearl Jam play Alive and Even Flow live for Dutch TV pop show Countdown before Ten exploded worldwide

Pearl Jam on Countdown
(Image credit: Countdown YouTube)

The Dutch equivalent of Britain's weekly chart music TV show Top Of The Pops, Countdown ran from 1976 to 1993 and billed itself as Europe's Number 1 Rock Show. So when fast-rising Seattle grunge act Pearl Jam booked a six week European club tour in the spring of 1992, their first dates outside of the US, Countdown's producers naturally reached out to Epic Records' promo department to book the band for an appearance on their show. 

There was one minor issue to overcome, however, before the booking could be signed off. As on Top Of The Pops, artists appearing on Countdown were standardly asked to lip sync to a playback of their current chart hit for simplicity's sake: for Pearl Jam, always determined that the presentation of their art should be pure, honest and authentic, this was never going to fly. As an alternative, the band suggested that the Countdown cameras be given access to a soundcheck ahead of one of their shows in Holland in the first week of March 1992, during which they would perform the first two singles to be taken from their debut album Ten, Alive (already climbing the Dutch charts) and Even Flow (set for an April release), exclusively for the show. This proposal was agreeable to all. 

The two performances were duly taped on the afternoon of March 4, ahead of the quintet's show at the Tivoli club in Utrecht. As ever, frontman Eddie Vedder was a magnetic presence at centre stage, fully committed, and compelling. That same week, Alive would climb to number 13 in the Dutch national charts.

Back in the US, in May 1992, Ten broke into the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart, eventually reaching a peak position of number two. By February '93, it overtook Nirvana's sales figures for Nevermind to become, at the time, the biggest rock album to emerge from the grunge scene. Somewhat overwhelmed by this unimaginable success, the group actively withdrew from all media promotion, making the performances taped in Holland in March '92 all the more special.

“When our record started to sell too, it was weird, and really stressful,” guitarist Stone Gossard told this writer. “Everybody was insecure and tense, it was such an odd time.

“For me personally the stress came from being huge but feeling like you were kinda crap. We couldn’t live up to the bands that we thought were the greatest. I don’t ever remember any thoughts like, ‘Wow, we’ve just made the best album ever.’ I just remember thinking that I was looking forward to making our next one.”

“We didn’t expect the record to be a huge deal,” Jeff Ament added. “But I guess it kinda became one.”

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.